February 24, 2008

Revenge of democracy

Filed under: POST-ELECTIONS 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:25 am


Sunday, February 24, 2008
Dr Farrukh Saleem

Uncle Sam’s first choice is: the PPP plus the PML-N to work with President Musharraf. Uncle Sam’s second choice is: PPP plus PML-Q plus MQM to work with President Musharraf. They have President Musharraf in each of their two choices. After all, they have invested a colossal $9,942 million into their South Asian ally. Would the US let her ten billion dollar man down? Would the US allow Pakistani voters to ruin its investment?

On February 18, a total of 35 million Pakistani voters registered their message loud and clear. According to The U.S. News and World Report, “Some prospective Pakistani voters may have stayed home during Monday’s parliamentary election, fearing terrorist attacks or other kinds of pressure, but enough turned out to send a loud message to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The ruling party that supports the beleaguered leader was trounced in the election, which went more smoothly–and less violently–than many had expected.”

According to The Guardian, “For once, the voice of the people of Pakistan has been loud and clear. Pakistan’s ruling party was routed in Monday’s election, and with it went the pretence that Pervez Musharraf has the support of his people.”

America has its realpolitik and personal agenda. Pakistani voters have mandated the PPP and the PML-N to carry out the Pakistani agenda. Yes, the two agendas–ours and theirs–do overlap. America has an interest in defeating extremism. So do we. America is against nuclear proliferation. So are we. Yes, we are dependent on their financial support while their supply lines are dependent on our land routes and our air corridors. For us, our democracy without rule of law is like a chariot with no wheels and no horse. Similarly, violence on the Pakistani street has a direct correlation to lack of justice. America’s power politics, to be certain, couldn’t care less about our democracy or rule of law.

The PML-N will have 84 seats in the National Assembly and that’s 87 seats short of a majority. Mian Nawaz Sharif therefore ought to refrain from imposing preconditions. The PPP will have 113 seats in the National Assembly and that’s 58 seats short of a majority. First things first. The PPP and the PML-N would first have to find a way for the president to call the first session of the parliament. Election of the speaker, deputy speaker and the leader of the house would then get underway. The Parliament must first reclaim its rightful domain–and only then can the PPP and the PML-N proceed to meet the demands of their voters (according to an IRI Survey, 55 percent Pakistanis want inflation brought under control, 15 percent are concerned about unemployment and 12 percent are worried about terrorism followed by poverty, electricity, education and corruption).

Pakistani voters have spoken in favour of three things: democracy, rule of law and moderation. The first two are of great value to us–America couldn’t care less. The third, moderation, is where America’s interests and the interests of Pakistani voters overlap. The White House is distressed because its ‘one-window operation’ into every aspect of Pakistani life is about to shut. Democracy may slow down America’s ‘war on terror’ but a suicide attack every week–and Shaheed Bhutto’s assassination–has turned the tide against extremism (according to a survey by Terror Free Tomorrow, in August 2007, 33 percent Pakistanis had a favourable opinion of Al-Qaida and in January 2008 favourable opinion had gone down to 18 percent). I am sure that America’s attempt to wrest victory away from Pakistani voters will backfire. Pakistani voters have done what they could. It’s now up to the PPP and the PML-N to reverse our march towards chaos, discord and lawlessness. Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif must respect democracy’s verdict–or remember her revenge.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email:


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