March 28, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
The opposition and the government should hold serious and meaningful dialogue in Parliament to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the larger interests of the people, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference at the HRCP office in Lahore, HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani said warring politicians in the country should not look towards the military for mediation in the ongoing political crisis.
She said the HRCP general council has resolved that it is of utmost importance to uphold and strengthen the democratic process after deliberations on the current political crisis and constitutional impasse.
Jilani stated that HRCP is deeply concerned that this crisis has resulted in polarization across the political spectrum.
“This state of affairs was, regretfully, triggered by events that were designed to stall the democratic process and undermine the efficacy and legitimacy of Parliament.”
One political party first abandoned the National Assembly and then dissolved two provincial assemblies. Others in government blocked the subsequent reversal of this move by thwarting the opposition’s attempt to return to the National Assembly, she added.
Despite its considered view that the dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies was politically expedient, HRCP is concerned that these assembly elections have been postponed till October by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
“We are also aware of legitimate apprehensions that such decisions could become a precedent to be used to derail the democratic process in the future.”
While HRCP believes that the Constitution does provide solutions that may legitimize delayed elections, Jilani said, it should go without saying that any such delay should be as short as possible and necessary and proportionate to the aims of the delay.
Accordingly, there must be a consensus among all political parties and stakeholders on the rationale for such a delay, she said.
The HRCP chairperson said politcial parties should also recognise that this is an unwelcome precedent of delay polls and must not recur in the country.
“The election process must also remain free, fair, credible and transparent, and the results acceptable to all political stakeholders.”
The judiciary should protect its integrity
The HRCP chairperson noted with dismay that the judicial overreach is in conflict with the constitutional principle of the trichotomy of powers.
“There is a need to dispel the impression that, in interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court enhances its own powers at the expense of other democratic institutions,” she added.
The judiciary must safeguard its independence, integrity and credibility. It must resist any urge to interfere in the domain of other constitutional bodies and instead help strengthen all such institutions by giving them the room to resolve issues that fall within their constitutional remit.
“We also firmly believe that there is no room for threats of any undemocratic interventions,” she added.
Terror & sedition charges against political opponents slammed
The HRCP chairperson strongly condemned violent and unlawful behaviour by political elements aimed at creating disorder to further their political agendas.
At the same time, HRCP denounces the strong-arm tactics and disproportionate use of force by the state as a means of political repression.
“We are deeply concerned to observe that this has involved resorting to the use of colonial laws of sedition, unwarranted charges of terrorism against political opponents, enforced disappearances, and attempts to gag freedom of expression through ill-conceived proposals and actions through PEMRA.”
Noting that the crux of the ongoing crisis is political and not legal, the HRCP chairperson said there is no other option for the political opposition and the government but to hold serious and meaningful dialogue in Parliament to resolve this in the larger interests of Pakistan’s people.