Post-Election Scenario in Pakistan
By Dr Qaisar Abbas
University of North Texas, TX

 

Recent elections in Pakistan will be remembered as the first democratic transfer of power after an elected legislative body completed its full term of five years without intervention from the establishment and military.

The unbelievable 60% turnout of voters, who despite the violence ridden electioneering rushed to polling stations, indicates they still believe in the power of the vote despite the fact that they have been cheated several times by the ruling junta comprising the army, bureaucracy and the feudal.

The puzzling waves of violence throughout the election, targeting only three liberal parties - ANP, MQM and PPP - might indicate a well-orchestrated strategy to deter voters and parties both from the election process which luckily did not happen.

It will also be remembered as an election full of terrorism and devoid of any meaningful political discourse in public rallies and media contents.

Although for the first time TV channels were fully used for political advertising for candidates and parties, it was fake slogans and personal attacks that dominated most political ads.

TV talk shows, however, continued their tradition of providing a platform to candidates, inciting them to a shouting match and throwing insults to each other, avoiding a real debate on day-to-day issues. The whole political rhetoric lacked real substance, plans and strategies for resolving domestic issues and proposing plans for international relations.

 

Losers and the Marginalized

Ironically, the party that came to power with a slogan “democracy is the best revenge” became victim of the same democratic process. PPP’s defeat seems to be the revenge of voters who ousted them on the election day after assessing their competency during the last five years.

Although the party was successful in completing its five-year tenure, which happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan, it terribly failed to come up to the people’s expectations. It was too busy in making political deals while people eagerly waited for some relief in their daily hardships.

No doubt PPP gained some system-level achievements that include devolving power to the four provinces, introducing laws to protect women’s rights and making the parliament stronger, they hardly paid any attention to the burning issues of economy, unemployment, energy, electricity, price hikes, and above all, terrorism.

Though the party had been under severe pressures from the judiciary and waves of violence in the society, it also committed some political blunders. Raising expectations for a new Saraiki province and then abandoning it altogether might have cost it heavily in the Saraiki belt where disappointed voters refused to give them mandate to rule for another five years.

PPP is no more a mass-based national party that it used to be. The next five years will give it a good opportunity to re-assess its priorities, reorganize itself, rediscover its lost mass support and bring back the ideological base that was once a significant hallmark of the party.

While results are decisive in the three provinces, these elections have further blurred the political scenario in Balochistan. None of the parties has emerged as a winner and chances are the PML-N will be able to make a coalition government while the real game will be controlled by the puppeteers behind the curtain as usual.

This logical outcome indicates the frustration of the people of Balochistan who refused to participate in an election which did not promise them any hope except dead bodies of their loved ones appearing everyday on the streets. Unfortunately, the conflict will continue unless PMLN tries hard to engage the Baloch nationalists in a meaningful political dialogue.

Talking about the marginalized, women are always ostracized in elections in Pakistan. Although women overwhelmingly participated in the voting process, more in urban areas than rural, the overall election results hardly reflect their true representation in provincial and national assemblies.

To increase women’s representation in the center, 60 seats have been reserved for women in the National Assembly. Most of these seats, however, go to spouses, daughters and sisters of political leaders. This unfair practice denies hardworking female workers a chance to represent their areas in legislative assemblies.

While the voters have announced their verdict loud and clear, the overall scenario in the aftermath of elections suits the establishment’s plan perfectly to bring forth the political parties who have connections with militants for creating an environment favorable to initiate a dialogue with militants.

Thus, the stage is set for another drama to be played soon in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

(Dr Qaisar Abbas is a freelance journalist and political analyst associated with the University of North Texas as Assistant Dean of Strategic Grants. He writes for newspapers and online magazines regularly on South Asian issues and mass media)

(Dr Qaisar Abbas is a freelance journalist and political analyst associated with the University of North Texas as Assistant Dean of Strategic Grants. He writes for newspapers and online magazines regularly on South Asian issues and mass media)

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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