In contrast to the heady political machinations of the past week, Monday dawns on a silent vista. The opposition alliance managed to stage an embarrassing upset, yet the government coalition proved it can play politics with the best of them. Wasted votes, hidden cameras, and contentious electoral rulings later, the conscientious Pakistani citizens are left asking: now what?

The answer he would hope for – that the opposition and government shake hands over a well fought contest and get back to the business of democratic governance – is only a fool hope at the moment. The fault lines between the benches might as well be a chasm, only conflict remains.

For now, that conflict has moved to the legal domain; the opposition will challenge the Senate’s ruling on the rejected votes, and considering the fact that the law favors the “intent of the voter” over strict procedural requirements, the challenge has a fair chance of succeeding. If it does, the Senate will become the center of turmoil once more; till then, all eyes remain on the courtroom.

A similar shifting of the arena is taking place for the spy camera row. Away from the TV cameras, a promised investigation lead by the house committee will probe the matter and fix culpability. However, a pandemic enforced shutdown of the Senate building has delayed proceedings, further lowering the temperature and moving accusatory eyes away from the issue.

What then becomes of the government’s clarion call: the need for open ballots? It too is fading fast from public political discourse. Both parties, despite their stated positions, abused the secrecy afforded by secret balloting to secure more votes than they officially had; and both parties, despite their stated position, complained that the other had done so in bad faith. With principles dying a painful death at the altar of expedience, both sides are more concerned with finding the dissidents than working on that ever-elusive goal of “electoral reform.” It comes as no surprise that mpassioned speeches for an immediate change are already fading fast from memory.  

Hence it seems we have entered a lull; a time of consolidation, re-assessment, and reflection. But the silence must not be mistaken for an end of hostilities. The opposition Long March hangs like a drawn sword above the government’s head, and the ruling party’s razor-thin majority in the Parliament makes the prospect of a forcible exit all the more tantalizing for the opposition.

We are simply waiting for the next trigger, and it is bound to come along soon enough.


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