By Farkhanda Qaiser
Before the results of elections started pouring out, many people were anticipating large scale change in the national political scenario. I believe, changes did appear but not as expected.
Change # 1: In Punjab and KPK:
PTI was foreseen to sweep the province of Punjab and replace PML N to a large extent. This may have been due to unexpectedly large turnouts at PTI rallies in the last few months. However as the election results proved, the ground realities were diametrically opposite. PTI failed to impress a large portion of the Punjabi electorate and PML N was able to maintain its stronghold in many of its constituencies. Good governance by the previous Punjab Government; well thought-out distribution of tickets among electoral candidates by PML N and beraadri setup in rural areas were some of the causes for the success of Sharif Brothers in the largest province of the country.
However PTI did manage to turn the tables in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. ANP – which formed the preceding government in KPK – was almost if not completely wiped out from the political set up. I think, gross blunders by ANP in the last few years took precedence over the revolutionary charm of PTI.
Change # 2: In Sindh and Balochistan:
Even though PPP cried itself hoarse (via media campaigns) maligning its rival party i.e. PML N, it was unable to make its mark in the General Elections 2013. Whereas it had secured 50 seats from Punjab in National Assembly in 2008, it could only cling onto 1 seat this time around. This is the biggest revenge democracy could take! And every one of us, who voted in these elections, should pat themselves on the back for this huge reprisal of the ex-ruling party which was unable to deliver good governance and was rampantly corrupt. This is what happens to bad governments! Democracy rocks!
Nevertheless PPP was able to maintain its dominance in Sindh despite its dismal performance in power. This could be due to lack of alternative Sindhi political leaders; remnants of Bhutto-loyalists or jiyalas and emotional blackmailing of illiterates. Yet credit is also due to some PPP politicians like Dr. Fehmida Mirza who kept constantly in touch with locals of her constituency during her last tenure. Sometimes it’s very easy to please the simpletons of our country. All they require is the satisfaction that their leader visits them once every often and has not forgotten them. These voters are not concerned with the bigger picture of democracy, corruption, law and order situation or foreign relations. Hence, the slogan roti, kapra, makaan was engineered for these very commoners and was very popular.
The ruling powers also did not change in Karachi and Hyderabad. These are the citadels of MQM which it managed to keep under its control. Massive coverage was given on media channels regarding rigging in Karachi. Such was the hue and cry that ECP was forced to take action. Now it has been announced that re-polling would be conducted in 43 polling stations of NA-250 (of Karachi) within 10 days. This decision should be applauded as it would clear many doubts about the transparency of the elections 2013.
As far as Balochistan is concerned, no single party has emerged as a clear winner so it is still unclear that who will form the government in this province.
Change # 3: Comparatively Free and Fair Elections:
After the announcement of election results, protests erupted all over the country. These protesters complained of widespread rigging in the elections. Most of them belonged to the parties of PTI, MQM and JI. Lahore (particularly NA-125 where Hamid Khan of PTI lost to Khawaja Saad Rafique of PML N), Karachi, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Jhang and some areas of Balochistan are believed to be the shady areas of rigging.
During these processions, there have also been skirmishes between supporters of rival political parties. This is very sad and is highly reminiscent of the politics of 90’s when PML N and PPP were at each others’ necks. Therefore, I appeal to these educated elite of Pakistan not to indulge in such lowly activities. This country can’t afford any more political brawls. There is a dire need to start solving the problems with political consensus. A healthy opposition would serve as a watchdog so now is the time to move on. Get over the election results and celebrate the day that was!
However, having said that, there is no denying the fact that rigging did take place. According to an independent body called Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), there are clear evidences that elections in 49 polling stations (out of the 8000 observed by them) were rigged. This comes out to be a mere 0.6125 %…! Well yes, rigging is bad but we must appreciate the fact that we’re living in a third-world country whose dictatorial history is longer than that of democracy. Our institutions are still young and inexperienced. These irregularities are due to mismanagement of the staff of ECP and not due to their ill-will. We should try to resolve the issues according to law. In this regard, PTI’s petition in Supreme Court is a welcome step. True, street politics is powerful and heady but we shouldn’t get carried away if there are alternatives. Other than rectifying the gross irregularities, the losing parties should accept defeat and congratulate the winners. This would create the much needed good will after the mudslinging during the elections!
Change # 4: International Image:
After witnessing greater than 60% turnout in the General Elections 2013, I was sure that International community would no longer think of us as illiterate savages fit for dictatorship only. After all, these elections were the triumph not only of Pakistan but also of democracy. However the post-election protests and blame games are dampening the mood in the country and this is not a good omen for the successive 5 years. It is highly imperative for leadership of political parties to let by gone be gone and instruct their political workers to calm down. I’m hopeful that these good-will gestures will come one day. (Indeed, PTI will prove to be different than PPP and PML N of 90’s inshaAllah). Better late than never!
Change # 5: Democracy is the best revenge:
If nothing else, these elections have definitely fortified my belief in democracy.
Democracy ensures that corrupt and bad politicians are one day shooed out of the parliament if they don’t mend their ways!
Abbreviations: PTI = Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, PML-N = Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, ANP = Awami National Party, KPK = Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, PPP = Pakistan Peoples’ Party, MQM = Muttahida Qaumi Movement, ECP = Election Commission of Pakistan, JI = Jamaat-e-Islaami, FAFEN = Free and Fair Election Network.