May 25, 2013 12:00 am
In Pakistan’s general elections on May 11, the notorious right-wing political elite has successfully engineered a comeback. Twice former prime minister (and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) who was ousted in 1999 in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf), Nawaz Sharif has managed to bag 124 seats in the National Assembly, enabling him comfortably to form a majority government at the centre. Meanwhile the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party Government, led by Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, has gone from a parliamentary majority of 84 seats to a mere 34 seats. The major attraction of the election campaign was Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (Justice Movement, or PTI) led by the ex-cricketer and philanthropist, Imran Khan. However, contrary to his claims of coming to power on the crest of a popular electorate tsunami, his party failed to achieve their target as it lagged behind in third position with only 21 seats in the national assembly. The center-right pro-business secular party, Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), which is based among the Urdu-speaking community who migrated to the urban centres of Sindh province after the partition of India, bagged 18 National Assembly seats.
The biggest loss was suffered by the anti-Taliban Pashtun secular Awami National Party. It was wiped out of both the National Assembly, where it could only manage to secure one seat, as well as the Provincial Assembly in its heartland of Pakhtunwala where it held only six seats, thereby giving PTI, on 34 seats, a simple majority. Although it is early days, the PML already agreed to let PTI form a provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. Imran Khan has announced a collation government in that province with the extreme right-wing Jamat e Islami, which adheres to the Wahhabi/Salafist/Islamist sect of Sunni Islam followed by Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. The Jamat e Islami have been given the key portfolios of Finance and Education. This is the equivalent of handing over the bank accounts of everyone in the province to God’s version of Enron. To anyone not brainwashed by the perverts, murderers and fraudsters of the Jamat e Islami, this is certifiable madness. Yet when one recalls that during the 1980s, the CIA (via the University of Nebraska) and the Jamat e Islami (blessed and watered by the Pakistan military) cooperated on the writing of Islamist/Jihadist “educational’ textbooks for the children of Pakistan, perhaps this psychosis is not so unexpected: natural allies are getting back into bed with one another and cricketing icon Imran Khan has now got into bed with the mullahs.
The results in the province of Sindh have seen the Pakistan People’s Party bounce back to victory in its heartland, with 66 seats. However, the elections in Karachi and Hyderabad have been declared controversial, not only by the runners-up such as the MQM, PTI and the Jamat e Islami, but also by the Election Commission itself. Elections are reschduled in some constituencies in Karachi for May 21. However, the civil administration and security personel have expressed their apprehension about a lack of law and order.
In Baluchistan, which is rife with social and political discontent against the centre’s high-handedness and about the volatile situation of law and order amidst a proxy war between America and China for control of the resources of Baluchistan as well as the deep-sea port of Gwadar, the PML managed to secure 9 our of 50 seats.
In the province of Punjab, its home base, the PML won a landslide with 224 seats. PTI won 21 and the PPP, only six.
It is claimed that the voter turnout was around 63%, but thousands of votes are being challenged in some constituencies since the votes cast were more that the actual registered voters. The social media has been flooded with footage of irregularities in the voting process captured on mobile phones. There have been large sit-ins by PTI, PPP and MQM against the alleged poll-rigging and the demands for re-run in several constituencies are becoming stronger. It is claimed by members of PTI that Nawaz Sharif managed to plant his cronies at all major administrative posts during the election with the help of his younger brother, Shabaz Sharif who was the Chief Minister of Punjab for five years. Both the Sharif brothers were proteges of notorious military dictator of the 1980s, General Zia ul Haq.
The new government is expected to be sworn-in after the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Leader of the House which will commence on May 30. Nawaz Sharif has already met Imran Khan in hospital where the PTI leader is recovering from injuries he had after he fell form the crane that was lifting him onto the stage during an election rally in Lahore and which left him with at least three minor fractures in his spine and two broken ribs. Imran Khan has announced that he is willing to cooperate on matters of “national interest”, whatever that ambiguous phrase means.
Prime Minister-in-waiting, Nawaz Sharif already has issued a statement showing his willingness to co-operate with the US on matters of “mutual interest”. US Secretary of State, John Kerry will be the first foreign dignitary to visit Nawaz Sharif as soon as he has been sworn in. The commitments to the IMF demand cutting public spending and serious restructuring of the economy. This will bring the Sharif government into direct conflict with the impoverished masses of Pakistan. Trade unions in Pakistan are already thoroughly bureaucratised and previously have collaborated with successive governments in the criminal act of privatising the economy. They will be a major obstacle in any meaningful resistance to the Sharif government. The reformist parties of the bourgeoisie and the pseudo-left might protest on non-issues thus comfortably ignoring the main issue of class struggle.
Out of a total population of nearly 190 million, only 80 million of Pakistanis are registered voters. At the current rate of 63% voter turn-out, this represents just over 45 million people. If we deduct 45 million children under the age of 15, this leaves us with 100 million people (mostly working class and female) who did not participate in this election process. There are reports that in the northern parts of Pakistan, women were barred from at least four constituencies by the mutual consent of all major political parties. The Pakistan Tehreek Taliban had announced that they will attack the PPP, ANP and MQM while guaranteeing the conservative right a safe election campaign. Both Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and the Jamat e Islami held massive election rallies in all major cities of Pakistan without a single casualty inflicted upon them by the Pakistani Taliban. On the other hand, a total more than 140 people, including at least two parliamentary candidates, lost their lives due to attacks on the election rallies of the PPP, ANP and MQM. The PPP could not manage to hold a single major election rally and the ANP candidates were restricted to holding small corner meetings. In other words, with the help of jackboot tactics, the right-wing conservative political elite has engineered an electoral comeback in Pakistan. The future of the Pakistani working people now depends on their willingness to challenge the status quo on a class basis.
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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza