Elec­tions 2013 – Thrills and Threats

Those who en­ter the par­lia­ment this time are ex­pected to rep­re­sent the peo­ple in a much more mean­ing­ful man­ner, hav­ing qual­i­fied to con­test elec­tions through very strict fil­ters.

Southasia - - Contents - By Javed An­sari

The elec­tion cam­paign in Pak­istan has been flat and lack­lus­ter this time, with con­tenders get­ting just 21 days to flex their mus­cles. The real thrills, in fact, pre­ceded the run-up to the elec­tions as the na­tion had a whop­ping time when re­turn­ing of­fi­cers (ROs), in light of Ar­ti­cles 62 and 63 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, put prospec­tive can­di­dates through the kind of grilling or scru­tiny they had never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. In fact, the treat­ment of the ROs came as much of a sur­prise for even the most sea­soned po­lit­i­cal stal­warts who had been pre­sent­ing them­selves be­fore re­turn­ing of­fi­cers in their past po­lit­i­cal ca­reers and it had been a cake­walk for them on most oc­ca­sions.

This was for the first time in the na­tion’s his­tory that the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan as­serted it­self and emerged as a true con­sti­tu­tional in­sti­tu­tion, ac­tu­ally lay­ing down the ground rules to en­sure what it claimed would be ‘free and fair’ elec­tions. In Pak­istan, elec­tion can­di­dates have never be­fore been put through the sort of sieves and fil­ters that they were sub­jected to for the 2013 elec­tions. Ar­ti­cles 62 and 63 were brought into play ‘in let­ter and spirit’ and many can­di­dates (old hands as well as green­horns) found their elec­tion dreams dashed to the ground. Among other things, ques­tions about can­di­dates’ knowl­edge of the Qu­ran, their con­ju­gal life and per­sonal hy­giene re­ally pepped up the oth­er­wise dreary pro­ceed­ings.

While ar­ti­cles 62 and 63 were very much con­tained in the 1973 Con­sti­tu­tion, th­ese laws were given sharper sting in 1985 through a pres­i­den­tial ord­nance is­sued by Pres­i­dent Zi­aul Haq, wherein the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for be­com­ing a mem­ber of par­lia­ment and the causes for dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from mem­ber­ship were made more strin­gent.

The ar­ti­cles re­quire that a prospec­tive mem­ber of par­lia­ment must have a good char­ac­ter and good moral rep­u­ta­tion, have moral turpi­tude, prac­tice the oblig­a­tory du­ties pre­scribed by Is­lam, ab­stain from ma­jor sins, fol­low Is­lamic in­junc­tions, be­lieve in the Ide­ol­ogy of Pak­istan and not bring into

ridicule the ju­di­ciary or the armed forces.

The bad news for the gullible masses of Pak­istan is that, come May 11, 2013, when elec­tions for the national and provin­cial as­sem­blies are sched­uled to be held all over Pak­istan, the re­sults are not likely to throw up any­thing promis­ing or dif­fer­ent for the fu­ture of this hap­less coun­try. It will again be pri­mar­ily the cus­tom­ary fight, with a new slot hav­ing been filled by Imran Khan’s Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI) and the oth­ers be­ing the Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party and PML (N). While Imran Khan shows off his mes­sage of ‘change’ and prom­ises to elim­i­nate cor­rup­tion within 90 days if his party is brought to power, the most that PTI is ex­pected to achieve is make a hole in PML(N)’s main catch in the Pun­jab and that of the ANP in Khy­ber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK). For the rest, the elec­tions are ex­pected to be a re-run of the same old story – the same ac­tors, the same con­stituen­cies and, by and large, the same re­sults. Like the guy who came out of the first show of a new film, when asked what the film was like, re­torted, “Bas kahani kahani hai … story kuch na­heen.” (Just a tale – no story)!

It will ob­vi­ously be too much to ex­pect that in the highly un­likely event that PTI sweeps the polls, it will stick to its prom­ise of ‘change’ or will even be al­lowed to do so by the pow­ers that be. Or that it will elim­i­nate the ills within the Pak­istani polity in a mat­ter of a few days, as Imran Khan keeps claim­ing so ve­he­mently. In fact, all con­tend­ing par­ties, as is cus­tom­ary, have made lu­cra­tive prom­ises in their elec­tion man­i­festoes but it is re­al­is­tic to be­lieve that man­i­festoes are merely doc­u­ments con­tain­ing hol­low prom­ises and pledges con­cocted to show­case the grand pro­gram of the party be­fore the elec­tions - all the good­ies that the party has in store for the peo­ple. It is well-known that, once in power, th­ese same par­ties con­sign their man­i­festoes to the dust­bin and move on. In fact, most of the party lead­ers are them­selves not quite aware of what is promised in their man­i­festoes and are, there­fore, not re­ally pushed about the peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions.

It is in­ter­est­ing though that all through its 5-year term, the Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party that ran the coun­try at the head of the coali­tion at the cen­tre, could do noth­ing to quell the na­tion’s woes in terms of meet­ing even its ba­sic needs. Yet, in the run-up to the elec­tions, the PPP is claim­ing no other achieve­ments ex­cept the power projects that were launched by Be­nazir Bhutto dur­ing her two stints. That elec­tric­ity was ob­tained then at a very ex­pen­sive cost is an­other de­bate. How­ever, the ques­tion is what was the PPP do­ing in the time be­tween 2008 and 2013 when it held the reins and the coun­try drove it­self into its worst crises?

The PML (N) ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for the 2013 elec­tions dwelt largely on the Nawaz Sharif govern­ment’s ap­par­ent ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing his ear­lier two stints. This is of course with the ex­cep­tion of the red buses that rep­re­sent the mass tran­sit pro­ject launched by the Shah­baz Sharif govern­ment in ur­ban La­hore, ap­par­ently at a huge cost. Their TV com­mer­cials also de­pict a bul­let train – a pipedream of Nawaz Sharif dur­ing his days as prime min­is­ter in the nineties – a pro­ject that con­tin­ues to be a dream, no more.

There has also been quite a ruckus about how var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties have dis­trib­uted their tick­ets. The ticket ‘ have-nots’ in some po­lit­i­cal par­ties, such as the PPP, PML(N) and

PTI, have made quite a noise about not get­ting the well-de­served tick­ets from their re­spec­tive par­ties to con­test elec­tions since they have been such

This was for the first time in the na­tion’s his­tory that the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan as­serted it­self and emerged as a true con­sti­tu­tional in­sti­tu­tion, ac­tu­ally lay­ing down the ground rules to en­sure what it claimed would be a ‘free and fair’ elec­tion.

hard­work­ing party work­ers. How­ever, in ut­ter dis­re­gard of their ser­vices and ‘sac­ri­fices’, other favourites have been cho­sen by the par­ties to do the need­ful, per­haps based on their bona fides as ‘electa­bles.’ The up­shot is that the dis­grun­tled can­di­dates have moved to other par­ties or have de­cided to con­test the elec­tions as in­de­pen­dents.

There was also quite a ma­jor lead­er­ship cri­sis in the PPP in the days lead­ing up to the elec­tions. It ap­peared the party couldn’t name one sin­gle per­son who could lead the PPP into the elec­tions. In the pre­ced­ing five years, not a sin­gle mem­ber of the PPP, other than Asif Zar­dari or Bi­lawal Bhutto, could qual­ify as PPP lead­ers and were all con­sid­ered to be un­der­lings. The prob­lem with Mr. Zar­dari is that since he is the con­sti­tu­tional head of the coun­try – the Pres­i­dent - and has re­signed his po­si­tion as co-chair­man of the party, he can­not par­tic­i­pate in any po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. On the other hand, Bi­lawal Bhutto was re­ported to have de­vel­oped some kind a tiff within the fam­ily, ev­i­dently on the dis­tri­bu­tion of party tick­ets, and was not quite will­ing to work the hus­tings on be­half of the party. In th­ese cir­cum­stances, this ma­jor party was ren­dered rud­der­less – and lead­er­less – and this is likely to play a make or break role in the PPP’s per­for­mance in the elec­tions. Bi­lawal Bhutto Zar­dari, now styled as the ‘pa­tron-in-chief’ of the party, has said he was not lead­ing the party’s elec­tion cam­paign but was, in­stead, as­sist­ing se­nior mem­bers.

The pos­si­bil­ity of vi­o­lence, par­tic­u­larly in view of the threats given by mil­i­tant groups to cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties, has also played on the minds of both con­tes­tants and vot­ers and is likely to im­pact the elec­tion out­come. One man­i­fes­ta­tion was a strike that was called by the MQM against a bomb at­tack on one of their elec­tion of­fices in Karachi that brought the city to a stand­still on April 24. The Awami National Party (ANP) also found it­self in a sim­i­lar quandary.

The so-called ‘sec­u­lar’ par­ties that were threat­ened were forced to re­strict their elec­tion­eer­ing, which many de­scribed as a non-level play­ing field since oth­ers in the arena did not face such threats and were freely hold­ing large party meet­ings. How the threat fac­tor would im­pact par­ties such as the MQM, ANP and the PPP, was a cru­cial as­pect of elec­tion­eer­ing in 2013.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.