Will Pakistan become civilized after polls?
It has faced a long ordeal of difficulties with very little respite. Yet the people's eyes have remained fixed on a democratic setup that will not...
It has faced a long ordeal of difficulties with very little respite. Yet the people's eyes have remained fixed on a democratic setup that will not only give them political stability, but also economic viability
I have made nearly 200 trips, if not more, to Pakistan ever since I left Sialkot, my birthplace, way back in 1947 during Partition. On each of my visit to that country, I have always admired the people's forbearance and endurance despite several situations had jinxed them since the country came into being 66 years ago. It has faced a long ordeal of difficulties with very little respite. Yet the people's eyes have remained fixed on a democratic setup that will not only give them political stability, but also economic viability. But the million-dollar question that begs an answer now is whether the May 11 election will be impartial. Ever since former President General Pervez Musharraf returned to the country from his self-imposed exile, more and more problems have begun to engulf the nation. From Musharraf's announcement of his decision to contest elections to the rejection of his nomination in one constituency to a slew of charges, including treason, the electoral process has been in turmoil. A three-judge bench, hearing the charges against Musharraf, has already placed Musharraf under the Exit Control List, preventing him from leaving the country. In a way, all these events have pushed Pakistan to the point of implosion. The poll announcement, more so the return of Musharraf, has brought back with it the long-forgotten Zia-ul Haq era legacy. It remains to be seen whether the kind of leadership that will be chosen to lead the country would make or break it. No doubt, there were pulls from several parties and it seemed impossible at one time that some name would emerge as a unanimous choice for the interim prime ministership. But it was sorted out with the appointment of former justice Hazar Khan Khoso, who has been chosen to conduct free and fair elections. However, this does not mean that the coming elections in Pakistan would be impartial. Pakistan Army Chief Pervez Kayani has promised that the elections would be independent. It is, indeed, strange that the Army wants a fair poll. But it is an open secret that the Army which holds sway over Pakistan will not interfere in the elections. Still it is unfair to contend that all members of the National Assembly of Pakistan would get elected through genuine methods. The past does not say so and the future does not hold any promise. Meanwhile, the message by Musharraf has put the electorate in confusion. He says he would like to have impartial elections, forgetting that it was he who had interfered with polls in the past to get his favourites retained. I do not rule out his using some methods (even the Army) to get himself elected from Karachi and a few of his colleagues from elsewhere. It is strange that the first statement that Musharraf made on reaching Pakistan is that Kargil was a "victory for the Pakistan army." It is understandable that Musharraf wants to placate the Army but he cannot mutilate facts that he and his Army were squarely defeated and for him to deny the reality is the same kind of thinking which has brought him to contest the elections. People know who won Kargil war and no amount of Musharraf's claim can undo the truth. The unpopularity of Musharraf could be gauged when an angry lawyer threw a shoe at the former President as he headed to court to face legal charges after returning from his four-year-long exile. In any case, this was not the first time that Musharraf had to face such a humiliation. Two years ago, a man tried to hurl a shoe at him when he was addressing a gathering in Britain. A retired Pakistani Lt. General, Saheed Aziz, has brought out a book to nail the lie and he has alleged that the Army "put our children in the line of fire." But the point that Musharraf refuses to see is that reality may complicate matters. Was it the entry of Musharraf that has pushed the Imran Khan phenomenon into the background because at one time it was taken for granted that Imran's Tehreek-e-Insan party would sweep the polls? The old political complexion may continue after the next election. Punjab looks like going the Nawaz Sharif's way and Sind would stay with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The North Western Frontier Province may again be back with Awami National Party (ANP), reminding one of the red shirts under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan during the freedom struggle. The fourth province, Baluchistan, is categorically against the PPP and may, therefore, return either ANP or any amalgamation of some nationalists who are still fighting against the Army for their identity. The scene does not help India in any way. In fact, Pakistan is getting murkier and murkier. First, its soldiers beheaded two Indian soldiers and now Indian prisoners are tortured to death, using racial abuses. In fact, Pakistan has to sort out the minority problem if it wants to be considered a civilized state.