Road Less Travelled

pak-elec.jpgIn this age of democracy, one more country took the cause for their awam. This is the awam whose rights are lost time and again and whose voice is heard only in masjids during the namaz. The Islamic country, Pakistan, is the latest entrant in the list of democratic countries. This country has embarked on the road it has hardly traveled on; the road of democracy. Pakistan witnessed an important event in its history when, after many years, people got the opportunity to choose their representatives. On February 19, even when the elections were called free and fair, the result was no less than a surprise to many. No single party gained a majority of two-thirds. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) emerged as the single largest party in Pakistan’s general elections by bagging 87 of the 268 National Assembly seats for which direct polls were held.

PPP was followed by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz( PML-N )with 66 seats. PPP is headed by Benazir Bhutto’s husband Mr. Zardari and PML-N is headed by Nawaz Sharif. 38 seats were gained by Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam [PML (Q)]; it is headed by Mr. Pervez Musharraf . Among the smaller parties, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) won 19 seats and the Pakhtun Nationalist Awami National Party got 10 seats.

Asif Ali Zardari staked the party’s claim to form the Government at the Centre with the help of allies. The party is in a position to form the Sindh provincial Government all by itself, and will play an important role in the coalition Governments that the results in the other three provinces necessitate.” We intend to make Government in all four provinces and at the Centre, so we will act as the government-in-waiting with our allies,” Mr. Zardari said. “Our endeavor and our policy are to form a national consensus government that will take along all political forces.” Further, Mr. Zardari said his party’s aim was to strengthen the Parliament along with all other democratic forces and not to strengthen a “dictator.” In the press conference, Mr. Sharif marked the election result as the people’s desire to see Musharraf resign. Despite anti-Musharraf sentiments in both the parties, the big question remains: will these two parties come together? Mr. Sharif further added in the conference that he intended to fulfill the election pledge of reinstating the judges ousted in the November 2007 Emergency, and to reverse all constitutional changes made by General Musharraf. “I invite all democratic forces to sit with us and rid Pakistan of dictatorship once and for all,” he said, adding that he and the PPP leaders were to meet on Thursday for discussion. Hours after the press conference, the President’s Spokesperson approached the media and said that this election was not for the post of the President and that Musharraf will continue to remain in his office until the end of his tenure.

With none of the parties emerging as a clear winner to form a Government, the PPP and PML-N, if they do form a coalition, will make for a simple majority in Pakistan’s parliament, the National Assembly. However, the Independents, the fourth largest group, as well as smaller parties like MQM and ANP are likely to play crucial roles. The PPP swept the Sindh province, barring the MQM-stronghold Karachi. Furthermore, hard-line Islamic parties were voted out in the troubled North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, giving way to moderates. With the strong contenders like Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a longtime PPP leader and a Bhutto loyalist can be seen as the next prime minister of the state. In the days to come, Pakistan’s future will be decided and the world will see whether the less traveled road is safe enough for the new Government.

Anupriya prakash