Pot calling the kettle black?

Published: August 23, 2014
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The writer is general secretary of the PPP in Sindh and a senator

The writer is general secretary of the PPP in Sindh and a senator

The present crisis of the right-wing extremist politics of Pakistan is the direct result of manipulations in the last general elections. Those shouting themselves hoarse over rigging in the previous elections were themselves the biggest beneficiaries of such rigging. They choose to ignore the fact that the three political parties, which were against extremism, were not allowed to run an election campaign. The son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was kidnapped at gunpoint for holding a small election-corner meeting in Multan (he has not been recovered to date) while the PML-N and the PTI were campaigning across the length and breadth of the country unhindered and unharmed.

The difference made by militancy in the results of the elections can be gauged from the results of NA-1 in Peshawar where PTI chief Imran Khan won by a lead of 70,000 votes and had vacated the seat later. In the by-elections held just two months later, when the militants allowed the ANP to campaign, not only did the PTI lead of 70,000 votes vanish, but the PTI lost the seat itself.

The agitators also chose to ignore the findings of the election tribunal on the rigging committed by the PTI on PS-93, Karachi West. The tribunal, in its judgment of August 7, found that the sitting MPA, who is the PTI’s Sindh general secretary, had changed the results of seven polling stations, had increased votes in his favour by more than 5,000 and reduced the votes of the JI candidate who was declared the ultimate winner by the tribunal. The same official took hundreds of PTI workers to Islamabad dharnas and stood next to his chief demanding “resignations and fair elections”.

These weren’t elections. This was an arrangement worked out by the agencies (whom PPP President Makhdoom Amin Fahim rightly congratulated on the PML-N’s election victory) and supported on the ground by militants. This was an artificial arrangement, whose time was long past. This arrangement had to crumble down. The time for worn out ideas and their imposition at gunpoint is long gone.

The Pakistan Peoples Party had opted for the continuation of the spirit of the Charter of Democracy. The spirit is that of reconciliation. It excludes dictation of the establishment. We had made the PML-N a part of the federal government. We, ourselves, were part of the Punjab government. Unfortunately, Nawaz Sharif thought it better to part ways and started using state institutions to destabilise our elected government. While we were acting boldly to oust militants from Swat and other areas, these elements were provided safe havens in southern Punjab.

In the interests of democracy, the PPP decided not to protest on the streets. The highly abusive language used against us and our leadership by the PML-N hurt us. But at the present crucial juncture, the language being used against the PML-N leadership is hurting us more. The continuation of the democratic system remains, as always, our top priority. Democracy presupposes a civilised political culture, which is being ruined by these elements who have no stakes in the democratic system.

Can the commission appointed by the Honourable Supreme Court investigate all of more than 1,300 seats of the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly? The record has been so badly messed up as a result of arrangements made before the polls that it has become impossible to correctly identify the bogus votes. The fact that the three parties, which were against extremist militants, were not allowed to campaign while the PTI and the PML-N enjoyed their full support, is reason enough to call the election unfair. The PPP has been saying that from day one.

The most important question is: where do we go from here? The PPP, the biggest sufferer of rigging, believes in politics of reconciliation. Major successes for democracy — the Charter of Democracy, the NFC Award, the Eighteenth Amendment, the completion of the term of previous assemblies and the governments were all results of the politics of reconciliation. ‘Politics of confrontation’, which makes the headlines, has always resulted in setbacks, the loss of democratic gains and ultimately, dictatorship. We have seen enough of it in 1999. We do not understand why the PTI and the PML-N, which were the biggest beneficiaries of poll rigging, are pushing the country to the same abyss through confrontation. Everyone stands to lose. There are no winners in this confrontation or in any confrontation for that matter.

Emotionalism has to make way for rationalism. Violence and democracy can never coexist. We shall have to jointly find way to exclude militancy and the role of agencies from the electoral system. The time for such a system has arrived. Attempts to postpone it will always result in one crisis after the other.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Asad Raza
    Aug 23, 2014 - 2:11AM

    Brilliant. This is a fact. Two parties fighting are biggest beneficiaries. Taj Haider is very right. And I don’t like PPP or PMLN but I do find continuation of semracy important.

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  • Aug 23, 2014 - 3:10AM

    No wonder Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz wanted to
    keep negotiating with TTP. because they had the blessings
    of TTP. And Taliban Khan was under their wings too.
    No wonder he wanted an office for TTP in Isloo,
    Talk about democracy! There was never any, to begin with.
    So Qadri is the real thing after all.

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  • ModiFied
    Aug 23, 2014 - 3:45AM

    Best analysis of Pakistani elections and current affairs. Poor public is paying for the miss deeds of Election rigging political parties. ANP and PPP must be a happy lot watching the riggers fighting each other for the election booty.

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  • RHS
    Aug 23, 2014 - 7:33AM

    One of the best articles on the current crisis to date.

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  • X
    Aug 23, 2014 - 8:17AM

    What a biased article from PPP pr machine that’s what they were always good at though. Ppp being the incumbent didn’t need campaigning to change election results, it’s record in govt for the full term was enough to help voters decide. No amount of pre poll campaigning would have changed the ground reality of it being a highly corrupt and useless government. Five years of toryure under ppp wouldn’t have been erased by any amount of slick marketing. So please save your speil.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 23, 2014 - 8:27AM

    A mature and scholarly analysis of the past election and how the rightwing terrorists hijacked them for their two fav parties at the cost of all secular and liberal forces. While the parties of agitation and confrontation do not provide facts this analysis gives name and number with specific examples. No party with zero presence in two out of four provinces can win majority. More such analysis with numbers and names would expose the rightwing win in last elections.

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  • Iram
    Aug 23, 2014 - 10:06AM

    Agreed with you so ask ANP, PPP to join hands with PTI for reelection.

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  • Saleem
    Aug 23, 2014 - 11:42AM

    Was not the son of Yusuf Gillani kidnapped under the government of PPP with Zardari in president house ? If the government can not protect the son of its own leader then what can they do for a common person ?

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  • Sadeequllah Muhammad
    Aug 23, 2014 - 11:50AM

    I am copying and pasting below an outline of my views to Taj Sahab’s article. I am open to productive criticism.

    It should be noted that wrong policies of the previous coalition government towards terrorism issue in Pakistan had resultantly forced the militants to take revenge and that happened in the form of attacking the PPP, ANP and other parties during election days. It is a long discussion to analyze and conclude that how the governments in Pakistan adopted wrong policies which ultimately made it our own war.
    NA-1 seat was lost due to PTI’s internal issue of awarding the party ticket to the wrong candidate which ultimately angered other PTI voters who voted for ANP. If rigging is proved, PTI will call for re-elections in KPK as claimed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
    PML-N and PPP all benefitted from NRO (National Reconciliation Order) and consequently all criminal cases against each other were dumped. Opposition party (which was part of Federal government in the beginning i.e. PMLN) opted to be a friendly opposition and never had made a check-an-balance on the government for bad governance. They (PPP) spent five years in government but they hardly have had any development in terms of education, health, law and order, socio-economy, etc.
    How can the democracy based on rigged polls be successful when people fear that their votes were cast by others….how can a democracy flourish when few people protect each other and call it reconciliation for the sake of democracy?….We believe democracy is an iterative process which means flaws in the system would be removed gradually and holding elections is one part of this system; however, one wonders how come this system be purged if we base our democracy on rigging, lies and non-compliance with the Constitution? So it is the time to clean the system of all these flaws and change the status quo…power in the hands of few is not acceptable…let’s make more leaders instead of following the heir-dom.
    Major successes for democracy – Charter of Democracy, NFC awards, 18th Amendment, the completion of the term? Democracy is strengthened when a party delivers in terms of certain indicators like quality of education, health, justice system, economic empowerment and preserving the dignity of the people.
    The biggest beneficiaries of rigged polls? It should be noted that PTI is not in the politics for mere wish of being in power… PTI is against corruption and injustices in society.
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  • Izhar ul Iman Khan
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:15PM

    Full of Sarcasm. The author is justifying the existence of PPP. Democracy is significant when governance is matter. People talking about democracy doesnt suit to penned down ther opinion while they have totally enjoyed democracy and has dipped the country in social and financial crisis. PPP PML N MQM JUI F JI have been the worst governace examples. Kindly readers dont take me as a PTI or PAT or Boots supporter. BUt these all are fanatics, opportunitst and has to least do with the country and countrymen. And those who believe PPP never rigged, be in touch with me for next election will shown you the real insights.

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  • Karachi Mirchi
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:23PM

    Taj Haider doing justice with his PPP cohorts. Representing a party that has kept Sindh shackled in the chains of backwardness for the last 40 years must be tough. The only enclave in Karachi represented by PPP, Lyari, is also its’ most backward. PTI wants to change this. Not surprised Mr. Haider does not like it.

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:29PM

    If only the PPP was half as honest as it is shrewd!

    We see the careful manipulation and omission of facts to support of a spectacularly outrageous case. Firstly, lets just the important facts out of the way – is the general secretary claiming that the PPP’s performance and popularity at the end of their tenure justified a result other than the one that arrived? Does he really think that this was all the doing of the TTP and had nothing to do with their stellar efforts to run all state institutions into the ground? PIA, Pakistan Railway, PTDC… pretty much anything you can think of was effectively decimated during their regime. Not only that, education levels actually fell during their tenure (not because of the TTP mind you, but their good old friend corruption)! This would be quite an enthralling tale, had we all not been here when the elections actually happened!

    See, unfortunately, unbeknownst to the leaders of the PPP, democracy also presupposes a basic level of honesty, both in action and in word. An honesty lacking throughout their government and now also glaringly absent from this article.

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:40PM

    And the assertion that NA-1 is evidence of how much the TTP affected the outcome. One wonders if the General Secretary is actually this naive. Did nobody inform him of what occurred there? Regardless of any conspiracy theory, does he think individual candidates have no impact on voting patterns? By his reasoning, the fact that PTI also lost Mianwali to the PMLN should be a clear indication of how the TTP had hindered PMLN from winning in Punjab. Instead of just quoting one constituency, it would me more pertinent to check the overall performance of these parties in the by-election. PTI made significant gains in the by-elections in KPK, how many more seats did ANP, PPP and MQM take in them?

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:48PM

    Skipping over the spectacular reasoning whereby he claims that democracy presupposed a ‘civilised political culture’ (one that is being harmed by Khan shouting in front of the assembly, but not disturbed by holding wedding receptions in the Sindh assembly, or by rampantly taking kickbacks on government appointments or the several other antics of various colourful characters of the previous govt.) but, apparently, the democratic system does not presuppose or require in any way a clean election! The reasoning behind that one should be framed and hung in every home as testament to the brilliant verbal gymnastic ability of the PPP.

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 1:57PM

    But lets move to the PPP’s claims of “support for democracy” that never seems to end. What they dont tell us is what happens when the PPP is not benefiting from the outcome of said democracy. As recently as this last tenure, they tried to have the brothers Sharif barred and imposed Governor rule in Punjab – the province where they did not have political clout.

    They cry hoarse about the TTP’s interference in this election quite forgetting that the 2008 election was a result of their dealings with the Military dictator in charge. Do they expect us to believe that the establishment in no way aided their cause? When they aided the reception for Benazir, and sent Sharif packing, was that not rigging in the favour of the PPP?

    Lets go further back, to the ones that started it all. 1970, when Mujeeb won a clear majority in Pakistan, what was the PPP’s response? Did they graciously accept the result in aide of “strengthening democracy”? Alas, they did not! And then, still not content with formation of government in the center of the remaining Pakistan, did they not dissolve the democratically elected assemblies of Balochistan and NWFP (as it was then known)? After that, did they not outlaw the NAP and use the military and FSF to harass and bully protestors and political opponents? Alas, they did!

    The fact of the matter is the PPP has always supported democracy – where they could win!

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 2:09PM

    And finally, to their love of “reconciliation” and “consensus”. One could argue for both of these as positives in the world of politics – to a limit. But all such argument would be futile. In cases where there were arguments of principle this could occasionally be employed to ensure that the various factions of the public benefits from the different policies of political parties.

    But that is totally not what these words mean for politics in Pakistan. Here, it means that the PMLN should not pursue criminal cases against the PPP and vice versa. All parties should learn to overlook the follies of each other so that no one can be held accountable. The result is purely the personal benefit of corrupt politicians rather than any lofty ideas on principle.

    The wily old politicians of the PPP should stop playing these tricks and grow an conscience. It’s interesting that the article is titled “Pot Calling Kettle Black”, when it should actually be called “Painting the Crow White!”

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 2:19PM

    It’s just hilarious that he’s talking about “Democracy presupposes a civilised political culture”… Does it also presuppose the President getting a man out of jail and making him Senator as in the case of Rehman Malik? How do you even justify his antics?

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/14038/president-pardons-malik-in-all-nab-references/

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  • Anon
    Aug 23, 2014 - 2:24PM

    In conclusion, basically, the entire argument here is that the PPP is the real victim here (as always). There was massive rigging in the election, as a result of which the people who werent really elected are sitting in power. And we should not try to upset this situation, because this is what democracy is all about, apparently – rigging the election to win it and then holding on to power.

    Nothing to do with representing the people or anything!

    Only the wise old leadership of the PPP could have such a strong grasp on the concept of democracy to be able to justify something that ridiculous…

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  • Imran Zaheer
    Aug 23, 2014 - 3:26PM

    The charter was not to save Democracy it was done to save each other’s Corruption no matter what. On the face each one will be pulling each others leg on corruption, inflation n other matters of common problems but in the back down will support each other otherwise corruption charges would sent each one to gallows, today’s lunch by PM to Ex. President is open evidence of this charter. PPP knowing and accepting that the elections were rigged they were not allowed canvassing but still never stood up to address this important issue in the guise of saving Democracy whereas people have now understood that this agreement or charter is not in their favor rather it is against them to keep the musical chair intact never cared nor caring for common people’s right. If we are born to remain slaves of such kingdoms then it is better to say goodbye to such Democracy.

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  • Bibi
    Aug 23, 2014 - 4:06PM

    You have hit the nail on the head. Well done! I second your analysis.

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  • MAH
    Aug 23, 2014 - 5:40PM

    Thank you for reminding us in this crisis that IK didn’t get the worst deal. But at the same time, with all due respect to Taj Haider, PPP is the worst executor. They are not able to implement any of their good intentions due to complete lack of discipline in the party and unless they work on that, i would never vote for them.

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  • Parvez
    Aug 23, 2014 - 11:03PM

    This is an attempt to muddy the waters……..the present impasse is because the status quo ( read loot and plunder coupled with abysmal governance ) enforced by the politicians is no longer sustainable nor desired by the public……saying otherwise is simply wrong.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 24, 2014 - 9:54AM

    @Bibi: “You have hit the nail on the head. Well done! I second your analysis.”
    I agree with you 100%. The reaction of opponents shows that the Op Ed is factual and touched some raw nerves. Thanks and regards,
    M

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