Lahore, Pakistan (AFP):
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) rebuked feuding political parties on Tuesday for undermining democracy as the world’s fifth-most populous country battles an economic crisis.
The fragile coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif has been facing increasing pressure from opposition leader Imran Khan, Pakistan’s most popular politician, ahead of elections due by October.
There have been multiple clashes between police and Khan supporters this month over legal cases the former cricket star has decried as spurious.
“We are aware that there is a very menacing and irresponsible opposition here which has made use of violence, humiliated police and destroyed the law and order,” commission chairperson Hina Jilani told a news conference in Lahore.
“Despite that, we are forced to say that we do not expect such behaviour by the state and government which includes retaliatory measures, vindictive and vengeful measures.”
Khan dissolved the two local parliaments he controlled at the start of the year in a bid to disrupt Sharif’s government.
Under the constitution, elections must be held within 90 days, a deadline just a few weeks away. However, the election commission refused to set a date after the military said it was unable to ensure security.
The date of the elections are now tied up in legal wrangling.
“The dissolution of the assemblies were a very dangerous and incorrect political strategy in my view, and there was an agenda behind it,” Jilani said of Khan’s move.
“Despite that, we believe regular elections in Pakistan are extremely important.”
Khan sent his MPs back to the upper house on Tuesday, a year after he was ousted in a no-confidence vote and ordered his allies to abandon parliament.
He has since been snarled in dozens of legal cases, including for sedition and under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism act.
Khan’s supporters clashed with police outside his Lahore home this month when officers arrived with an arrest warrant that was later suspended.
“Ultimately, the crux of the ongoing crisis is political and not legal,” Jilani, a supreme court lawyer, said in a statement.
“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.”
Pakistan is also in the grip of a dire balance-of-payments crisis that has forced the government to implement strict financial measures in a bid to revive a stalled International Monetary Foundation bailout programme.
The measures have seen the rupee plummet and inflation soar and the crisis has left families struggling to afford basic food items and fuel. In some extreme cases, parents have pulled children out of school and sent them to work.
Caretaker governments, which are severely limited in their day-to-day operations, are in place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.