Millennium Post

Democracy on upgrade in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif romped home in flying colours with his party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group) having won 126 out of 272 seats (excluding 70 reserved for women and religious minorities) in the National Assembly, proving once again that psephologists resemble astrologists. It may take one or two days more for the Election Commission of Pakistan to announce final results, the verdict, a landmark in the history of restoration of democracy in the troubled state, is milestone for the PML-N to demolish the dominance of PPP. The irony of the history is that riding the crest for the emergence of democracy, zooming in on libertarian basics is not PPP, whose founding father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto embraced martyrdom for a social democratic policy braving the unholy alliance for obscurantist Sunni theocracy and army biggies with feudal background, but PML(M) which is PPP’s politico-ideological antithesis. It is none but the President Asif Ali Zardari, whose corrupt regime systematically demolished the heritage of Bhutto. After announcing his resignation from the senate, Aitzaz Ahsan said that the resignation should be accepted and the rest of the decisions were in the hands of the party.

Resignation of Aitzaz Ahsan from the Senate, after getting re-elected and Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, president of PPP’s central Punjab chapter reflects the crisis ahead of PPP. All this reflects non-confidence on not only Zardari and continuation of dominance of Bhutto family for failing to carry forward the heritage of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Nevertheless, the Pak election took place in a considerably free and fair way as nearly 55 million voters exercised their franchise braving threat from the Talibans. But out of 126 seats the PML-N clinched, 118 came from Punjab (albeit the largest province in terms of electors), four from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, two from FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas  comprising Bajaur Agency, Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency, Mohmand Agency, Orakzai Agency, North Waziristan Agency,  South Waziristan Agency), and one each from Islamabad and  Sindh. Similarly, the Pakistan People’s Party, which performed the worst-ever winning only 31 seats, won 30 from the Bhutto’s heartland Sindh and one from Punjab. The Muttahida Quami Movement won all the 18 seats from Sindh. It may form a coalition government with the PPP in Sindh. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the youngest political party thriving on the charisma of Imran Khan won 28 seats, 17 from K-P, eight from Punjab, two from FATA and one from Islamabad. However, whether party wise composition of the NA will remain as stated or get altered depends on the final verdict of ECP.  

Sharif is second to none in the Indian subcontinent for trying to push ahead with the neo-liberal or Fund-Bank reform. The young voters look forward to a regime that will markedly reduce corruption and streamline admission, although when he was unceremoniously dislodged from power in 1999, many Pakistanis heaved a sigh of relief for getting rid of a corrupt, incompetent and power-hungry PM. History will tell whether this time he will debug himself from such negative factors and prove himself a wiser and pragmatic politician as he or his party has a golden opportunity to demolish the PPP and Bhutto strain of social democracy.

Needless to say, if anyone is to be discreetly thanked by Sharif for the come back trail, it is General Pervez Musharraf, who became dictator and President by an unfounded allegation that the then PM hijacked with Gen Musharraf on board for imprisoning Sharif and deporting him to Saudi Arabia. After his return to Pakistan, he became a champion in the fight against the autocratic hold of army leadership over the democracy. And with the army gradually getting increasingly distanced from the Talibans and Al Qaeda in the post 9/11 global politics in the Islamic perspective, Sharif’s relationship with the political Islam was cordial. The Lahore-based BBC correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones reminds us that Sharif’s popularity was plummeting when he was dethroned and he was so frustrated by the exposé from the Opposition that he tried to pass a constitutional amendment that would have enabled him to enforce Sharia law. Little wonder, terrorists posed no threat to the PML-N in the election. In all probability, veteran politician Senator Ishaq Dar is likely to become the country’s next finance minister.

He will be burdened with the task of fixing the teetering economy, but he will keep the business community in good humour. Pakistan’s financial hub, Karachi, expressed congratulations to Dar in advance.  The benchmark index of top 100 shares rose 1.6 per cent to 20,232 points in early trade, surpassing the 20,000 mark for the first time, more so as Sharif family is the biggest steel tycoon in the country. A leading brokerage firm, Foundation Securities, welcomed a simple majority of PML-N, a pro-reform, pro-liberalisation and friendlier towards the industrial. ‘The market reaction is likely to be positive on the initial results, as it was bracing itself for a hung parliament and the possibility of delay in tough decisions on key issues.

The market has delivered on average six per cent return in its post-election rally. Our top picks are OGDC, MCB, PSO, and Lucky and Hubco,’ stated FS spokesperson Mohammad Fawad Khan of Foundation Securities in a note issued to investors. But financial analysts will keep vigil on the incumbent FM, who stopped the issuance of Global Depository Receipts of select entities as finance minister in 2008 hoping to raise $4 billion from international markets. One of the extremely disappointing news for the left-wing democrats with unflinchingly secular credentials is the disastrous result of the Awami National Party, which won only one seat in the NA against 12 in the previous parliament. But the ANP leadership gracefully accepted the results of the general elections of the country, despite concerns about pre-poll rigging, leave alone loss of over 700 best cadres and leaders by the terrorists. Another factor that awaits a deeper scrutiny is low polling in K-P, as also FATA.  

Democratic renewal in Pakistan hinges on a very different dialectical platform. A section of Army – that had learnt the bitter lesson of bucking up the Talibans in helping the latter penetrate into Afghanistan in 1970, six months before the retaliation of the Soviet army following the nod from the then Zbigniew Brezezinsky, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, believes that the Talibans and various terrorist Islamic ultras are the main enemy of Pakistan and not India – is skeptical about the real motive of new PM.

But the reality forces the PML(M) supremo to extend friendship with India as anathema towards war-mongering mindset against India among common Pakistanis is on the rise just like their counterparts in India. The path for the new regime is both thorny and optimistic.

The objective reality is the grand and yawning failure of IMF-designed Structural Adjustment Programme and its derivatives the world over. IPA
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