A threatened transition

Published: May 2, 2013
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The writer is Director, Policy & Programmes Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views expressed are his own

The writer is Director, Policy & Programmes Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views expressed are his own

The democratic transition has finally met its gravest challenge. As Pakistan moves to the general elections in 10 days, it is not clear how fair and free would these elections be. In the 1990s, the establishment manipulated the results and electoral outcomes. The decision of the Asghar Khan case is on record now that shows how the establishment engineered the results in favour of a right-wing coalition of their choice. Such direct interference in political affairs culminated in the coup d etat of 1999.

The return of democratic rule had kindled the hope that Pakistan’s civilian institutions would be stronger and perhaps, a more rational civil-military engagement will ensue. The political parties achieved much in the shape of constitutional restructuring and ensuring that they did not compromise on an extraconstitutional solution for alleged misgovernance. A few months ago, it was hoped that neutral caretakers and a vigilant Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would steer the country through the elections process.

However, the Pakistani state and its wilful outsourcing of jihad to militant organsiations are now haunting the democratic and electoral process. The so-called Pakistani faction of the Taliban has drawn the line between the acceptable and unacceptable electoral solution. Ironically, they are mirroring the approach of their erstwhile masters by indulging in pre-poll manipulation. The instruments are violence, coercion of public opinion backed with somewhat aggressive media campaigns. The ANP, the MQM and the PPP are facing the music for being liberal and secular and for backing military operations against the Taliban.

Not that the performance of these three parties was exemplary, especially with respect to law enforcement, but the truth is that they did not control the security policy of the country. The security policy intertwined with our foreign policy — a friendly Afghanistan and containment of India at all costs — drives our foreign policy agenda. The provincial governments could have done much more in terms of policing and strengthening the legal framework, which remains in shambles since the defacto abolition of the Police Order of 2002. It should be remembered that the civilian law-enforcement agencies suffered heavy casualties in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Fata and continue to remain under attack.

In the last month, scores of political workers from the moderate political parties are dead and dozens of attacks have been carried out. The frequency, speed and planning of these attacks demonstrate that the intelligence apparatus is lagging and little coordination exists. The most worrying aspect is how Karachi or at least parts of it have turned into little havens for militants where they are holding courts.

The caretaker interior minister, immediately after his appointment, became controversial, as he could not resist praising one particular leader and making predictions on who might win the election. The interim administration obviously did not do anything to assure the public that it might have been a case of misplaced enthusiasm. Who is in charge of security? Paramilitary forces are stationed in Fata, Balochistan and parts of K-P. They are under the control of civilian institutions but headed by the military. Similarly, the chief of the ISI is a senior military official. What is unclear is if someone is making these agencies talk to one another and coordinate to prevent the attacks on political workers.

How come the state does not know where the leaders and operatives of the TTP are located? Their spokesperson is quoted in Urdu columns and appears on TV as well. This kind of retreat by the state and media is mind-boggling. The paradox is that the TTP find democracy and elections un-Islamic and yet want to influence their course. More worrying is the silence and sometimes cajoling by the parties on the right of the centre. Some have even thanked the TTP for not attacking them and others have appealed them not to attack. The entire campaign has turned into a farce. In Punjab, the major contestants are promising the moon to the public without even mentioning the issue of terrorism. Is it naiveté or just short-termism that they are not focusing on these critical issues?

The net result could be that the voter turnout will be lower in the smaller provinces and higher in Punjab. This is neither good for the federation nor for our fragile democracy. By capitulating to the Taliban, are some political parties not ceding space to militias that impose their ideology through terror?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • John the Baptist
    May 2, 2013 - 2:44AM

    Ah, I am a democrat and hate army dictatorship. I have always competed based on Maqbara politics, singing praises of those that died but I, myself, am too much of a chicken to risk my life. To make matters worse, given my pathetic track record and the new vigorous political competition, I can’t win. Please, please give me the either the sympathy vote or send in the army! Thank you. Sincerely, Hypocrite

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  • Ghani
    May 2, 2013 - 6:28AM

    @John the Baptist:
    Plz read the article before commenting on it!

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  • Sultan Khan
    May 2, 2013 - 7:39AM

    With the ouster of Musharraf from elections at the behest of “Jaag Punjabi Jaag” duo and attacks on the liberal parties by the anti-Pakistan terrorist supporters of PMLN and PTI the elections have already become unfair. A pro-Taliban naked judiciary is in full swing to help install a pro-Taliban prime minister after the elections.

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  • John the Baptist
    May 2, 2013 - 1:55PM

    @Ghani:

    Plz read the article before commenting on it!

    I did and this is my comment. Any other questions?

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  • May 2, 2013 - 2:25PM

    If someone says, the next general election will be smooth enough to rationalize the future civil-military relationship in Pakistan then he must be killing himself after the announcement of general elections’ results. Gen Kiyani promise to help in conducting free and fair elections in Pakistan, will prove to be a mere promise nothing more. This is because of monolithic decision-making process in Pakistan. Perhaps, this monolithic decision making process after the general elections will continue to prevail and will not do any good to our institutions in the near future.

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  • x
    May 2, 2013 - 6:05PM

    @john the baptist, hahaha i love you!

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  • abc
    May 2, 2013 - 6:23PM

    Like it or not, Taliban rule is coming to Pakistan in one or the other form. In the present election Talibans are king makers and in the next one they will be kings. Get ready for Taliban style justice.

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  • SM
    May 2, 2013 - 7:09PM

    @abc:
    Taliban style justice is an excuse for not wanting to implement Shariah in Pakistan; something that was enshrined in the original 1973 constitution. And something everyone who is of a secular mind set refuses to understand or comprehend.

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  • Ali Zaidi
    May 2, 2013 - 8:43PM

    An excellent account of the situation by Raza rumi.

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  • Enlightened
    May 2, 2013 - 11:36PM

    ‘How come the state doesn’t know where the leaders and operatives of TTP are located? The kind of retreat by state and media is mind boggling.’
    Mr Rumi, you have hit the nail on its head but fell short of naming those who are doing it intentionally. The real catch lies in the above lines as TTP before elections is being given a free run on those it wants to target but what would happen during post election period when TTP will give a nightmare to both ruling party and common people to enforce their ideology by their ruthless methods. During World War 2, there was mania with the slogan ‘The Germans are coming’ but in Pakistan presently is ‘Taliban are coming’ who are more dangerous than Germans.

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