Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Clear Verdict in Pakistan

A clear verdict
Hassan Abbas, Guardian, February 19, 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk

The verdict is clear. Pakistan has shown the door to the mullahs and delivered a stern warning to Musharraf. Pakistan has backed the opposition to Musharraf's despotic handling of the judiciary, his high-handedness against independent media and his political cronyism. As a result, Musharraf's future looks bleak, while Pakistan gets a fighting chance to puts its house in order.

The drift of the voters is not unexpected, but few trusted the state machinery to conduct largely fair elections. Pre-poll rigging was in full swing till the end, caretakers' partiality towards pro-Musharraf parties was obvious and the Election Commission's neutrality was in doubt. While a string of suicide bombings haunted voters, ordinary Pakistanis have shown that they still believe in democracy. Voter turnout was low but the message of the electorate is clear.

Musharraf's hopes for a hung parliament that would have given him a chance to continue to manipulate the political scene have been proved wrong. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), though far short of a simple majority, has emerged as the largest political party. A sympathy vote in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination only had a moderate impact, though her death certainly dealt a fatal blow to the prospects of the pro-Musharraf Muslim League (PML-Q) playing any role in government. Her own Sindh province, however, paid due tribute to her by giving a majority to PPP in the provincial assembly.

The Muslim League faction led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif received the second highest number of votes in the national assembly and the highest number of seats in the Punjab assembly, a reward for taking a popular and laudable stand in favour of the deposed judges and constitutionalism. Sharif will have to stick to this agenda, however, if he wants to remain relevant to Pakistan in the future. Contrary to many western fears, this faction of the Muslim League is not overly conservative or Islamist, and has moved towards the centre in recent years.

The most significant victory of all was that won by the secular and Pashtun nationalist party, the Awami National Party (ANP) in the volatile North-West Frontier Province. The religious alliance MMA stands routed in the province which emerged as its heartland in the 2002 elections. Its poor governance record, flirting with Musharraf and significant internal divisions led to its downfall. Just as significant is the ANP's rise.

This is a resounding response to the spate of suicide bombings and politics of violence. For instance, in Swat, which was in the eye of the Islamist militancy storm recently, the ANP won comprehensively, establishing that ordinary Pashtuns are not supportive of extremist forces.

One other factor worth taking into account is the success of women candidates in 12 national and provincial constituencies. There are separate women's seats allocated in all legislatures to be filled through indirect vote, but in many important urban as well as rural districts, major parties fielded women candidates. Most of them won - a healthy trend in a country where in some rural areas women were stopped from voting by their male "guardians".

Despite all these positive trends, however, Pakistan's problems are far from being over. It is going to be an uphill task to form a stable, focused and accountable government dedicated to the wellbeing of the people. Developing a consensus among coalition parties (most likely, PPP, PML-Nawaz, and ANP) in the centre and then sticking to it will be a challenge in itself. In a country where palace intrigues have historically started fermenting within months of a new administration taking office (mostly orchestrated by intelligence services), the early period will be the most challengng of all. Religious extremism can also raise its ugly head at any time, as the suicide bombers and extremists are not going to change their worldview just because liberal and progressive forces did well in the elections.

As for Musharraf, he is living in a fool's paradise if he thinks he is going to be a father figure to the next prime minister of Pakistan. The new government will be under tremendous public pressure to bring back the deposed judges, and that could sound a death knell for the Musharraf presidency. For the army, which is distancing itself from Musharraf already, institutional interests, saving prestige and influence, will be more important than rescuing a president who continues to shoot himself in the foot. The west in general - and Britain and the US in particular - must show patience while democratic forces settle; at least as much patience as they showed with military dictators. This is the very least that the people of Pakistan earned yesterday.

4 comments:

Pakistani Dream said...

So, where is the vote rigging etc.
This is the most clean election in the history of Pakistan and the credit goes to Mushraff,

Hopefully Bhutto-Zardari Sharif will condcut as posmised a UN sanctioned investigation on Benezer death along with the allegation of Bhutto-Zardari Sharif corrution, nepotisom etc, ect. That's the olny way these fellows can clear their bad rap. Don't you want to have a clean slate Mr. Bhutto-Zardai and Mr. Sharif?

The other choice is one will be the "TOP DOG" of Punjab and the other will be the "TOP Dog" of Sindh like his faher in law.

Let's wait and see.

Anonymous said...

1. Iftikhar Chaudhry + other judges must be re-instated immediately.
2. Media must be completely free (remove the chains).
3. Abolish ISI (otherwise this cancer will do its dirty work again).
4. Form a commission to enquire into Benazir's Assasination.
5. Nawaz Sharif to pick up on Indo-Pak relations very sincerely.
6. General amnesty for all NWFP and Baluchis.
7. Politicians must show some decency and good governance THIS TIME, please. Plain rhetoric and speeches wont do. They must show solid work.
8. Nawaz Sharif, or Zardari or AITZAZ AHSAN can make a good Prime Minister. As for President, it could be Justice Wajeehuddin Ahmed or Ameen Faheem.

First thing is : Iftikhar Chaudhry must be back in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It will send a very strong psychological message. That is needed now.

Musharraf wont leave gracefully. He will need to be escorted out.

Anonymous said...

Anger is seething and boiling... the heart is about to rend apart. 2 generations of dead-bodies we have received. Revenge... Badlaa.. Badlaa.. Badlaa.. Yet, we take a deep breadth and control our emotions. There must be a commission on enquiry on the murder of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and into the assasination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. IF this is not done, if there is no seething balm on our wounds.., i am very sorry to go, we will go our separate ways. We may forgive the criminals, but we cannot., we do not and we will not forget.

Right now i want to dig the graves of Zia-ul-Haq and Zahoor Elahi... and burn their bones. Their graves have to be deleted from the face of the earth. These criminals are responsible for the situation in Pakistan today.

Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had written "IF i am assasinated"... ever since he was brutally hanged in a mis-carriage of justice, Pakistan is into an abyss.

SINDHU DESH... Zindabad.

Bann ke Rahega Sindhu Desh... it is our dream... and we have our right to dream (in Sindhi Language).

Anonymous said...

Lal Krishna Advani will be running the Sindhu Desh.