New democratic charter urged

Panellists at literary festival term timely polls imperative

Muhammad Shahzad January 15, 2024


The democratic and political forces of Pakistan need to sign another "charter of democracy", a memorandum for launching a mass struggle against the "empire" of non-democractic powers, for upholding the will of people, constitution and democratic ideals, said former senator Afrasiab Khattak on Sunday.

He was speaking at a session, ‘Facing the popular will: Election 2024’ on second day of the literary festival ThinkFest organised at Alhamra Hall.

Addressing a question by the moderator during the panel discussion about how a level playing field for all the political stake holders could be assured during elections in the country, he said it was not possible until all the ‘political engineers’ factories’ were not shut down.

He added that the empire did not subdue to just the language of logic.

It could only be done through political struggle and a mass movement, he added.

There was a need to sign another charter of democracy, he added. Whatever was happening today with the PTI might be suffered by the PML-N tomorrow, he said.

He also cited the political rivalries witnessed in the 1990s.

Afrasiab Khattak also qouted a conversation of the late senior politician Ghous Baksh Bizenjo while detained in a jail with him in Hyderabad after the Balochistan government had been removed. When a delegation of the PPP came for negotiations, Bizenjo told them to first decide the rules of game.

“He told them that until you don't respect the rules of game, it could not be played. It cannot be played if a powerful entity just picks up a ball and crosses the pole with it in the armpit to score a point.

If you did it today, tomorrow a more powerful force can also do it to you,” he quoted Bizenjo as saying.

He said the same had happened after some time with the PPP when General Zia took over the country through marital law.

ReadAttack on democracy

The session started with a question if the elections were going to be held on February 8 from the penal as well as the audience, which drew a mixed response.

When asked about the uncertainty, Afrasiab Khattak said those bu whom the country was actually being ruled had caused the atmosphere.

Journalist Hamid Mir said he had a few firsthand accounts that some powerful quarters wanted to delay the elections on the pretext of law and order. Against the backdrop of this was a desire to make sure that the PTI leadership was unable to survive in the field, he added. He said his perception about the elections had changed after the Supreme Court verdict not allowing the PTI to use the poll symbol of cricket bat.

However, Caretaker Federal Minister Murtaza Solangi asserted that he was dead sure that the elections would be held on February 8.

He said he thought so because it was written in the constitution that elected members should run the country. “This is why I believe that the elections will be held on time.”

Replying to a question about level playing field, Khattak said only the 1970 elections had been fair but had not been accepted.

He continued that he, being the provincial president of the ANP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, had closely witnessed two general elections in 2008 and 2013 and he came to know during the time that the powerful quarters feared Baloch and Pakhtun nationalist political forces more than Taliban.

Referring to alleged part of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to maneuver Senate elections, he said the province had been an epicentre of democratic struggle. It was NAP that had won elections from Baluchistan in 1970.

He said the Senate was the symbol of federation and it had been named as the house of federation but it now had become a house of conspiracy.

For ensuring level playing field, those who wanted it should not only themselves come out of their homes on the election day to vote but should also bring other people with themselves, a panelist said.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2024.


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