Anticipating Pakistani General Elections

Pakistani elections must be timely while security forces confront militants and allow an equal playing field for every party.

pakistani-electionsUnfortunately Pakistanis have never been happier during elections. This time, too, it seems the same. Nonetheless this time most of the Pakistanis “felt” a bit jubilant at the general elections scheduled on May 11. This time they see a democratic transfer of power under the auspices of an independent Election Commission and powerful judiciary supported by a robust media.

Observers regard the elections freer and fairer as compared the past elections in the country. One of the salient features of this election is the participation by almost all political parties small and large.

There are also new players in the elections that are out for “change.”

Among them is the fast emerging Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Pakistan Justice Movement) led by former world-renowned cricketer, Imran Khan, whose political ideology so far goes with the right-wing sentiments in Pakistani society.

Delight with democracy decreases as Pakistanis prepare for elections.

Every day major cities and certain political parties — the ones generally held as liberal and enlightened — are targeted with suicide attacks, remote-controlled blasts and firing. The banned extremist organizations especially the Taliban of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban Movement) have blatantly announced their intention to target the Pakhtun nationalist party, ANP; Benazir Bhutto’s party Pakistan Peoples Party and the Urdu speakers-dominant party MQM.

ANP is mostly confined to the north-western province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ; MQM is mostly based in Karachi while PPP has roots in rural Pakistan. Bothe ANP and PPP are regarded liberal parties while MQM is also vocal against the extremists and terrorists.

These parties blamed the same forces — probably Pakistan’s powerful army — for intentionally not taking the threat seriously; and want to stop the above three parties from entering the parliament.

As the attacks escalate, people’s hope in elections shatter. Amidst these circumstances a number of conspiracy theories emerge as is very usual in Pakistan.

READ  Saudi Arabia Without America?

One theory is linked to post 2014 Afghanistan. The US has announced a withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014 and what happens in Afghanistan is very much linked to Pakistan’s security model. Proponents of this theory assert that Pakistani authorities responsible for foreign policy, especially regarding the US, Afghanistan and India, want to have some agreement with the Taliban armed militia to use them in dealing with Afghanistan and India. They assert this could be possible with right-wing political parties.

Another theory which perhaps is most alarming is that Pakistani security forces have basically failed to combat the Taliban and affiliated jihadi outfits. This explains the reason that extremists are at large in Pakistan. God forbid this proves true! In this case there rests no hope for Pakistan.

Whether true or false these theories exist. They are to spread vibrantly with each attack on the election campaigners. The situation in Pakistan may not be worse than what was happening in 2008 elections which even has cost the life of Pakistan’s most popular leader Benazir Bhutto.

Elections must be timely. The security forces need to take the militants head on and allow an equal playing field for every party. If the situation prevails most Pakistanis would be justified to regard the elections rigged; this time by the terrorists at the behest of certain state institutions.

Zubair Torwali is a researcher, linguist and human rights activist. Born and raised in Bahrain Swat, Pakistan, he heads the Institute for Education and Development, a civil society organization working for the conservation of cultural, lingual and natural heritage among the linguistic communities in north Pakistan. Zubair was recently awarded the Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Award of Teachers and Education in Emergencies. Read other articles by Zubair.