The last few days have witnessed some very positive developments which might help in thinning the pall of gloom hanging over the political landscape of the country and could eventually contribute to ending the ambience of political confrontation that has adversely affected the economy and the image of the country in the comity of nations. In this regard, the dismissal of the petitions for disqualification of the Prime Minister under articles 62 and 63 by the SC, filed by PTI, PML-Q Chief Shujat Hussain and a lawyer—- contending that the Prime Minister by lying on the floor of the parliament with regards to his request to COAS to play a mediatory role in resolving the political stalemate, is a very significant judicial response to the unconstitutional prayers made by the petitioners. The petitions filed in the wake of the failure of PTI and PAT in dismantling the edifice of democracy through violence and challenge to the writ of the state, were clearly a blatant attempt to drag the judiciary into political issues and precipitate the political crisis.

It is pertinent to mention that Article 66(1) and 69(1) debar the courts from questioning the deliberations of the parliament or anything said by any member of the parliament on the floor of the house. These ouster clauses unambiguously provide protection to the members of the parliament from being answerable to any court for their speeches and statements made in the house. The SC, therefore in the first place should not have entertained the petitions for being unconstitutional. The SC being the custodian of the constitution is under obligation to itself act in accordance with the constitution and discourage the breach of the constitution by other institutions and individuals. The fact that the SC in the end acted in conformity with the constitution is a welcome change in the attitude of the judiciary.

The dismissal of the PTI petition for declaring the 2013 elections null and void by the SC maintaining that it was not the proper forum for redress of complaints about rigging and irregularities committed in the elections and those grievances could only be addressed by the Election Tribunal as required by the constitution, is another encouraging development. Both these decisions go a long way in discouraging disgruntled and frustrated elements to embroil the judiciary in political issues besides upholding the sanctity of the constitution, which is necessary in managing the state’s affairs smoothly.

The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner in accordance with the constitution is yet another positive happening and might help in advancing the process of reforms in the electoral system that has been persistently agitated by PTI and other political parties. The position had become vacant due to the resignation of Fakhru Bhai. The PTI has also been agitating for the removal of the members of the Election Commission and now PPP has also joined the chorus by urging the members to resign. The position taken by PTI and PPP with regards to the members of the Election Commission is not only unreasonable but also unconstitutional. The members cannot be forced to resign. The removal of the members and for that matter the Chief Election Commission can only be carried out under article 209 of the Constitution which prescribes the same procedure as in the case of the removal of the judges of the High Courts and the SC. Articles 209 stipulates that the member of the election could be removed for two reasons i.e physical disability of the judge hampering the discharge of his duties and any misconduct committed by him, for which a reference has to be made by the President to the Supreme Judicial Council on whose findings and recommendations the President can dismiss the member. The members of the Election Commission have already refused to resign under pressure from the political parties, rightly so. I think the PTI and other parties need to understand the demands of the Constitution and to set examples if they are really well wishers of the country and the people. Anarchy, chaos and resorting to unconstitutional methods will push the country into a crucible of precipice.

The possibility of resumption of dialogue between the government and PTI is yet another encouraging portent and a most welcome change with regards to defusing the ongoing political confrontation. Both sides now need to act prudently and with the spirit of give and take to ensure the success of the parleys. Probably Imran would be required to show more flexibility and realism in resolving this conundrum, by freeing himself from the shackles of his inflated ego. While making demands he should make sure that they are within the ambit of the Constitution and also within the power of the government. The government is also bound to go by the Constitution and cannot entertain any unconstitutional demands. Therefore, Imran Khan will have to change his tone and tenor while the dialogue is in progress. It would be preferable if he put Plan C on hold to ensure that no untoward incident takes place that could vitiate the process of dialogue.

The government has already agreed to most of the demands of the PTI. It has written to the SC for the formation of the Judicial Commission to probe into the allegations of rigging and also formed a parliamentary committee on reforms in the electoral system. Unfortunately, the parleys failed to progress because of the stubborn attitude of Imran Khan and his reluctance to budge from his demands notwithstanding the fact that some of the demands were unconstitutional and beyond the jurisdiction of the government. Imran undoubtedly is a leader with a substantial public following and people do expect a positive and productive role from him in strengthening democracy and nudging the process of reforms in the electoral and governance systems that were badly needed to put the country back on the rails to achieve the objectives of independence. Imran particularly will have to show more flexibility with regards to the formation of the Judicial Commission and its terms of reference in view of the decision of the SC on petitions regarding the rigging of elections. Entrusting the probe in this regard to any other institution might entail amendments in Article 225 of the Constitution. To accomplish that, Imran will have to return to the parliament. These issues cannot be settled on the streets.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.