Rising political temperatures


WEB DESK: Political discourse surrounding the Panama leaks scandal has turned into a no-holds barred war of words.

The PTI leading the opposition’s charge against the Prime Minister for his family’s alleged involvement in the corruption scandal is well within its rights to stage public rallies and pressurise the government into accepting an impartial inquiry, but the conversation must remain within the bounds of decency.

It did not help his cause, for instance, at the launch of a healthcare programme in Quetta on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was all praise for Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. Extending a helping hand to a beleaguered prime minister to fight off the challenge of Panama leaks, the Baloch nawab used highly strong language against PM’s opponents. Terming them “dogs”, he averred, “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on”. On Sunday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan in his party’s rally at Lahore used harsh language against the PM and likened a federal minister to a rodent.

For his part, following the practice in functioning democracies, the PM should have gone to Parliament to give satisfactory answers to the opposition’s legitimate questions about his family’s assets abroad. Instead acting like an opposition leader, he has taken the fight into the public arena, embarking on a public contact campaign to announce various development projects while his cabinet colleagues have been launching personal attacks on the PTI chief.

Impervious to the lurking dangers, the ruling party seems to be drawing inspiration from the poet who said ‘hum to dobay hain sanam tum ko bhi lay dobain gey’ (I am drowning but I will take you drown with me). Immediately before Imran was due to address a public meeting in Lahore, information and railways ministers held a press conference; threatening to bring up some past dalliance of his if he did not stop his campaign.

After the event, a ruling party MPA came out to say if Imran went ahead with his planned protest march to the PM’s Raiwind Road residence in Lahore, the PML-N would break the participants’ legs. Democratic governments are not supposed to resort to physical violence against protesters as long as they remain peaceful.

Regarding this particular issue, some others have also been criticising the protest plan arguing that it would harass the PM’s family living in his private residence. The truth of the matter though is that the residence has been declared Prime Minister’s House and its maintenance expenses as well as utility bills are covered by taxpayers. The Punjab government recently spent Rs 283.2 million on erecting a security fence around the property. More to the point, the Panama leaks scandal involves the PM’s family. Still, a stand-off could ratchet up tensions further higher producing political instability.

Both sides need to show respect for civilised norms of behaviour and refrain from using insulting language or threats of violence against one another, which can easily lead to chaos. That would serve no one’s interest. The primary responsibility to maintain order though lies squarely on the governmental shoulders. A starting point would be to hold consultations with the parliamentary opposition to arrive at an agreement on the way forward. The PM needs to examine all available options to resolve the situation so that things do not spin out of control. Hopefully, all concerned are mindful of this country’s chequered history and will not allow the situation to deteriorate to a point that could bring unsavoury consequences.

Source: Business Recorder