2018 – a year of change in Pakistan

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
In Pakistan, stage is being set to hold general elections. Political parties have been allotted their desired election symbols, political parties are in process to issue the tickets to their favourite and strong candidates. Election Commission is also busy in finalising all necessary arrangement but simultaneously, the Commission has expressed concern and claim that some foreign forces don’t want to see the election on time. This concern is obviously a matter of anxiety to the public.
As history tells us that election are source of inspiration for a democratic country and its civilised society. Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor also has categorically stated at a press briefing on Monday that 2018 is a year of change. In fact, elections have dynamics of their own. Martyred PPP leader Benazir Bhutto was a firm believer in elections as catalyst. She firmly believed that elections offer an opportunity to bring about change in the status quo. It gives a chance to the voters to decide about the government they want to have as sole arbiter of power. She took all polls seriously and devoted a great deal of time and energy in planning them so the people had a good chance to choose their political fate.
The first elections after her murder in 2008 heralded the return of democracy, and it achieved what had been fixed by her as national objective. Military dictator General Pervez Musharraf who had opposed her return tooth and nail. Currently he is living in exile, wanted at home for treason and the alleged murders of Benazir Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bugti.

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Justice ® Nasir-ul-Mulk chairing first meeting of interim federal cabinet at PM House on Wednesday. The meeting discussed various issues confront the country especially the forthcoming general elections and preparations to conduct them on time i.e. on July 25. Justice Nasir once again assured the nation that there would be no change or delay at all in given schedule.

The most outstanding development that took place before those elections was the signing of the Charter of Democracy, initiated by Benazir Bhutto and co-signed by PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif. Everyone involved considered it the best thing to happen after coming into force of 1973 constitution. Benazir Bhutto believed that by following the Charter of Democracy, Pakistan could become a truly democratic dispensation with a blossoming culture of tolerance, peaceful co-existence between equal citizens for all irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender as envisioned by Mohammad Ali Jinnah for a social welfare state.
One had expected that the ‘alien forces’ which now seem to have heavily proliferated national politics would let Pakistani polity strengthen under the Charter of Democracy with emphasis on supremacy of vote, parliament and above board transparent accountability. One would not like to digress on the questionable role of various political parties after the advent of first democratic government. We all know about the conspiracies engineered by invisible hands and the time limit fixed for the survival of the government by an orchestrated propaganda predicting the fall of PPP government by the next hour until it waddled through to complete its tenure, held elections and transferred power to the next though polls were marred by premeditated violence.Despite having won the election in 2008, PPP was not allowed to run the government smoothly. Regretfully both the PTI and PML-N did left no stone unturned in their effort to flip the applecart of the elected government, in cahoots with a megalomaniac Chief Justice who made governance impossible under the cover of judicial activism. The 2013 Elections were marred by the violence which only targeted liberal and secular parties. This worked in favour of the PML-N, PTI and the religious parties. Though PML-N managed to win with a substantive majority, it failed to deliver good governance and transparent accountability as pledged in the Charter of Democracy. It’s leadership was also found to be knee deep in corruption. Furthermore, the PML-N government had numerous collisions with the deep state.
It is a tragedy of the highest magnitude that none of our political leaders – particularly the PML-N leadership – have learnt nothing from their past mistakes. If anything, Nawaz seems to have perfected the art of digging his own grave. The PML-N leadership denigrated the sovereignty of Parliament and gave space to other institutions such as the Superior Judiciary and intelligence services themselves. When it was their turn to govern, the sowed what they reaped.
When his financial misdemeanour crossed all limits and high handedness became intolerable for other stake holders, apprehensive of severe consequences, they decided to stop him. Identifying the invisible umpire who PTI Chairman Imran Khan said would announce Nawaz’s ouster by raising his finger has not been possible yet. Khan did, however, pressurise the PML-N government for a year until he was finally averted by the Parliament in 2014.
In a promotional article in The Guardian, it’s correspondent Jason Burke describes Imran Khan’s rise as a “metaphor for a changing world the West has failed to see” without taking into consideration the real forces backing him.
Khan’s rising crescendo had created doubts in the minds of veteran pundits. But when it was time for the 2013 elections, he soared high only to fall. With all the support that it had, many expected that the PTI would pose a serious challenge to both PML-N and PPP. However, everything we have seen lately shows that the party a mob under an egocentric leader, who talks of bringing change but recruits rapists, swindlers, the corrupt and notorious political turncoats as his agents of change.
Blunders such as induction of heinous criminals like Farooq Bundyal, nomination of Orya Maqbool Jan for caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab and selection of Nasir Khosa can’t be considered competent decisions. One would agree with the general view that a party that vacillates profoundly at the time of crucial decision making cannot be trusted with the running of the state. If by any chance PTI wins the elections, it would be better for it to let Khan bask in the past glory of his of World Cup days and let Shah Mahmood Qureshi become the PM.
PTI leadership must stop making blunders that will sink its prospects. It must realise that it faces two veteran political parties. Both are election battle hardened parties. Their candidates know how to mobilise voters on Election Day and get them to the polling stations to cast their votes. PTI lacks this in experience.
(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)