Posted by: ourvoicestogether | February 27, 2008

Pakistan: The Spirit Of Elections Must Be Allowed To Carry On

Reports from Pakistan speak of ‘new opportunities’ and ‘intense uncertainty’ after the February 18 elections that went by without any mentionable incidents of violence or bloodshed.

The fact that President Musharraf’s cronies were so severely negatively impacted shows that perhaps despite best efforts to rig the polls and thwart the process of free expression of public will, the two main opposition parties – the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group) – were able to muster enough votes that could potentially help them to form a national/consensus government. This could mean that the president is in for a tough time.

Musharraf recently said that he would be like a father figure to the new prime minister. This sounds interesting especially because constitutionally the office of the prime minister is nothing more than a rubber stamp. Although theoretically a popularly elected figure, the prime minister is at best an admin assistant to the president. The entire gamut of power revolves around the office of the president who can, technically, show the door to the government with a mere stroke of a pen.

Knowing Musharraf, if the course of events do not shape up to his liking in the next few days or weeks to come, it may not be difficult for him to cook up or orchestrate a situation that might rock the boat and hence destabilize this unique atmosphere of cordiality that is being witnessed among the major political forces of the country. Musharraf has given a hint of the dirty tactics up his sleeve by reopening corruption cases against the main opposition leader, Asif Ali Zardari. Granted that Zardari is a crook to the core, the timing of this stark action is rather anomalous.

Also, Musharraf, despite rumors that he is planning a safe exit, insists that he will hang on to the reigns of power. On the other hand, the two main parties that tasted success in the elections have already made somewhat belligerent statements talking about impeaching the president. In the days to follow, the tempo of such a campaign is bound to gain momentum, if not from all but from at least a few concerned quarters, especially the Muslim League.

Pakistan, despite the smooth conduct of elections, still remains miles away from the creation of a peaceful environment. Even to the best of optimists it remains ungovernable. The dust hasn’t settled down and there are no ready answers for the troubles that the system is faced with. The country is basically in shambles. All and sundry agree to the fact that the recent elections are just a small step toward a potential opportunity to steady a sinking ship. The enormously gigantic issues are there to be recognized. It’ll be a highly intriguing and treacherous path that the ‘new leaders’ will have to walk on.

Notwithstanding the fact that speculating anything to do with Pakistan’s future can be an absolutely ‘non-virtuous’ idea, the least the political parties can do is to assure an insecure nation that they will work toward effecting some kind of stability and sanity to the stupendously volatile atmosphere.

What has transpired over the years is the inability of the country’s leadership to introduce the wisdom and the courage to introduce healthy modernization. The consequence is that Pakistan today finds itself drowned in the muddy waters of religious extremism, poverty, and most of all, is a truly rudderless, isolated polity.

The reason why conventional norms of domestic reconciliation and standard negotiation procedures between various political forces of Pakistan have not worked in the past is perhaps not because concerned and responsible parties on all sides have not tried hard enough but those who have pursued solutions have not searched in the right place.

The root cause of what is occurring in Pakistan today is not altogether political chicanery but the prolonged perpetuation by the military of what can only be described as ulterior motives based despotism. The political parties that are supposed to provide solutions have never looked for answers in the right place, i.e. through dialogue and tools of enlightened democratic ideals. Instead, politicians have always been ‘flexible’ and available to strike deals with the men in uniform, thereby utterly neglecting the interests of the nation. This has created a fatal disconnect between the man on the street and the ruling elite. Ordinary Pakistanis are saying that they have endured enough denigration and are taking matters into their own hands. This particular election is a testimony of that fact.

President Musharraf is no longer effectively leading the Pakistani masses. He is desperately trying to regain some credibility and control to restore his image. His track record as an ‘honest broker’ is nothing but a joke. His ambitious plans to stay in power eternally are so obviously visible that hardly anyone in the country takes him seriously anymore. His only asset is the cooperation with respect to terrorism. However, his ‘achievements’ or otherwise in the past six years or so haven’t had much of an impact. Pakistan continues to the hub of activity of extremism and the new government will have its hands full to deal with this ‘cancerous’ activity. It’ll be interesting to see if the politicians will once again fall a prey to the hard-line shibboleths within the Establishment.

Clearly the old formulas are not working. Something new and innovative needs to be ‘devised’ in order to bring Pakistan back on its feet. This apparently knelt down and humbly submissive polity is a terrorism monster. The repeated cycles of political confrontation have failed to resolve any of the underlying issues that have for so long now fuelled issues like extremism and economic disparity in the country. The plight of the vast pockets of population who live in squalor and virtual economic serfdoms of the feudals and the like has never been meaningfully addressed despite promises and assurances.

Pakistan wasn’t always that way. Yes, it was a rickety structure but I do remember even till the mid-70s, despite the loss of the eastern wing of the country, things were relatively peaceful with little or no traces of ‘imposed Islam’ or devastatingly harsh politico-economic realties. Pakistan, after all, did start out as a secular state that was supposed to have an ‘open door policy’ for anyone or everyone who wanted to live Jinnah’s dream.

Pakistan is perhaps reaching a point where it’s citizens can no longer be victimized by the sweet reasoning tactics of the military and the politicians. What might work are persistence and patience. The political leadership must embrace the ‘colonized’ and the trapped public. Out of sheer desperation, the people have voted for the nefarious politicians, it is the responsibility of the politicians to deliver and not dodge the opportunity to work for the interests of the downtrodden. Many gullible Pakistanis like to proudly say that Pakistan is a nation of the strong-willed and the bright-minded. I seriously doubt this contention! Whatever the case may be, we’ll have to see if this nation of 160 million folks can survive and endure yet another test of time. These elections may prove to be the turning point.

What would really matter is how quickly the new leaders can spot the burning issues and how effectively can they start working on them. We’ve heard enough of their promises; now is the time to deliver. What Pakistan needs today is no more military interference in politics; no more latitude for extremists, the bearded and turbaned; complete cleansing of the military leadership down to the lowest of ranks in order to root out any aspirations based on faith and religion, and of course, no more suicide bombings. It doesn’t sound a lot but it certainly would mean a lot if these objectives are met and fulfilled.

The people and the mainstream political forces appear ready for ‘reconciliation’. This effort must not end in any more assassinations and suicide bombings. Fundamentalists and extremists have destroyed the Pakistani nation enough. It’s remains to be seen how Musharraf will wriggle out of this situation. The masses have thoroughly rejected him and certainly opted for a change and change is what can bring Pakistan out of the woods and closer to a realistically achievable stability to make its way out of a traumatic state of affairs. There are too many question marks about Pakistan’s future; we can only wait and see and wonder and hope for the best.

–Ahson Saeed Hasan



  1. things are not as bad as you make them out to be.the people of pakistan are awake and more aware of their rights and ,also the obligations of the politicians.i thnk this is a turning point in our livesand the fate of our country.if we are left alonewithout outside interference,we should do alright!

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