Needed: a break in the cycle

October 19 judgment cemented the fact that elections cannot be ‘free and fair’ as long as politicians can be bought.


Amina Jilani October 26, 2012

Since 1999, Air Marshal Asghar Khan has written to each subsequent chief justice of Pakistan requesting that the Supreme Court take up his petition, which was last heard on October 11 of that year by the then-chief justice who reserved judgment. The Pervez Musharraf coup came the following day. The human rights petition was shelved.

Since the petition was first taken up in 1996, the Air Marshal’s stance has been that the fate of the petition should be decided before the next election so as to curb the ISI’s influence and thus, perhaps, prove a factor in making Pakistan’s elections an inch nearer to being ‘free and fair’.

Well, our present chief justice has finally heard and decided. The old problem now arises. The Court can hand down a decision but it is powerless to implement it. That is left to whatever authorities are involved and knowing them as we do, we can be reasonably sure that all concerned will sit back on their respective haunches and do nothing. The Election Commission has already opted out.

The military will let matters drift and we can also be reasonably sure that its old practice of helping ‘arrange’ elections will not be discarded. Enough has emerged in the media over the intervening years for us to be pretty clued up on the extent to which the 1990 elections were ‘arranged’ and who are the guilty, both givers and takers.

Then came the next election in 1993, and we all knew that after a prime minister and president were sent home by an army chief — who barely had to raise his swagger stick — the PPP would be given its turn. The same happened in 1997, when the powers that were had enough of the PPP and ushered in was Nawaz Sharif and his merry men. And who was it that ‘arranged’ for that totally discredited, corrupt and inept party, the PML-Q (a rank insult to Mr Jinnah), to be gifted the country in 2002? The year 2008 was a foregone conclusion due to the ‘sympathy’ factor, so the ISI did not have to unduly bestir itself to any great extent to let the PPP have its turn.

What the October 19 judgment has done is cement the fact that elections cannot be ‘free and fair’ for as long as politicians can be bought, and with them their vote bank, which is anything but ‘free’. Where the candidate goes, the vote bank follows willy-nilly.

Now, in a few months, there will be another round of elections — that seems certain barring some unforeseen act of whoever or whatever. For many, the thought of either the PPP or the PML-N (tradition it is its turn) sitting on top of us once again is infinitely depressing and distasteful. That leaves Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Imran has persevered along his path for as long as has Asghar Khan. Does he stand a chance? The rumour-mongers were at it earlier this year claiming that ‘election-arranger’, the ISI and child of the army, was backing him. The possibility, one supposes, could exist but how will it be managed? Where is Imran’s vote bank?

Whatever the ISI political cell there may be is certainly no longer based in the presidential mansion, which now has its own political cell run by an arch-manipulator who has so far outsmarted his political opponents and to a certain extent, even the mighty army whose chief is beholden to him for his role in creating the NRO and thus installing him with his precious immunity intact. The army chief reaped his just reward — the three-year extension announced to the nation at midnight; an unprecedented event.

If by any fluke, Imran Khan can pull something off; his coming would be more than welcome, purely because it would be something new and break the old tradition of the two hopeless main parties resuming their turns. It seems a far cry, but then strange happenings are not foreign to the republic that is Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2012.

COMMENTS (5)

Caramelized_Onion | 9 years ago | Reply

@Toticalling: Firstly, this government is not democratic, because it was bought through a deal brokered by the US. The only silver lining in the horizon is that IK has a real chance of making into power. I want you all to listen to his speech in NYC few days ago, and make your own opinion of his vision for Pakistan.

Logic Europe | 9 years ago | Reply

A journalist doesn't talk about fluke and wishful thinking ,as usual just common roughage. mr khan will be no change for better he will bring war and destruction. Author says courts are helpless to implement it's decisions .Is that true ?? ,Where is GILANI gone? what is Nayek doing , how has then price of gas come down,how many MNASand mpas have resigned All this author does is attack and discredit this government . What does EP consider this article has contributed to the public interest and knowledge ?

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