Pakistan Has Voted

pakistan-elections.jpgPakistan, with a history of hostile military takeovers and never having voted out an existing government, seemed set for a move towards stable politics and democracy till recently. The future is now rather bleak with Pakistan being deep in controversy since last October (2007). It began with the return from exile of the first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif (who was subsequently disqualified from contesting in the elections). This situation, later, graduated to a rather controversial emergency rule imposed by the president Pervez Musharraf. The emergency was lifted under U.S pressure and subsequent dates for elections were finalized. Then, the assassination of Bhutto right before the New Year, cast dark shadows on Pakistan’s democratic future.

With the elections now finally over, Musharraf’s party, PML(Q) has suffered a major defeat and its unpopularity is obvious. However, no other political party, including the PPP and PML(N), has secured a two-third majority. The situation from now on is, thus, one of pure speculation. With power hungry Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif willing to form an alliance, none of them can assume the post of Prime Minister since they are not MPs in the newly elected parliament. Inspite of such differences, they have a common history in terms of corruption and anti-Musharraf demands. Both want Musharraf to resign as President. In an official statement, Musharraf will be willing to co-operate with the newly formed government.

Further, in the background is Pakistan’s judiciary which will be re-instated by the new government. Also, in a move to further taint Zardari’s image, corruption charges against Zardari which had earlier been dissolved when Bhutto formed a pact of cooperation with Musharraf, had been reopened. Apart from the judiciary, political circles also talk about the candidates for the post of prime minister. With PPP loyalist Makhdoom Amin Fahim and PPP leader and Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Amin being the forerunners for the post of Prime Minister, political ambitions cannot be ignored. PPP co-chairman, Zardari has political ambitions and will want to come to power eventually. Thus, it will be easier for him to oust Fahim since Amin is more individualistic and less likely to crumble under political pressure, besides having a stature of his own.

It is apparent that Pakistan’s woes haven’t ended with free and fair polls and unambiguous results. Questions have been raised about the authenticity of Bhutto’s will. Pakistan’s immediate need for stability have taken a backseat in the face of power hungry politics. PPP and PML(N) have agreed to form a coalition irrespective of their opposing political ideologies. The choice of Prime Minister is governed by personal ambitions.

Questions have also been raised about Zardari’s visit to the American Embassy after the elections. No official statement has yet been released about the meeting. Finally, once the results are officially declared, it is not known when Musharraf will call for the formation of government. In 2002, he had invited Zafarullah Khan Jamali almost a month after the declaration of results to form the government. His next move and promised cooperation is, thus, a matter of speculation.
The military as of now seems in the background. With Musharraf’s man General Ashfaq Kayani as Army Chief and Pakistan’s history of the military’s political interference, the present situation is inconclusive. Even as Pakistan has cast its vote, we can only wait and watch what new controversies and solutions the coming few months will hold.

Charulate Somal

[image courtesy:]