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Olive Branch By PM and US Resolution

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
On June 27, 2024, two significant developments occurred in Pakistan’s political landscape. First, the Prime Minister extended an olive branch to the PTI, offering to engage in dialogue to ease the situation for the incarcerated PTI founder, who the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly referred to as their prime minister. Second, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution urging the Pakistani government to rectify the alleged electoral wrongdoings from the 2024 elections, which reportedly brought to power a party that only won 17 seats while the opposition, which won 180 seats, remained sidelined.

These developments, while seemingly unrelated, are indeed interconnected. The Prime Minister’s sudden willingness to negotiate with the PTI raises several questions, particularly about the scope and mandate of such negotiations. The PTI’s demands include the release of their founder and other leaders, supporters, and workers; the re-allocation of National Assembly and Punjab Assembly seats based on Form 45 results; the restoration of PTI’s party status and appropriate seat allocation in legislative bodies based on Form 45; ensuring all institutions operate within constitutional confines; and the restoration of fundamental rights for the people of Pakistan.

Neither the Establishment, nor PML(N) or PPP are in a position to accept these demands, as doing so would practically mean the end of the PML(N) government both at the center and in Punjab. It would entail the reversal of all decisions made by these governments and initiate a process of accountability for all those directly or indirectly involved in delaying the elections against the constitutional provisions. This accountability would extend to those who were involved in allegedly fabricating cases against PTI leadership, supporters, and workers, and those involved in rigging, altering, or fraudulently fabricating the election results. Additionally, it may imply shifting of all roles which are currently manned by the army to civilian domains.

In this scenario both the governments and parliaments are in a dire and difficult situation. The pressure against their alleged illegitimacy was never more stronger than it is now domestically, and now this pressure is mounting internationally as well. The recent example is the passing of Human Rights Resolution 901 by the US congress. The strongly worded resolution is enough to give sleepless nights to all those who allegedly manipulated the elections results and its words were like pouring honey in one’s ears for those who are claiming that their mandate was stolen by the state operatives.

The resolution is rare, as it involves one sovereign country passing a resolution against another in support of democracy and human rights. It calls upon the U.S. government to ensure that any alleged electoral wrongdoing in Pakistan is addressed. The resolution demands that, failing this, the U.S. government withhold recognition of any government formed as a result of manipulated elections until an independent investigation verifies that the elections were free and fair, ensuring that the outcome reflects the true will of the Pakistani people.

The resolution urges the U.S. government to use its influence to secure the release of individuals detained for political activities or free speech, allowing journalists, candidates, and activists to operate without fear of detention or violence.

Most importantly, the resolution states that until the alleged electoral wrongdoings are addressed, U.S. security assistance to Pakistan’s military should be contingent on adherence to human rights standards, including the respect for free speech and political freedoms.

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs responded with a standard statement, criticizing the resolution, viewing it as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. emphasizing Pakistan’s commitment to democratic processes and sovereignty, asserting that the election was conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.
Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Defence Minister reacted strongly stating that Pakistan does not need external validation for its electoral processes and highlighted the importance of non-interference in domestic affairs while reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to democratic principles and processes.
Perhaps, Khawaja Asif had a short memory, but the people of Pakistan do not. He was the same Khawaja Asif who, when the Cypher case was initiated against Imran Khan, criticized Khan for jeopardizing Pakistan’s indispensable relationship with the U.S., emphasizing the critical importance of maintaining strong ties with the world’s only superpower. However, in response to the US resolution on electoral integrity in Pakistan, he adopted a defiant tone, rejecting the resolution as undue interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

The brushing aside of the resolution without appreciating that though non-binding, the resolution has served as a diplomatic signal to Pakistan would not be proper, as for the U.S. government, it underscores the need for ensuring accountability and transparency in Pakistan’s election process and using diplomatic, financial, economics and business tools to ensure compliance of the resolution. For the American people, it reflects public concerns about the democratic practices in Pakistan and their support for human rights advocacy. Internationally, it sets a precedent for other countries to pass similar resolutions in their respective countries to mount pressure on Pakistan to adhere to democratic standards and ensure upholding of fundamental rights of the individuals, civil society, political parties and the media, besides emphasizing due process of law, equal justice and fair treatment.

Let us assume a hypothetical scenario, where the U.S. and Europe have suspended financial, economic, trade, commercial, and security ties with Pakistan until election-related issues are resolved. In such a scenario, politically, Pakistan would face increased diplomatic isolation, weakening its influence in international forums and exacerbating internal instability. Economically, the loss of access to vital loans and financial aid would exacerbate Pakistan’s existing economic challenges, leading to skyrocketing inflation and potential default on international debt.

In the worst case scenario, foreign investment would dry up, causing significant capital flight and a decrease in foreign direct investment leading to further depreciation of PKR, inflating import costs and exacerbating economic instability culminating in widespread unemployment, business closures, and severe disruptions in supply chains. This would push many into poverty and potentially cause a humanitarian crisis. In terms of security and defense, the suspension of ties would critically weaken Pakistan’s defense capabilities by cutting off access to advanced military technology and equipment.

The choice rests with the government to resolve the Election Related issues in a transparent and verifiable manner acceptable to all stakeholders to forinstal any possible domestic turmoil, and international isolation.

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