NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
In many ways, Pakistan’s May 11th, 2013, general elections have been historic. The predictable probabilities and the logical projections are that the magnitude of this election’s fallouts on the country’s political landscape will have monumental consequences for this nation for years to come. Will those resultant effects be positive or negative? The nation will have to wait.
First and foremost, the voter turnout has been phenomenal. It is said that over 5.5 crore people all over the country voted in this election. Political pundits, media gurus and many political observers attribute this nationwide active participation of the masses in the elections to the emergence of a third political force in the landscape of Pakistan’s political horizon. These observers claim that Imran Khan’s campaign for a political change has been instrumental in giving people a heightened awareness and political consciousness of their democratic rights resulting in the mass mobilization of people to participate in the process of the May 11th elections.
On the other hand, a sizeable community of political actors contend that it was the PML-N leadership’s brilliant political strategy and unmatched management of their election campaign that had the resultant effects on the outcome of the May 11th elections. Indeed, it is true that the “politics of electables” has once again triumphed and a large segment of traditional politicians have made a surprise comeback in the national and provincial legislative assemblies. Obviously, the forces of political-economic status quo have prevailed over the forces of political change. Now it remains to be seen if the traditional political actors can serve the nation in a democratic manner and once again restore people’s confidence in this country’s traditional political structure and political culture that is an intrinsic part of PML-N’s ideological and strategic management platform.
Let us move to the next point: Amazingly, the winners and the losers and nearly everyone else in the country alike are lamenting that the May 11th general elections were nationally rigged, manipulated, preplanned and pre-organized for a specific political agenda. Political observers in electronic and print media have vocally expressed their opinion that these elections are not credible. It is quite a dismal situation to deal with.
Bizarrely, surprisingly as well as ironically, the sitting president of the country, Asif Ali Zardari, has publically stated that the May 11th elections have been rigged by an international intervention of some foreign powers to arrange a political mandate in Pakistan that suits the interests and global policy objectives of the involved foreign powers.
If what the president is saying is true, then the questions arise: Why didn’t the Zardari “men in Islamabad” intervene when this illegitimate plan of stealing people’s nationwide mandate was being organized? Is the president admitting another political failure of his outgoing regime – and as such his personal failure as the leader of a 5-year long political dispensation? Is the president accusing some political actors within his own party of collaborating with those elements who organized the rigging of the May 11th election? Is the president blaming the civilian/military establishment of joining hands in organizing a planned outcome of the recently held national elections?
Whatever the case may be, the president can now take the entire nation into confidence and publicly expose those who are involved in an organization of political mafia working for the exclusive interests of foreign powers. This might help in the future political discourse of this country. And, after all, the president needs to explain himself to the nation on this matter in order to establish his credibility as the head of the federation.
On another level comes the much hyped news of the expected Saudi bailout package of about $15 billion to the incoming PML-N administration in Islamabad. Indeed, the Saudi gesture is an extraordinary act of friendship and political generosity towards a brotherly nation. Of course, it will immediately resolve this country’s most pressing problem – in minimizing load shedding in the short term and offering relief to Pakistan’s suffering people and its ailing industry. Obviously, it will also boost the PML-N leadership’s popularity at the very onset of its tenure.
However, two fundamental questions arise in this context. Question 1 is retrospective: Why didn’t the Saudis offer a similar bailout package to Zardari’s regime (after all, people in Pakistan were equally suffering prior to the May 11th elections)? Question 2 is prospective in nature. What, if any, pre-conditions will Nawaz Sharif’s government be subjected to in this bailout package? Will Pakistan be able to pursue an independent policy in completing the Pak-Iran gas pipeline? Will Pakistan be able to buy Iranian electricity at a lower price, if offered, free of Saudi diplomatic pressures? Will Pakistan be allowed an independent approach in its strategic relations with India and Afghanistan and with peace negotiations with the Taliban?
Other related issues in this context are the following: Can a Saudi bailout package now make Pakistan a self-reliant, self-sufficient and technologically innovative nation in the long-run? Can Saudi assistance at this time lessen financial burdens on common citizens of this nation? The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry has already suggested a restructuring of the power sector by minimizing subsidies in the public sector and “reducing system losses to bring it to a self-sustainable level.” Viewed from a reverse angle, this argument promotes common people’s increased liabilities and burdens in their daily lives. Is that what tomorrow’s Pakistan is going to look like: increased tariffs on power, gas and electricity; hiked up commodity prices on daily consumables; increased cost of transportation, health and schooling; but more profits for multi-nationals and the corporate sector?
It would be instructive for Pakistan’s incoming PML-N leadership to take heed of what the African Union Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegan advised the African leaders in Addis Ababa the other day: “create a continent free from poverty and conflict, and an Africa whose citizens enjoy a middle income status.”
Future Pakistan cannot sustain a class-divided society in the long-run. It is so today because of our past ruling elite’s close ideological and consistently subservient role to our foreign masters. In this process, this nation has been subjected indefinitely to the political and economic global interests – mostly of a corporate nature – of these foreign powers.
Times have changed: This nation wants change. This nation demands prosperity, dignity, self-reliance, equality, and democratic rights. It deserves a welfare state where education, health, and old age pensions are basic rights and living is a pleasant experience. Where daily existence is free of oppression, manipulation, fear and deprivations. Where justice is possible. Where the people’s mandate is not rigged. Where governments work and survive to serve the people. Where democracy is not just a procedural ritual, but a process of maximizing the social contract between the voters and their elected representatives. .
Is all of that possible in Pakistan’s June 2013 democracy?
An urgent test for the incoming PML-N political leadership in Islamabad is going to be how to protect the lives of the common people in FATA; let us see how the Sharif regime manages drone attacks on Pakistani citizens.
I have simply narrated a postscript on the May 11th elections – it remains to be seen what happens next in this country.
Wouldn’t you agree?