February 15, 2008

No way out

Filed under: ELECTIONS - 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:22 am
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FEBRUARY 15, 2008

Wajahat Latif

A recent, credible poll shows that 70% of the people of Pakistan want Musharraf to quit, and no more than 24% support Osama bin Laden. Another poll says 75% want him out and Q League (king’s party) support is no more than 14%. 67% hold the government responsible for Ms Benazir Bhutto’s death.

Musharraf should have left a long time ago. He should have resigned when he abandoned Pakistan’s stand on plebiscite in Kashmir, and he should have resigned when foreign troops intruded and killed citizens inside Pakistan’s territory, something that has happened more than once in Bajaur and Waziristan albeit through drone attacks, now legit according to some media reports.

If Musharraf did not resign last summer when the Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected his reference against the chief justice, he never will. We know his word has never been his bond.

In the given circumstances, one way to deal with him is the elections for a parliamentary government. Musharraf was loath to elections all along. His regime’s contempt for democracy is a matter of record. As recently as a couple of weeks ago when he toured Europe, he said his country was not ready for a western style democracy, advising his audience everywhere to be “patient” about it.

All his major political actions- allowing exiled leaders to return to the country (something that he had vowed, publicly, never to do), fixing a date for general elections and removing his uniform – were the result of the pressure of the world opinion, especially US, Britain and Europe. Left to himself he would not do any of these things. The people of Pakistan do not matter: with power and patronage he can con them.

Election on February 18 will be free and fair, he claims, adding with the smoothness of an experienced bluff: And “peaceful” that the elections will be on a level playing field is a notion debunked everyday when media reports show massive misuse of government resources in support of the Q League. Far from maintaining a neutral position, he actively campaigns for them although, nevertheless, the party’s support is down to 14%.

Musharraf is under a strong compulsion to ensure that he wins the election, at all costs. With the CJ issue kept alive by the lawyers, he has to obtain indemnity for his actions from the new Parliament. Q League, its members jumping ship, is unlikely to help unless there is massive rigging that people are not in a mood to condone.

Nor can he afford a landslide victory for the PPP or Nawaz’s Muslim League, something that might happen if the elections are free and fair. Regardless of the “deal” rumours spread by the establishment, both the parties will not hesitate to impeach him once they enter the new Parliament. Musharraf’s best bet for this election is thus a hung Parliament over which he might be able to sit as an arbiter of power.

Such a result too is unlikely, given the speed with which the turncoats who formed the party in the first place are abandoning the Q League, now that the heat is on. Musharraf’s supporters believe that a hung Parliament will call for minimum rigging in election. But then again, given the anger and the “government in waiting” mood of the PPP, that path too is not without pitfalls.

Will the elections be peaceful? Ignoring the rising street crime, let us look at the last few days, less than a week from the election. February 4, a suicide bomber struck an army vehicle in the heart of Rawalpindi Cantonment, killing ten people including an officer of the rank of a Colonel.

February 6, an army helicopter crashed in South Waziristan Agency, killing the GOC of Kohat, two Brigadiers and several other officers.

Four people were killed, 13 injured in a blast in Naseerabad (Balochistan) on the 7th. On the 8th a NATO raid killed five Pakistanis in Naushki District (Balochistan) and a drone crashed near Peshawar airport.

The next day, Saturday the 9th, an ANP rally in Charsadda near Peshawar was subjected to a remote controlled bomb blast killing at least 30 people and injuring 50. 

In Islamabad, the capital, all afternoon on the 9th a battle royal raged between the protesting lawyers and the police on the road leading to CJ Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s residence where he is detained. The same day, bomb and rocket attacks rocked Balochistan, killing a prominent journalist. Monday, an ANP rally was struck again by a suicide bomber, killing ten persons.


Same day, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, on his way from Peshawar to Kabul was kidnapped by the local Taliban in Ali Masjid area. According to reports, denied by the government, the Taliban who kidnapped him demand the release of Mullah Mansoor Dadullah arrested by the security forces recently, something that the Americans would not allow.
What a scenario for free, fair and peaceful election!


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