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Editorial | Fresh Wave Of Repression Against Opposition

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Maryam Nawaz has been told by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to wait for the federal government’s decision on whether or not her name can be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL). This is, of course, tantamount to returning the ball to the government’s court, where the outcome is fairly predictable. The case of Maryam Nawaz is, like other opposition leaders, completely entwined with the current political equation – such is the logic of the form of lawfare practiced by the ruling party against its opponents.

This marks the second petition filed by Maryam Nawaz against the government’s decision to keep her name on the no-fly list. Obviously, it is likely to add to the PML-N’s narrative of political victimization in the guise of accountability.

While the strategy of using court cases to bring pressure to bear on opponents might seem attractive to the embattled government in the short-term, it has its own costs. The longer this process continues, the more doubt is cast on the government’s narrative of accountability. In fact, it is a simple issue: the more the government reduces its relations with the opposition parties to a vicious zero-sum game, the lesser room it leaves itself to maneuver in the future.

When combined with the arrest of Ahsan Iqbal, it seems this new wave of repression against the opposition comes with very bad timing. Even if we leave aside the ethics of it all, the increased pressure on the opposition has so far yielded its silence, but no real concessions from it.

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In case the government needs anything more than a simple majority in Parliament when the time comes to legislate on the extension of the Army Chief, it would find itself in a very sticky situation indeed. And it is likely that the opposition would want more than a pound of flesh in any situation where it has leverage over the ruling party.

Aside from faith in its relevance to various unelected power centres, it is still not clear what gives the PTI so much confidence in its ability to stomp over every opposing voice. And were that situation to change fundamentally, what room does the ruling party leave itself? Suffice it to say that the calculations of the PM House remain opaque to those who are accustomed to liner thought processes.

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Naya Daur