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Archive for May, 2013

Voter turnout was massive and so was the rigging, this time it was also blatant.  Media reporting was prompt and panel discussions impressive. Updates on social media were just overwhelming it was difficult to keep pace.  Some of the posts on Facebook were wise ‘Pathans proved that they are the most intelligent Pakistanis,’ some were cute ‘Naswar is good for brain’  and some were laughable for instance the outrageous  vote count of a winning candidate- 258 votes per minute in 11 hours of voting! And all this amid complains that many hours were lost as polling stations did not open on time. The voters were resolute this time and continued waiting under uncertainty and dangers.

“At least 13 people were killed and several others injured in two blasts in Karachi’s Quaidabad and Qasba areas.” This was just the first report on violence I read, more was to follow throughout the day.  By midday Jamaat-i-Islami announced a boycott of the elections in Karachi and Hyderabad. Arif Alvi, a candidate of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , held a press conference to report the rigging in his polling stations. Election Commission ordered a re-election in his constituency while Altaf Hussain, Chairman of MQM,  threatened to separate Karachi. There were also complains about the overall performance of Election Commission but at the end of the day Fakhruddin Ibrahim, Chief Election Commissioner, declared he was a happy man as ‘people had been empowered.’ And he is right as this is the best that could be achieved in the worst moments of Pakistan’s political history.

The new trend in Pakistani elections is a call to move forward, if the polls were violent they were also marked with an unprecedented enthusiasm. A new generation of 40 million voters participated and a majority of the old and new voters casted their votes against the status quo.  There is a spirit of change in the air and that spirit will prevail, ballot papers can be engineered but the new mindset will be hard to manipulate.

As for the results, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz  emerged as the party with majority votes and Nawaz Sharif is set to form his government in the province of Punjab and at the center. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has a sweeping majority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and it will form its own government in the province. Awami National Party (ANP), the avatar of the old National Awami Party (NAP), led by a grandson of the Frontier Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan has been wiped out from the frontier province. Votes in Sindh are divided between urban and rural, Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Quomi Mahaz (MQM), the two parties representing these divides will  form a coalition government in the province.  Nationalist parties have won the majority of seats in Balochistan, the only province with a very low turnout of only 10%. The overall results clearly show that each province will have its own government, the age-old demand of provincial autonomy has been fulfilled this time without even demanding it. According to Mohammed Hanif’s article in The Guardian of May 13, 2013. 

“Who needs a federation when you can have so much more fun doing things your own way. So in the post-election Pakistan, Khan will rule the north and shoot down American drones while discussing Scandinavian social welfare models with the Taliban. Sharif will rule in Punjab and the centre, try to do business with India and build more motorways all the while looking over his shoulder for generals looking at him. In the south, Bhutto’s decimated People’s party will keep ruling and keep saying that folks up north are stealing its water, destroying its social welfare programmes and secular legacy. And, in Balochistan…” Three days before the elections, Noam Chomsky gave his opinion on the restless province “There is a lot of exploitation of the rich resources [in Balochistan] which the locals are not gaining from. As long as this goes on, it is going to keep providing grounds for serious uprisings and insurgencies.”

Soon after the results, for a moment, the dream of a New Pakistan seemed shattered by  nightmares of a rigged republic with regional governments ready to secede. But those are the ghosts of a past election, Pakistan has come of age. After 6 and a half decades of its checkered history cessation, war with India and fear of a military coup has diminished as for the first time an elected government has completed its term and will be handing over power to the next. 

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