After completing a five-year term, Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved on March 16 by the President Asif Ali Zardari and elections are to be held on May 11. A caretaker government composed mostly of technocrats has taken over to conduct ‘Free and Fair’ elections.
Victoria Nuland, the US State Department’s spokesperson, has called the Pakistani parliament’s completion of its full term, “truly historic”. However, for five years the outgoing government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had managed to survive the treacherous waters of Pakistani politics through keeping arch rivals on board by bartering their allegiance for prominent government positions, such as, most notably, making Pervez Ellahi the Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Ellahi, the right-wing Muslim League leader, was Chief Minister of Punjab during military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf’s rule and was accused by the slain leader of the PPP and Asif Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto of plotting to assassinate her.
As the democratically-elected government plodded through the social, political and economic mess of Pakistan, it was continuously accused by the right of coming to power by way of trickery. General Musharraf, who himself came to power by orchestrating a military coup against the elected Muslim League government of Nawaz Sharif, had, in October 2007, declared amnesty for politicians and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, money laundering, murder and terrorism between January 1986 and Oct 1999, a timespan that covered two periods of Martial Law in the country. The ordinance, infamously known as the ‘NRO’ or the National Reconciliation Ordinance, was criticised most notably by the Imran Khan, an ex-cricket hero who led Pakistan to victory in the cricket World Cup in 1992 and who now is the leader of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (‘PTI’) or ‘Movement for Justice’.
The 2008 election that brought the NRO beneficiaries to power were boycotted among a handful of other political parties, such as Imran Khan and the Jamat e Islami (JI) or the Party of Islam which enjoys close ties with Saudi Arabian family of Saud and who hail from the same Wahhabi sect of Islam that the Taliban follow.
Since 2008, Imran Khan has been on dozens of talk shows where a population deprived of the basic necessities of life such as clean drinking water and health care have been glued to TV screens in amazement watching this new gimmick of Talk Shows where politicians are seen accusing one another other of corruption and Imran Khan patiently but vigorously criticising the Muslim League (Nawaz)-led Punjab Provincial and the Asif Zardari/PPP-led Federal Governments, accusing both of being corrupt to the teeth and unreformable.
On March 23, the anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution, passed in Minto Park Lahore in 1940, Imran held a huge election rally, interrupted by heavy rain, while millions of youth and women heard their leader promise a corruption-free Pakistan and an increase in minimum wages. He claimed that he would make Pakistan prosper by regulating the tax system in a corruption-free manner. However, the next day his announcement of an electoral alliance with the Jamaat-i-Islami (‘JI’) came as no surprise, since he always had shown a soft corner for the ‘corruption-free’ Islamic Party. The JI has been accused of committing rape, arson and genocide of the Bengali population during the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971. The JI also was deeply implicated in the witch-hunt of left-wingers during the Martial Law period that extended from July 1979 till August 1988.
The PPP Government has failed to quell the onslaught of Taliban insurgents that hail from the north-western borders of the country, it has been unable to guarantee peace in the largest industrial city of Karachi where target killings of political opponents and gang war is rife, it has demonstrated incompetence in not achieving a settlement with separatists in Baluchistan, it has been impotent in the face of US drone attacks that have claimed thousands of civilian lives and finally, it cannot even bring reliable power to homes and businesses, so that people – and the country’s industrial sector – frequently have had to go without electricity for up to 10 hours at a stretch. In view of this cartography of ineptitude, the likelihood there being a significant majority for any of the parties, most of whom at some point in time have been in coalition with the PPP, seems very unlikely. Unless something extraordinary transpires, a hung parliament is expected.
The inability of the PPP to benefit the majority of Pakistanis has given a chance to the Right – and given that the PPP itself has been only fitfully and unreliably, if at all, of the Left, the ‘Right’ in Pakistani terms truly is ‘Far Right’ – to gain electoral grounds in Pakistan and unless there is a Socialist alternative that consistently, persistently and patiently strives to organise the working people of Pakistan, the future will remain bleak. However, it is of interest to observe that the aforementioned Ms Nuland, the US State Department’s spokesperson is said to be watching the situation closely and already has been in contact with both Imran Khan and the JI in case they become the power brokers after the May 11 general election.
Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza is a member of the International Committee of the Scottish Socialist Party. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza