Zero Fervor for Elections

By Farooq Tariq spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan

Thirteen days to go and yet there is no election excitement. There are no street corner meetings or large-scale public rallies. The main leadership of those parties participating in the elections plan no national tours. It could be the most colorless election in the history of Pakistan.

The reasons are simple: General Musharraf wanted it that way. Before announcing the date for the general elections, he imposed martial law. He arrested over 10,000 political activists and lawyers, removed all the top judges, amended the constitution and got himself elected as “civilian president. He wanted five more years in power.

General Musharrafs allies made all the arrangement to “win the elections before announcing the date. They wanted a snap election where the opposition would have no time to mobilizing its base. It was to be a general election held without an independent judiciary, with a dependent Election Commission, and with repression still alive. This was the ideal circumstance for a “win.

Pressured by American and British imperialism, Musharraf was forced to implement a power-sharing deal with the Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). However, supporters of military rule, having enjoyed all the power during Mussharrafs first eight years, opposed the deal, dragged their heels and set up hurdles.

Following Musharrafs imposition of emergency law, the lawyers movement rightly demanded that political parties boycott the fraudulent election. The majority agreed, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Muslim League (PMLN). But the PPP kept its bargain and Benazir Bhutto began her vigorous campaign. It was her unfortunate assassination on 27 December 2007 that shocked the whole world. Had the PPP leadership then demanded Musharrafs immediate resignation, he would be gone by now.

Following Benazirs assassination the PPP leadership wanted to cash in on sympathy votes and demanded that the 8 January election not be postponed. Nonetheless the Election Commission proposed the general elections until 18 February 2008, providing Musharraf supporters with a breathing space.

The mass reaction after Benazir Bhuttos death opened the lid on the economic crisis: There was shortage of everything, from wheat flour to electricity. Musharrafs claim that he provided eight years of uninterrupted economic boom was shattered within few days. The long queues in front of public Utility Stores across Pakistan revealed the desperate situation the masses were living in.

The lawyers movement did not retreat. It has continued to demand the release and reinstatement of the countrys top judges. They are still actively supported by civil society organizations and the students. Despite the reality that the lawyers demand is one of the most popular issues of the day, both the PPP and PMLN decided to participate in the February general election.

The combination of Benazir Bhuttos assassination, the economic crisis and the boycott appeal of both the lawyers movement and the All Parties Democratic Movement has minimized election fervor. If the 18 February election does take place, the PPP will get a massive sympathy vote from those going to the polls. But not much will change because the PPP leadership has already made it clear that it is willing to work with Musharraf.

The PPP has nothing to offer to the people of Pakistan. It believes in privatization and it is happy to go along with the imperialist policies for the region. In fact this is not a new turn for the PPP; it has gone along with these policies for long time. The same is true for Nawaz Sharafs PMLN. In fact all those participating in the elections share one common goal with Musharraf: a continuation of the present economic “reforms.

All those on the Left who expected an election where there would be a mobilization of masses and, consequently, a chance to work among them must be very disappointed. This is not an ordinary general election. This is a very calculated plot on the part of the Musharraf dictatorship to continue for the next five years with the collaboration of those who will be “elected. This is not an election that can mobilize the masses to build a movement that could overthrow the dictatorship after the elections. But there is a growing movement against the military dictatorship.

The Pakistan Peoples Party is paying the price of its participation in the election, at least among the most active strata of society. The PPP lawyers once had the support of over 80 percent of Bar Association of Pakistan. However, recent Bar Association election results reveal an opposite trend.

The Lahore Bar Association elections show that the PPP-nominated president got less than 400 votes. The Awami Jamhoori Tehreek, (the Left alliance) candidate received 1075 and lost by less than 100 votes. The brother of “Marxist PPP former Member of Parliament (the Ted Grant group) was also badly defeated for Qasur Bar Association president. The Labour Party Pakistan Punjab chairperson received the highest number of votes for the executive board. {NEED TO SAY WHO DID WIN FOR PRESIDENT OF THE BAR ASSOCIATIONOTHERWISE IT SEEMS STRANGE THAT A CANDIDATE RECEIVING 1075 LOST!}

At the Multan High Court Bar Association meeting on 4 February, the Bars president attempted to defend the PPP decision to participate in the fraudulent February election, agitating lawyers forced him to stop speaking. Earlier, in another incident at Lahore University of Management, the PPP and PMLN representatives had to face angry students and civil society activists who were shouting for a total boycott.

So far the election campaign is limited to newspaper and television advertisements, billboards, stickers, banners and posters. There are no local public meetings. Unlike in the past, the candidates temporary offices look deserted. The PPP is counting on sympathy votes and it believes that it does not need a mass public campaign, as was the case in the past. At the same time both the PPP and PMLN are already complaining about Musharrafs supporters plan to rig the vote.

The lethargy toward this election is a phenomenon that deserves serious examination. How many would go to the polls has to be seen, but it is clear from all indicators that it will be the most hollow election in the history of Pakistan.



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One response to “Zero Fervor for Elections”

  1. Ilyas khan Baloch Avatar

    Dear sir/Madam,
    Dare to raise your voice for the inevitable socio-political change in Pakistan, to empower the Pakistani , the country belongs too.

    Since the creation of Pakistan the Pakistani people are left at distant from the corridor of power so that the ruling elite can do what they wanted to do in favour of their interest, leaving the Pakistani people at the mercy of circumstances. As this policy is denial of right of Pakistani people to rule their country according to their aspiration and desire to built this country, which can provide equal opportunity to all without any discrimination for the establishment of welfare society. Only the society base on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan there for your intention is invited to the crucial movement which could be the point of distraction or disaster.

    We have already lost the major part of Pakistan in 1971 simply to save the centralised sole power to exploit this country by the ruling elite they let the country break in part then allowing the masses to rule this country democratically. In the present circumstances we are again dragging our sovereignty at stack for the external interest in the name of national interest, instead of our interest i.e. the interest of Pakistani people at large.

    The only way out of these crucial circumstances is the only way to empower the common Pakistani at grass route level i.e. the change of system. This change is inevitable for the prosperous Pakistan .As a citizen of this country I have try to provide an alternate socio-political system to empower the masses at grass route level for rapid industrial and agriculture development with transparency and accountability in the system. Along with basic guarantees for the creation of welfare state, where in public representative and institution shall be answerable and accountable to the masses.

    Kindly see web

    Kindly acknowledge with your comments.

    Ilyas khan Baloch
    Organizer Islamic Democratic Party