Successive spates of the high handedness of the incumbent government have tipped the balance in favour of the PTI and PAT. Containerised politics have widened gulfs. Confrontation is at nadir. Hawks within the PMLN perceived and called a bluff that was not. Persistence with force could only damage the incumbency. The use of assets in the Punjab will be a nightmare.
Politics of confrontation is integral to PMLN style politics. Punjab or centre, they have displayed consistency in challenging institutions, federal or provincial governments, the judiciary, other political parties and Chiefs of Army Staff. This time, they have to confront their own medicine from the wrong end.
PMLN’s thinking on firm handling confrontation is illusionary. The Ex COAS had been amenable; pressurised President Zardari to restore the Chief Justice and even looked the other way when the massive electoral rigging plan was underway. They soon regretted rejecting a COAS of General Kayani’s choice to launch a campaign against the Army and ISI. The opposition saw the chink and exploited it.
The government stutters on a comprehensive counter terrorism policy. Instead, it has a flawed framework necklaced by the Anti-Terrorism Act, PPO and Article 245 of the Constitution. Fears are vindicated. The police massacre at Model Town, high handedness against the PAT and PTI, containerising Punjab and Islamabad and the flimsy national security conference indicate a familiar mindset to a point that it becomes a political martyr. Unfortunately, if the past is a precedent, they simply lack the nerve at brinkmanship. The escalation has political remedies but the government seems bent to reach a firebreak point. Then, only extra-constitutional measures will be the only solution. They are well advised to exercise constitutional mechanisms that exist aplenty and not to ditch Pakistan’s politics for an indefinite period. The Prime Minister has options that might make him go down in history as a democratic beacon. Democracy is an inclusive cake, and it must be shared.
First, he should step down as the Prime Minister and use his powers as party head to pass an ordinance to audit the electoral results of 2013. At the same time, Chief Minister Punjab should also step down. To ensure transparency, NADRA Chairman should be reinstated.
Secondly, all members of the ECP should be non-functional during the election audit. The audit must comprise jurists and members of civil society agreed upon by political parties. A joint Parliamentary committee of the National Assembly and Senate should exercise oversight.
Thirdly, the New Prime Minister should hold an All Parties Conference on electoral reforms, followed by an Ordinance that empowers the Electoral Reforms Commission. The commission should represent political parties, constitutional experts and representatives of oversight bodies. These reforms must include the election of special seats. A joint Parliamentary committee of the National Assembly and Senate should exercise oversight.
Fourthly, all heads of regulatory bodies should be reappointed with the consent of all political parties. A joint Parliamentary committee of the National Assembly and Senate should exercise oversight.
Fifthly, a commission should be formed to formulate constitutional reforms including separation of executive functions from the legislature. It should also review the last three constitutional amendments to build greater harmony with the provinces and the people. Issues related to religious minorities and special seats merit incisive decisions.
The entire process should be given a dead line of 90 days followed by new legislation. Assemblies should then be dissolved and elections conducted under a care taker government by April 2015.
But the Prime Minister still thinks differently. He has endorsed elections as fair and transparent. He has fudged economic indices. He has given wrong statements on economic development. He intends on taking the street protests head on. Confrontation is likely to reach a new crescendo. The judiciary, tainted itself in electoral rigging, is no solution.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

samson.sharaf@gmail.com