Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
Projections: Pakistan Election Outcome
Expert: Pakistan Election Outcome Hinges on Voter Turnout, Safety Asia Society, May 10th, 2013 by Alex Ortolani
This weekend Pakistan is slated to have its first transition of power between civilian governments in its 66-year history, but the lead-up has not been smooth. Violence, a kidnapping, and an accidental fall by one of the frontrunners for prime minister have all added to the already inherent drama of a major election.
Asia Society Senior Advisor Hassan Abbas, who served in the administrations of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf has been following the election closely and offered his insights into this weekend's voting.
What is the major takeaway you’ll be looking for from these elections?
I think there are four major things that we are looking at. First and foremost is voter turnout, which has been threatened by the Taliban and some other extremist groups by using force to harass people. The important indicator of success of democracy will be whether people come out to vote. I think about 45 to 50 percent voter turnout is expected. If there’s higher turnout, the new political parties, especially Imran Khan’s party, will have a good chance.
Second, I think the important thing is whether these elections will bring new leadership for Pakistan. And by that I mean whether the old elite, which is feudal and linked to corruption, incompetence, and poor governance, is voted out of power. If those elements get back into the game then that will be a bad sign.
The third issue to look for is whether people are voting for personalities or agenda. By agenda I mean that some political parties have come out very clearly with new ideas — ideas not new in the sense of history but in their focus and emphasis. For instance, some parties are calling for change in areas such as education and law enforcement. Imran Khan and what is called the Movement for Justice party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is talking about these issues.
All three of these are linked to the fourth and very important point, which is whether the Pakistan security forces including military and law enforcement will be out on the streets and at the polling booths providing a sense of security so that people will feel that they are secure, that there will be no blasts and no violence. Their success and failure will define the future of democracy in Pakistan in so many ways.
In the 2008 election your prediction on some of the winners was quite accurate. What are your picks for this election?
I think clearly there’s no chance that any single party will get simple majority, which means there will be a coalition government.
Second point is I think it will be a competition between Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif. One of these two parties — PTI or Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) — will win 90 to 100 seats and that will be the leading party. It can be either of the two; it depends on voter turnout. If there is higher turnout then PTI or Imran Khan will have 90 to 100 seats, otherwise I think it will be Nawaz Sharif’s party.
Third, I think left of center ideological, which are Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), and the Awami National Party (ANP), will largely defend their base and will get their traditional strongholds. The only exception might be the ANP, which could lose to Imran Khan.
The fourth projection is that the religious political parties will be wiped out. It's possible Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) might get some seats in Balochistan and a few in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but generally smaller political parties I think may not be able to win any seats.
Last but not least I think Balochistan National Party will be able to form a government in Balochistan and that will be a good thing, and I think will provide some new hope. Sindh is expected to remain in the control of a coalition of PPP and MQM. The future of Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPP) will be decided by the PML-N vs PTI battle. In Punjab, however, PML-N is likely to form a government but KPP is wide open (with PTI holding a slight advantage).
Many in and outside of Pakistan have called this a potentially watershed election for the future of the country. Do you think this weekend bring in major changes for the country?
I think this is a major moment because Pakistan has gone through such serious troubles, whether it is economic growth or debt or electricity shortages. If there is no one at this point to set things right then Pakistan’s future will be in serious jeopardy, and there will be very serious challenges for Pakistan, which will be beyond any parties control or it will be out of their hands.
I was reading today that about 40 million voters have accessed their voting list through text messages in Pakistan, and they’re also checking in on Facebook and Twitter. So there’s a lot of vibrancy and enthusiasm, which I think was not there in the last two or three elections. In that sense this is a transformative moment. I hope that this new energy will translate into more voter turnout and a clearer mandate for new political forces, or a combination of new and old, which will push leaders to sit down together and think about how to rescue Pakistan.
Hassan Abbas is the author of a forthcoming Asia Society report looking at the implications of the May 2013 elections for the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations as well as U.S. policy options.
Inside Story about Musharraf-Mahmood Tussle Hassan Abbas: September 24, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf’s memoir In the Line of Fire is expected to generate a lot of debate and discussion in the days to come. Except some western journalists and Musharraf’s close friends (three ghost writers) hardly anyone has had a chance yet to read the book from cover to cover. The excerpts of the book leaked through Indian media and General Musharraf’s statements to some American media outlets however have already created some controversies. In the United States, controversy is considered a positive thing, so the book is bound to become a bestseller here, but in Pakistan probably the opposite is true.
This article is not a review of the book (as I haven’t got hold of a copy yet), but it endeavors to throw some light on the widely reported Musharraf comment about the Armitage threat conveyed through Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director General of the ISI. I had done research on this speci…
Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.
While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.
The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…
The News, June 24, 2006 Saudi ban on umra visa Rahimullah Yusufzai
As expected, the government of Saudi Arabia has refused to lift the ban on Pakistanis below the age of 40 years from performing umra. It was futile on the part of federal religious affairs minister Mohammad Ejazul Haq to visit Riyadh to try and make the Saudis change their mind on the issue. The Saudis formulate their policies after much thinking and in line with their national interest and decisions once taken are rarely changed.
Back home, Ejazul Haq sounded defensive when he told reporters that the ban would stay because the Saudi government had complained that over 100,000 Pakistanis had overstayed in Saudi Arabia after reaching there on the pretext of performing umra. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, he had expressed concern over the Pakistan-specific umra restriction and had promised to take up the matter with the Saudi authorities. One could understand that he was on a weak wicket and could only request the Saudis…