At the Cost of Pakistan

*Originally published in Pakistan Today.

Embroiled in a war at home and a plethora of political, economic and national crises, Pakistan is nearing a tumultuous 67th year in existence.

Imran Khan’s initial demands for electoral recounts in particular constituencies have now snowballed into the demand for the departure of the entire PML-N government or badshahat; and mid-term elections that he, once again, expects to sweep.

230636_43698242For many, this transformation of demand indicates Imran Khan coming out for what he has really wanted all along for a government that he refuses to believe was not given to him to lead. All set to head as prime minister, a development he was sure enough to have declared it on national television on Hamid Mir’s show, Khan Sahab’s romantic expectations defied entrenched Pakistani electoral dynamics and intricacies leading to a result he did not anticipate.

In a developing, chaotic and overly-politicised country like Pakistan, there are no doubts that the elections of 2013 were not without irregularities, problems and issues. All of which lends greater gravity to the need for electoral reform.

However, to deem the entire election ‘stolen’ and call for re-elections is to repudiate the will of those who voted for the government. Some of the top electoral rigging claims of PTI have been debunked for political claptrap, most recently done by Zahid F. Ibrahim in his Express Tribune Op-Ed ‘Ten Truths about Electoral Rigging’ which takes each claim and factually counters it.

It is also quite peculiar that, according to the PTI, the entire elections were a dishonest affair with the Election Commission, caretaker government, media, judiciary actively colluding – and it is yet to present evidence and prove how exactly this collusion transpired – to prevent its victory in all of Pakistan; but in KPK. With this in mind, it really does seem to be the case then that the PTI is protesting against winning in the ‘wrong’ province.

A recent video of PTI Deputy Information Secretary Fayyaz Chohan does not only accuse Kayani of rigging; but also goes far to point to an international electoral conspiracy including the USA, UAE, KSA and India.

Popular blog Kala Kawa also writes:

‘That the PTI is demanding mid-term elections on the back of evidence that Election Tribunals have found insufficient speaks solely to the damaging lust for power Imran Khan has found himself in.’Pakistan-Gallup-Nawaz-PPP-PML-N_4-12-2014_144335_lAs evident is the callow approach of the PTI operating under the ‘Azadi March’, which seems to be exactly as Ammar Rashid, an independent researcher and information secretary Awami Workers Party (Islamabad/Rawalpindi), called out to be: PTI standing for little more than making Imran Khan PM at all costsa – equally astounding is the performance of the government in its first year that has largely been characterised by lethargy. The PML-N has come to power at a time when Pakistan is the convergence tip of crises; which does not grant the government the allowance of incompetence and lassitude. With increasingly-unbearable power shortages, huge numbers of the unemployed, persisting poverty, a sluggish economy and fear of a terrorist backlash of Zarb-e-Azb; this is a moment demanding sharp and decisive decisions, policies, works and implementations. The Sharif government must realize that gone are the days when it was till the ballot box that a party had to prove itself; in today’s competitive political environment, it is now beyond the ballot box that parties have to prove themselves with performance; or risk being pounced on by opponents.

With blockades and containers around Lahore, and the decision to invoke Article 245, the government’s panicked response to the planned marches of the PTI and PAT is congruent with its disappointing tendency to overreact and create crises; that it needs to learn to avoid.

Similarly, it is essential for Imran Khan to accept that his expectation of becoming the prime minister was not fulfilled to by the majority of the people as demonstrated by the ground realities which hit him hard in elections. Having broken the shifting political monopoly between the PPP and PML-N, PTI holds immense potential to be potent force of opposition in the parliament, an attacking but constructive role augmenting the democratic plinth in Pakistan; but its present politics of fixation, immaturity and obstinacy are not only destructive for Pakistan’s nascent democracy but for PTI itself.

It needs to channel its potential and power as a formidable political force in Pakistan; as opposition, keeping the government with their socks pulled up all the time; and as the provincial government, focusing its strength and vision in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and practically presenting itself as a plausible alternative to other parties in Pakistan. PTI should focus on developing KPK as a model of its governance; it should compete with the PML-N government through governance, for the last thing Pakistan needs right now is destabilisation.

As Adnan Rasool mentions in his article in Dawn:

‘The way the system works is that the opposition, irrespective of how small it may be, asks the tough questions and projects an alternative ideology, instead of trying to leave the system because of being beaten in the elections. They need to make the government work hard for a reputation.’

Columnist Gul Bukhari raised a pertinent point on Twitter commenting that the Sharifs seem to have lost all interest in governance and adopted a singular programme of reacting to Imran Khan’s relentless pursuit of power.

Protesting is one of the most important constitutional rights, even more significant for the exercise by the opposition; however attempts to topple a democratically-elected government and seeking to sink the system merely because your dominance is denied in it are no rights whatsoever.

The system in Pakistan has problems, Pakistan’s budding democracy has problems, but to set the stage for instability, destabilisation and the Doctrine of Necessity in the pursuit of personal political and party interests is never the solution.

Imran Khan’s bare demand of fresh elections coupled with his obstinacy project a sure stalemate. However, if the government displays political maturity and level-headedness in handling this delicate situation with cautious care and control; if the army stays at the battle front; if other political parties like PPP, JUI-F, JI, ANP and MQM recognize what is at risk and come together in interest of Pakistan and democracy; if better sense prevails, the situation may still be able to be salvaged.

Just last year, Pakistan witnessed the term-completion of a democratically-elected government for the first time in its history. And the Elections were expected to augment this democratic tradition, however ensuing political attitudes inclined towards infighting seem to push Pakistan back into the 90s which was an era of intense tug-of-war, and we all know where that led to.

All at the cost of democracy and Pakistan.

 ~ Hafsa Khawaja

14 comments on “At the Cost of Pakistan

  1. msai1 says:

    behun meri democracy kia hay na main imran ak hami houn na qadri ka laiken aik baat ap say poochna chahta houn jitni loadshading or mahngai pakistan main hain ghareeb admi kia kury ?

  2. Hamza says:

    You do have a point Hafsa. But, consider also that PTI changed its demands in the fact of shameful stubbornness and unwilling attitude of the government that failed to take appropriate actions.

    Before PTI’s claim to power, I guess the opposition were happy to lay low and serve their time. I think electoral reforms is such an immensely vital factor for Pakistan political dynamics, a heavy price should be acceptable. I think. Even I am not fully convinced of PTI’s strategy but their cause is just.

    I have only fear of this aggressive move …. an army intervention. I hope that doesn’t happen. If only the government was a little more mature and not panic at everything, PAT wouldn’t have been the force it has become today. One of the more stupider governments I have seen in action, Zardari was a bloody genius!

  3. Umair Rehman says:

    As far as load shedding is concerned, the current government should not be held responsible for that. Gen. Musharraf should be caught because he had the absolute power and authority that was required for Kaala Bagh dam construction. Nevertheless current government is trying to do the right things to overcome load shedding. If you start constructing a 10 Marla house, it takes about 6 months before you get it fully furnished and do you expect that state of the art power houses to be completed in just 12 months? Really!!

    Secondly inflation is a universal phenomena. With increasing population, the demand of all the things is very much high whereas the supply is limited. The difference is the inflation we all witness. When would general public and so called ‘Ghareeb Awam’ think about their population growth and if the population falls back to say 10 crores, everyone would be prosperous, everyone would have a job, everyone would travel on road without traffic jams. And the it’s not for PMLN to decide the number of children people have, is it?

    Or bhai mere behind PAT and PIT there’s some unseen dictator who is wise enough to shuffle anything and everything. If govt. would have accepted the counting of four seats, there would have been some other demands, strong enough to bring up the disturbance to the same level. What electoral reforms are being brought up by this long march? After eid, business community has suffered a loss of millions, who’d make that up? Daily wages workers are just sitting and waiting for this chaos to end. There is always a way like there was 68 years back when Quaid e Azam founded the same country. If things can get settled and negotiated with those people back then, why can’t today Imran Khan sit with the government? And the government in this state of panic is doing all it can to save itself, a very obvious reaction of do what you can to save yourself. If i were to blame someone, i’d blame the root of this chaos which is PTI and PAT.

  4. Mahmood A. Malik says:

    Elections most of the times in Pakistan have been rigged or manoeuvred. Some day someone has to stand up and call a spade a spade. Let there be fair elections and to see where each party really stands.

    • However, constitutional methods need to be adopted for this. If every party went to the streets with 10k people to topple an opponent party’s government after every election, another vicious cycle of instability and chaos will be set in. Pakistan will be further devastated.

  5. Mohammad Ali says:

    Another sensible post from your side Hafsa.
    I do criticize Nawaaz as he over reacted and made the situation worst.
    But one thing should be understood rubble of 66 years cannot be cleaned in one year. It takes time.
    PTI & PAT is going directionless what if Nawaz resigns and Imran comes into power then again Nawaz brings up much more crowd marching towards ISB? We will be in a never ending loop.
    If PTI moves back it will face political death and if it moves forward army may act. PTI is in the limbo at the moment.

  6. sheepoo says:

    Question for PTI Supporters: After Imran Khan’s announcement of Civil Disobedience movement yesterday, will the KPK Government forcefully stop people from paying their Electricity / Water Bills?
    How will Imran Khan help out his supporters if their Electricity line is cut and Water supply is stopped due to non-payment of bills?

    Also, exhorting people to not pay taxes is treason, isn’t it?

    • If reason, logic and repercussions were thought even for a second in our political circles, especially PTI’s these days, Pakistan would have never been at the point where it is today. Our politics is a game of egoes and chaos, at the expense of the country.
      Thank you for reading!

      • rehanud1975 says:

        It seems that anyone who does not favor these “Dharnas” is automatically labelled as a ‘Traitor’. The logic offered by PTI jiyalas is that : If you want to bring about change then come out and stand up against the corruption and tyranny and do not criticize the people in ‘Dharnas’ ( esp. Imran Khan) if you are not there.

        Anyone not going to the ‘Dharna’ is looked down upon as someone who is “doing nothing and criticizing from his cozy armchair”. Let us , for the sake of argument , suppose that NS Govt. IS wrapped up and IK DOES become PM, ( He wouldn’t have my vote in the next elections , that’s for sure) what then ? Does it mean that the 180 Million or so people would change overnight . We are no less corrupt than our leaders and I think we would continue to indulge in corrupt activities no matter who is our leader. Anyone who gets the slightest opportunity leaves Pakistan. If this keeps up, there would be no one left in Pakistan in the next 50 years to steer it in the right direction , except for “left overs” that failed to leave Pakistan and settle elsewhere.

  7. dogrask says:

    I was drawn to your blog from an article by you I just read in You write so well! I think after reading a few of your articles, I will be tempted to become your regular reader.

    Congrats! My appreciations and do well! May God give more power to your pen! — or should I say your laptop-keys?

    • Hello there, profuse thanks for reading my post there and sparing the time to visit the blog and comment!
      Delighted to hear such kind words, I only try to write well; it is up to the readers to really decide. 🙂

  8. The move by pti and pat is only damaging our already crisis hit economy and the remaining image of our country nothing will be achieved through this if they are successful in toppling the government then brace yourself for a martial law.

  9. Rehan says:

    I think chaos is consciously created by politicians to keep people confused and insecure. In an ideal world with no chaos, the politicians would be under a microscope and regarded as servants and not saviors of the nation ; this would not bode well for them at all !!!

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