People the ultimate arbiters
For the political forces who have been salivating to see democ racy taking roots in the country and power transferred through ballot, the dream has come true with the nomination of the caretaker Prime Minister by the ECP as required under the constitution, removing any doubts about people finally exercising their right of franchise without any hindrance or intervention from any quarter. A new tradition would have been set if the Prime Minister and the opposition leader had agreed on the name of the caretaker Prime Minister. Nevertheless it is encouraging and satisfying to note that the process has culminated without any hic-up.
Nonetheless, it is gratifying to note that the care taker Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of all the major political players on the chess board of Pakistani politics. Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso has had an impeccable and unblemished career as a judge and enjoys good reputation. Another positive factor is that he belongs to Balochistan, that might help in placating the Baloch nationalists and tempt them to join the mainstream of the national politics by participating in the ensuing elections.
The caretaker Prime Minister, immediately after his nomination told the media that his first and foremost priority would be to support and help the ECP to ensure holding of free and fair elections in the country and that he would treat all the political parties alike. That indeed is very reassuring. The words of a savant like him can be safely taken at their face value. He also made it clear that the President did not have any role in the elections; an implied reference to the often-repeated allegations by a political party that free and fair elections could not be held while Zardari was in the office.
He is right, because the elections are to be held by the ECP with the support of the executive and the President does not figure in the scheme of things in this regard. With a neutral and honest man heading the executive, assertive ECP, pro-active judiciary and the ever vigilant media it would almost be impossible for any other entity or individual to influence the outcome of the elections in any unconstitutional manner taking advantage of his position. Much will also depend on the way the political parties conduct themselves in regards to the efforts of the ECP and the caretaker set up in holding elections in a transparent manner. They need to behave in a responsible manner during their elections campaigns and focus more on selling their manifestoes instead of mud-slinging and launching personal attacks on their rivals because ultimately it is on the basis of their performance or the programmes for the future presented by them that the people have to make their choices.
For the elections to be free and fair it is essential that they are held in a convivial atmosphere and the traditional hostility and animosity towards each other gives way to a healthy and productive competition among them. Now that all is set to translate the dream of transition of power by reference to the people and consolidating the gains of democracy, all the stakeholders especially the political parties owe it to the masses not to do any thing which shatters their faith in democracy or provides any excuse to the forces inimical to democratic dispensation to make their move and drag the country back to the dark alleys again. The political parties and their leaders must also desist from statements or actions that could make the role of the care taker government or the ECP controversial. They should keep faith in the impartiality and the capability of these institutions to make these elections a significant milestone in our march towards a political polity envisioned by the founding father.
Another very important factor in this respect would be the acceptance of elections results with an open heart, the lack of which has been the bane of democracy in this country. The nation has suffered the consequences of this kind of behaviour and we surely need a break from this dreadful experience of the past. Merely paying lip service and making tall claims about their love for democracy is not enough. Political Parties will have to show their commitment through their actions. That is the only way forward. Any digression from this path may produce negative results. The media and intelligentsia also have a great responsibility in guiding and helping the people to understand what is at stake and reporting the unfolding events in an objective and impartial manner to play their contributory role in strengthening democracy.