The elections have already been stolen. The targeted attacks on the PPP, the MQM and the ANP and the inability of these parties to indulge in any sort of electioneering are indeed a shame. This shows that some parties cannot participate while others can. And it is not the Election Commission who is deciding this.
What is more shameful is the lack of regret being shown by their political rivals. Asfandyar Wali informs us that the only two parties that expressed sympathy with the rising death toll of his party’s workers are the PPP and the MQM. The rest remain silent. There should have been more magnanimity. But then, possibly magnanimity would have put them out of favour in other quarters.
Ludicrous was the statement by Imran Khan in which he told the Taliban to be patient in their attacks as “very soon we will have a totally new government in place.” In other words, a government that is of their liking. Is this where we are heading?
But there is a catch here. If the bombings continue, will we be able to have a higher voter turnout? It is the high turnout that is expected to change the status quo in our elections this time round. What if we scare away our new voters?
At the same time, when we see where the bombings are taking place, we do realize that these are areas that are strongholds of the older parties. In other words, the voters of these parties are being scared into staying home.
Our attitudes to all this is also somewhat puzzling. I recall once I asked President Zardari a very simple question when he had newly assumed office. Why was it, I asked, that we had hundreds of people coming out on the streets when there was a drone attack but no one protested suicide bombings, which killed ten times more people. He agreed with me but then said little else.
I give credit to Sherry Rehman, in her position as information minister, who tried to create more awareness about the victims of suicide attacks. How their families had been affected, how lives of thousands had been destroyed by the meaningless attacks. But she didn’t get very far and soon had to abandon the project.
Possibly the election was stolen with the installation of this caretaker government. The government is doing nothing to provide an level playing field for all parties concerned. It is quite a contrast that some parties can hold rallies with fear of any attack and others cannot even hold corner meetings without being bombed.
The caretaker chief ministers are also a joke. More so of Sindh, Balochistan and KP, where the security forces cannot guarantee the safety of candidates even at corner meetings. And yet they insist of hiring thousands of more policemen.
Here we can give hundreds of security men to protect a former military strongman but we don’t have the same will to protect those who want to come to power by contesting elections.
But this is an election of contradictions. Equally strange is the manner in which the country’s biggest political party has simply given up. While the ANP and the MQM continue to struggle and do some electioneering, the PPP is strangely very quiet and has not held any major political rally after the December Benazir death anniversary gathering.
Has President Zardari, who continues to call the shots in the party, decided that the PPP should concede the elections to the PML-N? Or is he simply being pragmatic and waiting for the MNAs to be elected before starting the politics of Jor-Tor.
There are some who suggest that the PPP and the PML-N have some understanding under which they will rule one after the other. This seems to far-fetched to be believed. The deals, if any, have been made elsewhere. The exit and re-entry of a green-haired “technocrat” may be a case in point.
It is one thing for us to pray that all goes well, another to do something about it. So far, the government has been unable to do much. No one of any consequence has been arrested. So will we be seeing the postponement of election or calling in of the army? Only time will tell.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2013.
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