The right decision

Source: Published in Politics on Friday, December 19, 2014

IMRAN Khan’s decision to suspend the PTI’s anti-government protests in the wake of the Peshawar carnage is a sensible, compassionate decision that will surely be welcomed by right-minded and rational individuals across Pakistan.

The soul-destroying violence in Peshawar on Tuesday was not just an incomprehensible terrorist attack, it was an assault on everything good and decent that the overwhelming majority of this country holds dear.

To continue a political campaign in the post-Peshawar environment would have been an abomination, as Mr Khan has rightly recognised. But it could not have been an easy decision and Mr Khan deserves much credit for making what would have been a very hard choice.

Consider that while after four months of protest the PTI was no closer to its goal of ousting the government, the opposition party had succeeded in tapping into a deep vein of discontent with the electoral system and the manner in which the country is being governed by the PML-N. Credit for that must solely go to the PTI, not least because while all other opposition parties had alleged electoral malfeasance in May 2013, none had the courage to demand a cleaner electoral system nor really held the PML-N to account for its various governance shortcomings.

Clearly, the PTI would not have come this far without genuine support from sections of the electorate and the public at large. It does appear that when a political leader focuses on serious issues, sections of the public respond in good faith and in the belief that the democratic system can and should be improved.

Those individuals, ordinary, everyday Pakistanis, are the real heroes and their voices must not go unheard. The country both deserves and can achieve a fair and transparent electoral system.

Now, the onus of responsibility on the PML-N is greater than ever. The PTI has called off its protests on the very reasonable conditions that the PML-N establish a commission of inquiry into alleged electoral fraud in May 2013 and also continue with the process of introducing meaningful electoral reforms for future elections.

Surely, given all that has occurred over the last several months, it is incumbent on the PML-N to step up and do the right thing. A commission with powers of inquiry to the satisfaction of the PTI and in line with the letter and spirit of the law is surely achievable.

After Peshawar, it is nothing short of an urgent necessity. For nothing — let alone power politics — should come in the way of focusing on what needs to be done in the fight against militancy and maintaining the fresh political consensus that militancy must be defeated.

There is no reason other than petty politics for an inquiry into May 2013 to be stalled going forward. Imran Khan has shown the country that he can rise above petty politics. Now, the PML-N must do the same.

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