By Brig Samson S Sharaf
Elections 2013 are over and as opined in the past, impacted by the US interests. As written in ‘The Election Conundrum’, the flurry of recent diplomacy and visits between London, Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bonn and Ankara indicate awareness to the fallouts of the contemplated US exit from Afghanistan on Pakistan and by implication the composition of the future government. Any failure to remove suspicions will strengthen this view. Sick and tired of the moth eaten system, all Pakistanis had questioned; would Elections 2013 be a game changer or will they sink Pakistan yet again into the proverbial black hole of Pakistan’s politics? In response they turned out in large numbers. The statistics finally released by ECP will settle questions of accurate turnout or would they?
In a matter of weeks, petitions in the Election Commission of Pakistan would meet their fate, re polls in some areas held and by elections concluded. Parties with question marks would ultimately be cajoled and persuaded to accept the inevitable. As the speech by General Kayani on the Martyr’s Day fades away as a far cry from realities, the question that haunts is whether the World’s most brave democracy would defy odds and hold its own within a sea of diversity. Given the past, we can only pray and hope that Pakistan’s uncertain portals with their destructive potential do not disrupt an era of effective parliamentary democracy and national reconstruction.
The lesson lost on the establishment and those who pull strings is that Pakistan’s chequered and scripted elections have successively failed to deliver. 5 years of military dominated rule from 2002-2007 and subsequent 5 years of an NRO 1 regime failed to deliver on militancy and development. During the dark age of PPPP government, the resilient nation did not succumb to economic hit men and turned out in large numbers to reject all characters that played havoc with the state; sweet revenge on a regime that termed democracy as best revenge. What instils more prayers/hopes than certainty is the history of manipulated results in Pakistan’s elections?
The polarised results in 1970 failed to strengthen the federation and uphold the mandate that resulted in division of Pakistan.
The 1990 elections that brought Nawaz Sharif led IJI to power is black marked by the Mehran Bank Scandal and Asghar Khan Case. Though the case was referred by the Supreme Court to the Federal Government in 2013, the latter showed no inclination to pursue it, nor did the Election Commission of Pakistan take cognizance under Articles 62-63 of the Constitution. It also appears that the mutuality of the skeletons in the cupboard prevented most parties to pursue the ends of justice. 1990 IJI government lasted two years and PPP was elected back to power in 1993.
1997 brought a landslide victory to PMLN while PPP was reduced to miserly 18 seats in the National Assembly. The purpose was to strengthen a centrist rightist party and get Pakistan going in the right direction. Ultimately, in the moth eaten system, the beneficiary turned on its own and brought down everything with it. The President, Chief Justice and COAS were all humbled till the generals of General Musharraf delivered the final blow. It is an ironic twist that the man who once held Nawaz Sharif himself faces the same fate at the hands of his once captive.
With PPPP confined to Sindh, a favourable mandate once again awaits PMLN. To witness any significant development, Pakistanis will have to wait and watch whether PMLN has grown in maturity or will it fall into its familiar confrontationist mode? Maturity implies that by and large its mandate is genuine and not tied to strings.
As reaction to the status quo and dismantling of the state, the people of Pakistan turned out in large numbers to make the choices. However, their vigour was marred by the endemic propensity of old actors to engineer results. But still there is time and if ECP holds good its promise of verifying every ballot paper, the stigma of muddiness from the elections can be removed and confidence of the people of Pakistan reinforced in electoral accountability.
If the elections indeed appear muddied, it implies that Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf could not convince the establishment of the credibility and viability of its alternative options to facilitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan, restore peace in the region, and control militancy inside Pakistan. It also implies that PTI slogans rode high on emotionalism and short on substance.
To its credit are the assembly of masses in unprecedented numbers and ability to convince the rich and poor to turn out and vote. As a new force to reckon with, the party has a sizable opposition in Punjab and the largest presence in KPK. Though not reflected in the number of seats, PTI has laid claim to at least 18% of the urban vote bank in Karachi. Within the confines that KPK the underdog has no option but to come out fighting with flying colours.
Logically, the perception of free and fair elections will keep this change energised. Anything to contrary will disillusion and discourage this segment of people from future participation. The ECP and the judiciary owe it to this massive additional turnout to prove their transparency. This will also cool political tempers and make way for pluralism in the larger interests of the country. Failure will breed suspicion, circumspect attitudes and discords for the worse.
The fierce political and ideological rivalry between PMLN and PTI will test both in Khyber PakhtunKhwa. Success and failure will affect both equally. Without a simple majority and a hostile centre, PTI faces the onerous task of governing KPK with allies that may not be the choicest. Both JI and QWP of Sherpao are tested and failed parties representing status quo. PMLN, JUI and floaters in opposition will continue staring down its throat. The split mandate leaves no room for complacency; and herein is the challenge. The party’s only salvation lies in proving its electoral slogans in a province plagued with strong incursions of Taliban. PTI has to fight back from the corner of the ring, bring Taliban to negotiations within the ambit of the constitution and positively affect the lives of the common man on the streets. This is a mission all others have failed in the past ten years. Gven PTI’s humanitarian record, this is achievable.
Long after this Parliament runs its term, 2013 will be remembered for cornering PTI into KPK and expecting it to deliver in extremely hostile and non-cooperative environments. PMLN holding out an olive branch to PTI in KPK would be an ideal situation but then there is a familiar paradox? If PTI fails, it will take down PMLN with it. Year’s down the lane, either the dream of a Naya Pakistan will be laid to rest in favour of status quo or PTI will manage to salvage enough pride and performance to re-emerge as the strongest reformist party of the country.