The meaning of the elections in Pakistan

March 13, 2008 at 12:30 am (Pakistan, Uncategorized)

So what do the elections in Pakistan mean?

Yes, elections took place.
Yes, they were freer than one first expected them to be.
Yes, they were competitive for the most part.
Yes, the people of Pakistan had a say.
But, no, they were not intrinsically good for Pakistan.

And, frankly, I doubt whether Benazir would have changed the above. Let me explain in a short while.

The former ruling party was PML-Q which stands for the “Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid faction”. This is because the other major faction is the PML-N, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz faction. In essence, PML-N supports Nawaz Sharif while PML-Q does not. PML-Q is Musharraf’s party, for all intents and purposes.

But since its beginning, PML-N strenuously opposed Musharraf. This is because Nawaz Sharif strenuously opposes Pervaiz Musharraf. And this mutual opposition is quite personal. Nawaz fired Musharraf, Musharraf ousted Nawaz, Nawaz tried to kill Musharraf when Musharraf was returning to Pakistan, Musharraf put Nawaz on trial, Nawaz was sent in exile. They both hate each other.

Now, what was personal has become political. PML-N and its allies have been doing everything to oppose and topple Musharraf. They are the ones primarily responsible for the meme that democracy in Pakistan is threatened (or, for that matter, doesn’t exist) as long as Musharraf has any power, as if Pakistan will become a haven for democracy the moment Musharraf steps down.

In contrast to Nawaz Sharif, Benazir was pro-Musharraf. When she returned, she realized that this certainly helped her return to Pakistan but it certainly hurts her when it comes to the elections. So she changed gears and became anti-Musharraf. What remains questionable is whether this anti-Musharraf stance was for appearance’s sake or whether she meant it. What also is questionable is whether she would have acted on anti-Musharraf demands made by her allies if she came into power. Many people expected her to be pro-Musharraf to staunch the rise of anti-Musharraf sentiment and policies, and indeed Musharraf depended on this, but it is difficult to tell how she would have acted.

Various political movements, parties, and people planned to use these elections has a launching pad for effective anti-Musharraf plans and policies. Once in power, the civilian government would begin to do everything it could do oust Musharraf, beginning with the deposed Supreme Court (which was dismissed at the end of last year when Musharraf declared emergency rule). With the proper elements in place, they planned to declare Musharraf ineligible as president of Pakistan and force him out. They may yet do it.

But Musharraf is not an idiot. Whereas he may not be able to completely stop such efforts, he can fight back. As president, he still has the power to dismiss Parliament. And he can always use his friend General Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, to help him out.

In other words, there was to be a showdown and there may yet be one. Musharraf’s options have been reduced due to no longer being the Chief of Army Staff and due to Pakistan’s need to present some semblance of respect for civilian or political rule. PML-N and PPP (Benazir’s party) made major gains in the recent elections. Let us see whether they can unite to do anything, and if they unit to oust Musharraf. If they do, there will be an intense period of instability in the political world of Pakistan. But then, this instability is the story of Pakistan.



  1. pajama momma said,

    Happy Easter! 🙂

  2. Evil Con Carne said,

    whats up mulihoon!

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