Why Boycott is not an Option?

Guest post by Ali Malik

In the outrage post emergency, I was confused about whether the opposition should boycott the elections or not? For instance, soon after emergency, when a Lahore based journalist (and one for whom I have high regard for), currently in Karachi, was emotionally advocating oppositions’ boycott of the polls, my only response was, I am not sure whether boycott is a good option or not. As the outrage is giving way to rational, I am getting more and more convinced that boycott is not the best option.

Before I build my case, let me clarify one thing. Just when I believe that boycott of 1985 elections by MRD was not the right decision; I am not ready to buy the argument that had MRD contested those elections, under Zia and his apparatus, it would have won them. However, what contesting would have done then was, make life a lot more miserable for Zia and let democratic forces have more bargaining power against Zia. And I don’t expect miracles happening in 2008 either. Then why am I advocating opposition contesting elections?

My first argument, what is so different between 2002 and 2008? Here we have a bias set-up holding elections. Country is run by PCO and is under martial law. Musharaf has got himself elected as president using unfair means. He has appointed a handpicked Supreme Court. Election commission is part ineffective, part-biased in favor of his supporters. In 2002, we had a bias set up holding elections. Elections were held under PCO and martial law. Musharaf got himself elected president through a gimmick called referendum. Courts were Musharaf’s handpicked. Election commission was headed by bezamir Irshad Hassan Khan. Popular leadership was in exile. Country was in large parts without independent electronic media (news channels were running their test transmissions and were not the news source or opinion makers as they became in 2007 before Martial Law hit them). Popular leadership was in exile. And surprise surprise. Musharaf was Head of State, Head of Executive and Head of “Army”. If contesting elections in 2008 is giving Musharaf legitimacy, it was same back in 2002. Looking at all these facts, people who advocate boycott now, in principle, should have done it in 2002 too. If 2002 elections were contested under protest, so can 2008 be. They got elected. Many of them gifted nation with what we now know as 17th amendment. Others made a lot of noise about rubber-stamp parliament while staying in the same parliament till the very end (yes I am referring to Mr. Imran Khan – if opposition did not want to resign and he thought it was useless to be in parliament – principle demands he should have been out of it as two Baloch nationalist MPs did – hypocrisy).

Second argument is that boycotting elections will deny elections the credibility. To be honest, it does not make any difference to Establishment how credible the elections are for people in Pakistan. Supporters of the regime, if any, are going to hail them for rigging and will try justifying it in the name of stability anyways – so much for the tradition of rule of law of educated Pakistanis. Had it not been the case, we would not have what we had since first provincial elections in Pakistan back in early 50s – Ayub’s election, Zia’s referendum, 88s, 90s, 97s, Musharaf’s referendum, 02, local bodies and list goes on and on and on. And as far as they West goes, did not the same man get away with something as shameless and fraudulent as referendum (about which Dawn apart from these glamorous pictures of handful men in black and women in red voting, was full of stories of ballot stuffing, bogus voting, fraud and rigging). It cannot be worse than that in the coming elections.

I agree that Musharaf will be desperate to have his henchmen in to get indemnity for his coup of November 3rd. He will go to any length to get the elections rigged. His best option is to have opposition parties boycott the polls to give his prodigies a walkover. Imran Khan and Qazi who have been known for being the helping hands of establishment in the past, is up for it once more. The hope of Musharaf in Nawaz’s returns might be the same. I hope Nawaz Sharif has learnt his lesson and will not side with usurpers this time. However, my apprehension is that he will pressurize PPP and others to boycott elections (allowing Musharaf a free ride to 2/3rd) and if that fails he will lead a pro-establishment alliance in the elections (how establishment balances it out between Musharaf and him is to be seen) to check PPP.

I do not expect opposition to do wonders at elections. However, I do believe that with main stream parties contesting led by their leadership, and a higher degree of interest of international media as a result of main stream leaders contesting elections (the only noise that can force the western governments to act), life will be a lot more miserable for him than it was on any of the elections he conducted. It is not a time to boycott but a time to muster all the forces to check forces of establishment to rig elections as much as we can. Give elections a try for a peaceful victory over establishment. Our founding fathers contested election under British rule too. It did not mean accepting colonization. And in the end, street always remains an option. Boycott can only be an option, if it is absolutely clear that it will discredit elections in the eyes of powers who hold tap to aid that waters the plantation of commercial interests of Pakistan Army and will make them act.

In the end, someone said a few months ago that uniform is my skin and no one can make me shed it. Uniform is going today, skin – I have my fingers crossed. This is no small gain for us the people of Pakistan. A lot still needs to be done.

Tail Piece: Khabrain, known to be ISI paper, has published a message (without any proof) attributed to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary urging parties to boycott the polls. This shows how desperate regime is to force opposition to boycott the polls.



, , , , , , ,



5 responses to “Why Boycott is not an Option?”

  1. Shaji Avatar

    I completely concur.

  2. Zoaib Avatar

    All I can say is that the lawyers need to be supported by all the political parties in their struggle for the restoration of the judiciary. The recent revival of the judiciary was the best thing that had ever happened to Pakistan. The people of Pakistan would like a permanent system of checks and balances on our rulers so that whatever elections are held, whoever comes in power is accountable to the people.
    And the writer has really confused the good with the bad. If Imran Khan contested elections in 1997 when he had just formed the party, why wouldn’t he want to contest elections today. Nobody sides with the establishment unless they have some gain to make. We can see that in Maulana Fazlur Rehman, clearly. Why is Imran Khan being targeted here? Because he stood up for the principle of the judiciary at this crucial time in our history?
    And might I ask you, what dent can we put in Musharraf’s power? People resort to street protests when they’re denied all legal means of protest. What guarantee do the people have that the Judiciary issue, esp the reinstatement of the judges, remains the core issue for the politicians? Should we trust the PPP, who was so annoyed over the hearing of the NRO? And tell me, Junejo created a trouble for Zia, no doubt. He tried to bring a change from the parliament. But what happened? Zia dissolved the assembly? Doesn’t Musharraf have 58(2) B to do that at this time as well. Musharraf will not let anyone create a dent in his power, as we very well saw when he declared Emergency for his reelection as President.
    If the parties contest the polls, they will be in fact, accepting the Emergency and post-emergency constitutional changes. The Judges issue will be sidelined. And we’ll have (I hope not!) 5 more years of “controlled” democracy.
    The parties who are boycotting the elections have a clear message: The judges must be reinstated at all costs. Elections are not a guarantee of true democracy! It is a system of checks and balances which can contain our rulers greed of power. Only an independent judiciary can create such an environment.

  3. Atif Abdul-Rahman Avatar

    worthy pov but i certainly dont agree that Imran Khan is ‘known’ to be the helping hands of the establishment. Who wasnt at that time, Nawaz’s government was no good either. Infact Musharraf was a welcome relief in many circles since Nawaz had gone bezurk just like Musharraf has himself now.

    I also find some sympathy in ur article with mr. Nawaz Sharif, i dnt know whether thats a good thing or a bad one, just a feeling.

  4. Dr.Tariq Avatar

    بِسْمِ الله الرَّحمَنِ الرَحيم

    Asalamo Alikum,
    With due respect I strongly disagree that we should not boycott the coming election. We should boycott the election as a voter and should urge others not to take part in the election. BUT we must not stop here because is would be a halfway journey. We have to have a viable alternative to the current system and call people towards that.
    As we have practiced all types of democracies and dictatorships. It is a time not to fool our self again because this system of democracy itself is part of the problem and not the solution.
    We have witnessed on 28 November 2007, that the ruler of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, finally took off his uniform, which he once described as his very skin. Then on 29 November, Musharraf took oath as a civilian President of the current system, who would preside over elections in January 2008. By doing so, Musharraf humbly fulfilled the wishes of his master, US President George W Bush, when he declared before the world on, 20 November 2007, “He (Musharraf) has said he’s going to take off his uniform, he’s said there will be polls.”

    America willingly sacrificed Musharraf’s personal ambitions, despite his long and loyal service, because the continuation of the current system is more important for America than the fate of any of her agents. Indeed, it is the current system that allowed Musharraf to repeatedly betray us for the sake of America, for over eight years. It is the colonialist system that allowed America to establish its occupation over the Muslims of Afghanistan, strengthened the colonialist hold over your resources, emboldened the Hindu mushrikeen against the Muslims of Kashmir, diminished the nuclear program of the world’s only Muslim nuclear power and incarcerated Dr. A Q Khan, allowed the savage killing of hundreds of students in Lal Masjid and ordered the largest Muslim army to fight Muslims in the tribal areas.

    In fact, the colonialist system has always produced traitors for over six decades. Whoever came to rule, whether by democratic elections or by military coup, always ensured that the colonialists dominated your every affair. So, we witnessed that under both democracy and dictatorship, the resources of the Muslims were subject to World Bank and IMF exploitation, the judiciary was judging according to the colonialist laws, our soldiers were sent to secure Western interests around the globe and the Muslim children were corrupted by the Western values. Indeed, t he present system will always secure the colonialists interests because both democracy and dictatorship allow the rulers to make laws according to their whims and desires. Therefore, the colonialist powers are able to easily steer law-making to their advantage.

    This is why to extend the life of this dying system; the colonialists again are offering us elections in January 2008. The colonialists prefer that we remain trapped in the colonialist system, rather than uproot it and re-establish the Khilafah in its place. For were the Muslims to establish a single Khilafah state, the Ummah would be more than strong enough to resist the colonialists, for the Khilafah would be unmatched by any world power with respect to lands, armies, wealth and population. And the colonialists would never want that for us,
    Dear Brothers and sisters, Allah سبحانه وتعالى says,
    مَا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَلاَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ أَنْ يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَخْتَصُّ بِرَحْمَتِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

    “Neither those who followed earlier revelation who deny the truth, from the People of the Book and the Mushrikeen, like to see good bestowed upon you from your Sustainer; but Allah bestows grace upon who He chooses- for Allah is limitless in His great bounty.” [Surah al-Baqara 2:105]

    Drear Brothers and sisters!

    How long will we continue to be witness to your humiliation at the hands of the colonialist system? How long will we participate in elections within a system that produces traitor after traitor? Changing faces in the current kufr system in January 2008 is no more than opening the door for even more years of misery.

    It is forbidden for any Muslim, who believes in Allah سبحانه وتعالى and RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم to help, participate in, or be a part of this system. Therefore it is not allowed for any Muslim to vote for candidates in the current kufr system, for they will make laws in the assembly whereby they will make halal into haram and the haram into halal. Hence, such voting will be a representation in a Haram action and will be an act of direct assistance in supporting the kufr system, which Islam has forbidden. Allah سبحانه وتعالى said,
    وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْكَافِرُونَ

    “And those who do not rule with that which Allah has revealed, are indeed the Kafiroon.” [Surah al-Ma’ida 5:44]
    أَفَحُكْمَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ يَبْغُونَ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنْ اللَّهِ حُكْمًا لِقَوْمٍ يُوقِنُونَ

    “Do they then seek judgment from the days of Ignorance? And who is better than Allah at making judgments, for those who have faith.” [Surah al-Ma’ida 5:50]

    It is utmost necessary to reject any support for the present corrupt system and establish our Khilafah in its place, apply our law, Shari’ah, and elect a Khaleefah and members of the Ummah’s Assembly under the Islamic State, instead of elections under Kufr systems.

    O political parties!

    How do you still line up one after another, falling over each other for a chance to enter the colonialist system and emerge as a traitor to your own people? How long do you accept to hoist America on your backs so that she can rule over your people? Democracy can never bring any good for your people. This man-made system always establishes oppression by a small elite that manipulates the law to secure its own interests, forsaking its people. This applies to America and Britain, the very models you aspire to, where immensely wealthy capitalist individuals and companies ensure laws that secure their benefit, as much as it applies to Pakistan, where politics is a business for securing personal desires in exchange for fulfilling Western ones. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says,
    أَرَأَيْتَ مَنْ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنْتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلاً

    “Have you seen the one who takes his own desire as god? Would you be a wakeel over him?”[Surah Furqan 25:43]

    And it is not enough that you merely boycott the elections! You have chosen to engage in the noble worship of looking after the affairs of the Ummah at a time when the Muslims yearn for a sincere leadership, which will govern them by all that Allah سبحانه وتعالى has revealed. I strongly urge you, request you and do Naseehat to you to openly denounce dictatorship and democracy, the false gods manufactured for you by the colonialists, and call for the immediate re-establishment of the Khilafah in their place.


    Did you not see that when the US Deputy Secretary of State and the real master of this regime, John Negroponte, arrived, he rushed to meet General Kiyani even before meeting Musharraf! This is a clear evidence for everyone, that it is the real master alone who appoints the chief of the army! Is this not a slap in the face and a severe insult to the largest Islamic army in the world?

    It is said that, “the wise one is the one who takes lessons from the mistakes of others.” Musharraf earned the hatred of the Muslims because he sided with America and colonialism against the Muslims and Islam. It is the most suitable time to make the right choice, the choice of Salahudeen which is to unify this Ummah under the flag of the “kalimah” and to liberate the Muslims from the Western crusaders who have oppressed her for decades.

    There are people amongst us who can change the system overnight and they are the people of Nussrah (material support), like the noble Ansar before you who gave the material support to RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم in order to establish the first rule of Islam in Madinah. It is by the grace of Allah سبحانه وتعالى that they enjoy power at a time that the Ummah has turned strongly to Islam and the Khilafah is on the horizon. It is therefore not acceptable that you merely watch as if you have nothing in your hands to save your people. We have to uproot the current system and implement Islam in its place, through the Khilafah state.
    وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنْ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

    “And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them in exactly in good deeds. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. He has prepared for them gardens in which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. Indeed that is the supreme success.” [Surah at-Tawba 9:100]

    Thanks and Jazakallah khair

  5. NJ Avatar

    A very interesting article in DAWN today. It’s an eye-opener as to why Musharraf continues to blab that CJ would NEVER be reinstated. It seems that the over-confidence is based on a solid game plan;

    Official poll results ready

    By M. Ziauddin

    LONDON, Dec 10: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), now minus the Jamaat-i-Islami, is expected to hold the balance in the next National Assembly as the January 8 elections are estimated officially to throw up largely a hung house.

    These estimates which the PPP and the PML-N sources here believe have been drawn up by the intelligence agencies in the first week of the current month have given the PML-Q 115 seats followed by PPP (90), MMA (45), PML-N (40), MQM (20) and ANP (12) in a house of 342.

    These estimates are said to have been made on the basis of the strength of each party constituency-wise plus individual candidates own ability to pull voters and the political affiliation of the nazims in the constituency.

    The sources who did not wish to be identified alleged that the official plan was to rig the polls in such a way as to deny a clear majority to any of the contesting parties so as to place President Pervez Musharraf in a position of cobbling together a coalition of his choice which, according to the American script, is a coalition of the PML-Q and the PPP.

    However, if the PML-Q and the PPP wished to make their own governments without the other, which many here fear is what the two parties would try their best to achieve first, Musharrafs desire and American script notwithstanding, they would need to enlist the support of the MMA because a coalition of the PPP, PML-N and ANP would fall short by 30 votes, if the above official estimates come true, while the PML-Q would require another 17 votes to form a government even after the addition of 20 each from the MQM and smaller parties like PML-F and PPP (Sherpao) etc.

    But then since a coalition with the MMA would not make Washington all that happy, Musharraf would probably try his best to scuttle any such move either by the PML-Q or the PPP, sources said.

    This, they said, would then lead to a long drawn political wrangling and intense attempts at horse-trading which they fear would finally culminate into invalidation of January 8 elections and the president calling for fresh elections in June.

    They, however, did not rule out the possibility of the original official estimates undergoing further changes in the remaining three weeks to the polls which could swing in favour of the PPP and the PML-N in case the two succeeded in forcing the government into accepting some of their demands included in the Charter of Demands.

    Or, they said, the PML-Q in panic fearing losing their voters to the PML-N could go on a spree of rigging full throttle undermining the very credibility of the elections both inside and outside the country, to be followed by a kind of Orange revolution a la Ukraine which again could to lead to fresh elections in June.

    Sources said that even if there was no Orange revolution the new government led by the PML-Q with a single digit majority would not last long unless of course it enlists the support of the MMA even at the cost of annoying the US.