The tide has turned

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Long gone are the days when Musharaf enjoyed unprecedented support in the Pakistani people, just after he had prematurely ended a decade of political turmoil and corruption.  Never before were the actions of a dictator welcomed with open arms.  Misuse of power and the bastardization of democracy by the previous governments of Nawaz Sharif and Banazir Bhutto had demanded a revolution of some sort.  A bloodless coup d’état was the order of the day, which brought a sigh of relief to all patriotic entities within and outside Pakistan, as the country seemed to have been saved from total catastrophe. Musharaf came with a reform agenda promising eradication of corruption, across the board accountability, devolution of power, economic stability and true democracy.  Parties who were opposed to the dictatorial nature of ruling by the Nawaz Sharif’s government had no choice but to support this agenda promising true democracy.  In his first year in office Musharaf seemed to be more democratic than the previous so-called democratic governments of Nawaz Sharif and Banazir Bhutto winning support and cooperation from many political parties.  The accountability process was also making inroads by convicting such bigwigs who had been out of the reach of the law for a decade.

But this was all to good to believe for Pakistan and had to end, which it did.  Musharaf slowly but surely abandoned his seven point agenda.  So much so that the terms ‘accountability’ and ‘democracy’ have lost their true meanings in Pakistan due to their utter misuse.  The accountability process is now selective with NAB making controversial deals with convicts, with some parties going as far as saying that PML(Q) has been made a safe haven from the accountability process.  As far as implementing true democracy is concerned, all hopes of it were dashed by Musharaf’s amendment packages more appropriately termed as ‘power packages’.  All parties have rejected the amendments package, this being a big vote of no confidence for Musharaf, which was a great contrast to how things were two years ago.  These ‘power packages’ were the last straw for many political parties who withdrew their support and cooperation with the government, with some entering into opposition.  The proposition of these ‘power packages’ made it clear to all political parties that Musharaf had no intention of implementing true democracy, rather was only interested in centralising power to himself.

With public opinion severely against Musharaf’s government, political parties are conscious of the fact that the public will be willing to support any viable alternative to Musharaf.  As a result there have been continual negotiations in the past few weeks between all political parties with regards to the formation of electoral alliances.

Even though nothing is final about any particular electoral alliance there are reports of two main electoral alliances being formed.  One of them being that of the PML(Q), MMA and other smaller parties, with the other being the PPP, PML(N)  and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) joining hands.

Well as far as the first supposed alliance is concerned, it seems difficult to conceive how a pro government party such as PML(Q) can work together, let alone form an electoral alliance with the MMA which has been bitterly opposed to Musharaf’s government.  Furthermore, the religious parties have never had a vote bank worthy of any concern, with the collective seats gained by them in the national assembly being no more than ten, during any term. The composition of the MMA is quite baffling in itself, in that Noorani was made its chief.  Noorani failed to win his own seat in the last general election thus it may not make sense why he was made the head.  It is opinionated in political circles that he has been given the top slot to attract the majority Sunni population as the other leaders in the MMA belong to the minority ‘Diobandi’ or ‘Shia’ sects sect.  With there being no chance of Noorani winning his own seat, he will no longer be required by the MMA after the October elections as the ‘Sunni vote’ would have already been cast in favour of the MMA candidates.  Well firstly, as Noorani is in his late seventies and considered to be way past his best, there is no guarantee that he will attract the so-called ‘Sunni vote’ and neither do the Pakistani electorate vote on a religious basis.  Although religious parties have never been successful in past elections, due to the intense anti-American feeling in the country the MMA can win the hearts of the Pakistani people due its anti American stance.  Whether the Pakistani people will trust religious parties and see the MMA as a viable alternative to pro-American Musharaf is a different story.

The second supposed alliance is between the PPP, PML(N) and PAT as reported in sections of the press.  Although the three parties have not seen eye to eye in the past, they all have a common agenda of stopping Musharaf from implementing a presidential dictatorship.  They have also realised that this can only be achieved if big parties with public support like them selves get together.  The reason being that the might of a military government cannot be defeated by any single political party.  If such an alliance was to materialise then it would be certain of success as the main opponent, being the PML(Q), is pro-government limiting its chances of success in a fair election.  Well it will depend upon whether the three parties can really accommodate each others wishes and form an alliance as it would be one of history’s most unexpected election alliance.  Yet it seems understandable that only such a powerful election alliance would be able to stop Musharaf from becoming supreme ruler.

These are only two of the election alliance theories prevalent in political circles. Which ever of them will materialise one thing is clear that the tide has certainly turned against Musharaf.  Musharaf’s days in office are certainly numbered, as all political parties have failed to stand behind him.  If he manages to keep his government in tact until the October polls, it will be an achievement.

Mr. Jawed Iqbal, is an independent writer and a political analyst. His articles appear in printed and electronic media of Pakistan.

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