Excitement increases as May 11 approaches. One hopes for a change of government. New faces will possibly alter the prospects of our country for the better. Honest people will replace the corrupt. We will have a better leadership. Or will we?
So far we are confused on what is happening. The clear-cut process of scrutiny has not been so cut and dry. People with questionable degrees, those filing false statements of assets and liabilities and those with criminal and corruption cases pending against them have been cleared to stand in the elections. Now many of them will be re-elected, much to our despair.
While our progressives and conservatives debated the merits or demerits of Articles 62 and 63, what we did not deliberate upon was what was being done to stop those applicants who have defaulted on their taxes or loans. We are still not sure how much data was shared with the ECP by the FBR.
The whole fiasco of the returning officers holding impromptu Islamiat and General Knowledge tests seems to have been a smokescreen intended to create a situation where everyone would finally be let through. This has happened. End of Round One.
In the golden words of Robert Mugabe, the leader for life of famine-ridden Zimbabwe, only a fool rigs an election on polling day. He should know. He has been playing havoc with his country’s elections for several decades now. This process, it seems, starts much earlier. In our case, it may have started possibly with the choice of candidates in the caretaker government.
The ECP has also taken notice of the statements of caretaker interior minister Malik Habib Khan, a former policeman, who is clearly influenced by Mian Nawaz Sharif, who he called the “only true national leader.” Statements like this put into question the whole system in place. It is one thing to have personal likes or dislikes, but to be in a responsible public position and make such statements is tantamount to an official endorsement. Our caretaker PM has now said that no minister will issue political or personal statements. But the damage has been done.
In Sindh, the caretaker CM seems bent on adding more ministers and advisers as if he needs to oblige those people. The choice is very poor in most cases. And the much pressed for reshuffle of bureaucrats in the province seems to have created more confusion as juniors are now in-charge of their seniors.
Coming back to Article 62 and 63, one wonders why the outgoing parliament did not do away with this remnant of the Zia era. In fact, why has the parliament not thrown out all those insertions made into our constitution by dictators and their puppets? Parliament should have debated only those articles that it saw fit to retain. Possibly this should be one of the first moves of the incoming parliament. In the words of Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP leader and much else, the criteria of these two articles are such that even the founder of the nation may have had difficulty meeting them.
A welcome sign has been the decision to allow overseas voters to participate in the polls. Polling stations would be set up in countries where there is a large Pakistani expat population. While this may be welcome in Western countries, one wonders how the Gulf states would react to such an exercise on their soil given that they are shy of democracy.
Now we are in Round Two. We see party flags popping up and rallies starting to gain momentum. In comparison to past years, the whole process has been quieter. For this we have both the ECP and militants to thank. Security concerns have ensured that many gatherings have been cancelled. Already we are seeing candidates being attacked and rallies being bombed. The Taliban claim of killing MQM candidate Fakhrul Islam in Hyderabad flies in the face of the government’s operation against the militants. We are told that militants are on the run in Karachi. Instead, they seem to have resurfaced in Hyderabad. Almost every day, officials are targeted and killed in KP as well. It seems certain powers are bent on creating havoc ahead of the polls. The two main targets are the ANP and the MQM. This does not bode well.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2013.
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