The day after May 11

Published: May 15, 2013

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

Two days after the general elections in Pakistan, I sat watching a debate between senior leaders of the PTI, the MQM and the PML-N regarding rigging in elections. The most amazing part of the conversation was the suggestion by the PTI leader that perhaps, intelligence agency wallahs were stuffing ballot boxes at a polling station from where a PML-N candidate won. The same leader also talked about an opinion piece suggesting that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bribed to ensure a certain win. The other day, I heard a ‘so-called’ journalist talking in a television programme, of foreign countries like Turkey being involved in ensuring certain election results in Pakistan. Notwithstanding some genuine complaints of rigging, the conversation and suggestion reflected a desire to delegitimise the larger election process, which did not bring about results that a certain segment of the population desired. While it is necessary to sort out the urgent issues regarding glaring discrepancies in results and measures to strengthen the ECP, it is also necessary for the post-May 11 Pakistan to find closure. Instead of constantly delegitimising the process, it is necessary to accept the fact that a large part of Pakistan that voted differently from how certain people thought they would, also represents the country. Its opinion ought to be respected as well.

There is a great risk of a segment of the population that was enthralled by the idea of Naya Pakistan getting depoliticised out of frustration. Like others, I have also heard conversations in which the Naya Pakistan wallahs were going around cursing people’s decision, calling them stupid and even suggesting that participating in elections was an effort not worth their while. Some even went to the extent of calling people paindu (rural) and illiterate. Besides a lot of institution-building and strengthening that is required, Imran Khan must nurse the wounds of his supporters at the earliest and draw their attention towards the fact that it is a great achievement that the PTI has risen from being a party of one in parliament to over 30 members. Moreover, unfavourable results do not mean that we stop emotionally and physically investing in this country. People’s choices must be respected. This nursing of the wounds is part of the larger process of making efforts to bind the country together.

The other interesting trend pertains to the image of regionalisation of politics. To an outside observer, Pakistan does not feel tied together. The PML-N has emerged as a big force in Punjab, the PTI in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the PPP relegated to rural Sindh, the MQM in urban Sindh and Baloch and Pashtun nationalists in Balochistan. A lot of people are hugely angry on the PPP’s lacklustre performance of the past five years. So, one could argue that it got what it deserved. Notwithstanding the errors made by its leadership and erosion of ideology from the party, the fact remains that we are observing the breakdown of what was once the only genuine national party. The federation needs to be connected, which it is not at the moment. The PPP’s weakening as a party within Sindh itself will have repercussions for sociopolitical development in the region and its connection with the federation. The crippling of the party, for which the leadership is to blame as well, has and will create spaces which will be dominated by pro-establishment parties or the nationalists. In both cases, it does not bode well for the province or the federation. It is necessary to appease the disgruntled youth in Sindh who may be tempted to fight against the state, especially in reaction to the use of force by it. The number of missing people and dead bodies is increasing in the province.

The above narrative means that party or parties have to move rapidly to shun their character of being regional entities and reach out to other regions. In the past five years, the PML-N leadership has shied from visiting other provinces. At least, this is a complaint one heard from urban and rural Sindh. The PML-N winning seats in the Balochistan Assembly is a good sign. It now needs to do more to expand in other parts. Shedding the image of a Punjab-based leadership and party is necessary. The development agenda also has to extend beyond a single province.

As part of the effort to strengthen the federation, the ruling party at the centre will also have to look more carefully to the needs of south Punjab, which seems to have given a huge mandate to the party. As a region known for both poverty and popularity of the PPP, some were surprised to see the PML-N sweep elections there. This happened due to a combination of factors, such as the party aligning with emerging power centres in the region, especially those representing new capital. In some cases, it also partnered with electables from amongst the Seraiki-speakers, who were already disgruntled due to the PPP not properly marketing the idea of a new province of south Punjab and Bahawalpur. An ordinary voter was left with pragmatism to support a party that might win and deliver. But the more important thing is that the people have honoured the PML-N by putting their confidence in it. The best way of consolidating such gains is to not ignore the need for a new province and offering a plan for better distribution of resources even within Punjab. The PML-N has done well in improving Lahore but now it also needs to distribute development to other parts of the country and the province itself.

While the list of things that the new government ought to do is endless, the need for strengthening the federation should be one of the primary goals. Accepting the legitimacy of the electioneering process and legitimising political and development agendas through meeting people’s needs will go a long way.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2013.

Reader Comments (21)

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    May 16, 2013 - 12:14AM

    Imran Khan was deprived of a country wide tsunami, by massive rigging. The rigging allegations by PTI,
    are true and video footages, are available where there is ample evidence to back this.
    If you disagree that is your own biased opinion, as you seem to have obsessive
    issues with Imran, the military,like Mr Kamran Shafi.
    How ever for the PPP, every sane person, who sincerely cares about Pakistan,
    says “good riddance to bad rubbish”Recommend

  • Ali
    May 16, 2013 - 12:17AM

    Wondering if ‘naya Pakistan’ wallahs are listening?

    Recommend

  • Faraz Kakar
    May 16, 2013 - 12:23AM

    The regionalisation of Pakistani politics is not necessarily a bad development. In fact, the post-election cooperation of all these regional parties, their tolerance and acceptance of each others mandates is a sign of their growing political maturity. This regionalisation will also help to reduce inter-ethnic resentments in the country – something that clearly exists and is blatantly denied. Election of Nawaz Sharif and a coalition government of PML-N with Nationalists from Balochistan (Pashtun and Baloch) is a good news for Pakistan and for the region.

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  • AnisAqeel
    May 16, 2013 - 1:00AM

    A well written article for the nation taking baby steps towards democracy that is still under the influence of a mafia style power. To accept defeat honorably becomes a victory in the end and Mr. Khan must guide and console his supporters and “nurse the wounds” A.S.A.P. that can reflect a classroom lesson in the democratic process.

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  • Faheem ur Rehman
    May 16, 2013 - 9:16AM

    Process of electioneering shall be continued, no body is against it. But, it is sheer ignorance to accept the election even though you know that massive rigging is engineered
    .

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  • wasif Khalid
    May 16, 2013 - 9:31AM

    a very well written article indeed. Thumbs up!

    Recommend

  • Ammar
    May 16, 2013 - 9:51AM

    Seraiky Nationalist would never trust NS and SS. It is all about the powerful influencial groups, and five year long media/SC trial.

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  • musa
    May 16, 2013 - 10:48AM

    –Seemingly punjabis voted for punjabis, sindhis voted for sindhis, pathans voted for pathan, thats what Pakistan is for u – However IK might not have got the majority but he definitely was the hero of the elections. He stimulated people to vote and managed to get a fair number of seats, gave the older political parties a tough competition and appeared in all the four provinces. He still is the champ

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  • Bilal
    May 16, 2013 - 10:50AM

    Ma’am I am a great admirer of your analysis and writings… but on this would like to ask don’t you think ‘Let it be, Lets look forward‘ approach has hurt the country more than any thing else. I am an Insafian and no doubt felt very disappointed on the elections results but doesn’t mean I am not ready to accept the view of larger portion of the society. Its just that we all want our mandate to be respected which was quite clearly in favor of PTI on a few seats in both Khi & Lhe, that got robbed of.

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  • khurram kaleem
    May 16, 2013 - 12:47PM

    I was at NA 125 DHA the whole day .everybody voted without any complain .the elections were absolutely fair.

    it was only that super elite people were in jubiliant PTI mood.it was a battle btw rich and poor consist of millionares with rarely any one with a broken chappal or torn clothes .Since DHA had 15 percent vote of constituency PTI lost.Recommend

  • anum shah
    May 16, 2013 - 3:22PM

    A well written piece indeed, but its always best to analyze both sides of the picture. If mocking labels are being used by PTI even PMLN is using such terms for the elite youth. For that matter even PML N leaders, our now ruling party is using labels on national television for the elite sect. Both parties need to mature and move on for the betterment of the country. Election process is suppose to be a fair one. Clearly this one wasn’t. “Wounds cant be nursed” knowing the process was unfair. I am sure if the process was free and fair and PTI ended up losing, they wouldn’t create a hue and cry. Its when people are robbed of their fundamental right is when the problem sets in.Hence the bitter sentiments. They cant just settle on the fact that they have achieved a lot in an unfair process. ECP should be fair and settle all issues. People have faith in this organization and its important they respond and take strict action where it is required. The day they start to do that is the day our journey towards a true democracy begins.

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  • Roger Moore
    May 16, 2013 - 3:54PM

    I don’t know why the media and other handlers are always so protective of Ayesha Siddiqa. She needs to hear the public’s responses to her elitist left-wing anti-military jingoism. This article continues that legacy with the subtext of “let bygones be bygones”, and “let’s forget and move on”. PTI is a political reality, you may not like the package or Imran’s personality, but its here to stay and in the ascendancy. Deal with it.

    And will you lefties at ExpressTribune stop filtering replies you don’t agree with. We know you like to give a positive spin to your handlers at the Tribune USA, but your censorship is suffocating. Don’t think it goes unnoticed.

    Recommend

  • May 16, 2013 - 6:51PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    Is it so hard to accept reality even if it was somewhat rigged?
    PTI could not have gone from 30 to 100 elected?

    Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    May 16, 2013 - 9:51PM

    @SSS:

    Tehreekh Insaf would have been the leading party, in both Punjab and Karachi,
    and by all means would have secured at least 150 seats. How ever for those secular,
    liberal, ignorant, and envious people, who refuse to come to terms with ground realities,
    they can continue thinking what ever. Rigging did in fact happen, and Imran Khan was
    purposely deprived of forming the government, in the center, by a well planned attempt.
    Allah u alam and Allah Subhana, alone knows best.

    Recommend

  • waqar khan
    May 16, 2013 - 9:57PM

    I am sure ET will not let my comments appear as they have done in it in last week. BiBi Ayesha also comes from a group of self righteous people who think they have the ultimate say on establishment, Islam and the right wing politics. These pseudo intellectuals(in words of Musharraf) would like to always show the stereotype view of Pakistan and her people, come what may. Reality check,PML(N) is a centre right party with representation in all provinces including Baluchistan ,most probably it will form Govt in Baluchistan.It has alliance with PML(F) in Sindh and has some stake in KPK as well,so it is not a Punjabi party as Altaf Bhai and Ayesha Bi Bi will like us to believe. The ultra Right and right wing(JI+PTI) will rule KPK as people have kicked out the so called enlightened moderates(as per Musharraf’s definition).Don’t cry on rout of PPP as something detrimental to security of Pakistan, their poor performance and Party Circus demanded that people kick them out of center.Last bastion of fascism in Karachi and Hyderabad needs another blow by the right wing that will hopefully come in 2018.With exit of Uncle Sam from Afpak next year, we may find return of durable peace in the region, Ayesha Bi Bi can go to Howard or Harvard for another PhD and become an expert on Pakistan like good old Hussain Haqqani,that has been the tragedy of Pakistan that her intellectuals(unlike Indians) cannot become Fareed Zakarias or Ashley Tilles.Ayesha Bi Bi ,it is Pakistan that nourished and groomed you to this level, think about it sometimes.

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  • Usman Masood
    May 16, 2013 - 10:40PM

    A message to all those who feel that PTI supporters have shown a lack of sportsmanship and are refusing to accept defeat gracefully:

    Democracy is not a game of cricket being played for fun. This is a system that decides the fate of millions of Pakistanis. The voting process is at the very core of this system. Essentially, elections make this system go round. If doubt is allowed to be cast on the election process, the authenticity of the whole system is cast in doubt.

    The current elections we just had, were by no means clean. There can be a debate regarding how clean or dirty the elections were, but no one can claim they were free and fair.

    In such a circumstance, there should be an utmost effort by the concerned authorities to check and validate votes in any disputed constituency. No one is denying PML-N’s victory. They should form their government and keep the wheel moving. However, the election commission and judiciary must keep working on to ensure that rigging claims are looked into. Validating votes from Nadra and recounting in these disputed territories will not stop the government from operating. On the contrary, it will strengthen the mandate of the government.

    In this matter, any public protest being registered by PTI supporters or any other party, is not only legal..but also ethical. As long as these protests are peaceful.

    Regarding those who think that eliminating election rigging is impossible and even PTI members were involved:
    Yes, it may be impossible to completely eliminate the problem but that does not mean we ignore the problem. We still have to fight for our rights as voters to keep the system as clean as possible. PTI candidates who were involved in rigging are not excused. If anyone has proof regarding this, please spread it so they too receive just punishment. After all, this is not about PTI vs PML-N. Nor is it about PTI vs MQM. It is about improving the system for voters of all parties.

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  • Mirza
    May 16, 2013 - 11:43PM

    Thanks for a balanced Op Ed. My initial comments on this and all other Op Ed were excluded. Just wanted to say thanks for keeping it balanced.

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  • Hassan
    May 17, 2013 - 1:49AM

    Who can save Pakistan from these netizens in the age of globalisation. Those unable to use internet go unheard and are let melt away in the background. Media is feeding over 180 million people happenings at DHAs in Karachi and Lahore. The ‘change’ is showing.

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  • anonymus
    May 17, 2013 - 6:44AM

    Very balanced article.
    Thanks

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  • behangam
    May 18, 2013 - 12:08AM

    Come on Ayesha, are you serious with the platitudes?

    “nursing the wounds … respecting the people’s opinion … results that a certain segment of the population desired … voted differently from how certain people thought they would … appease the disgruntled youth … calling people paindu … aligning with emerging power centres in the region …”

    Do you laugh at this stuff while you write it or after ET publishes it?

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  • Azhar Pirzado
    May 30, 2013 - 2:23AM

    The crippling of the party, for which the leadership is to blame as well, has and will create spaces which will be dominated by pro-establishment parties or the nationalists. In both cases, it does not bode well for the province or the federation.
    So what’s the solution? Neither pro-estb, nor nationalists!
    Does it mean, Sindh has to live with PPP and MQM for ever?

    Recommend

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