Pakistan: Elections 2013
There isn’t to reason why?
There’s but to do or die
By Brig Samson S Sharaf
As the tenure of the present NRO sponsored regimes come to a close, political parties in Pakistan are gearing up for elections. The parties that ruled the country in one capacity or the other during the past five years appear self-absolved of their pathetic performance in all fields. The audacity to feed the people with a faulty narrative and secure votes based on traditional heavyweights, feudalism and narrow ethno-nationalism with a total absence of remorse or contrition is a razor’s edge that people of Pakistan will have to walk to exercise right choices. In facilitating the people to make the right choices, the anti status quo parties will have to embark on a revolutionary and out of the box themes to educate the masses on the perils of a daylight robbery perpetuated in the past five years and why it must be halted in its tracks.
The hyperactive media in its present capacity and ability to influence minds will have to play a positive role and educate the people in exercising their right of vote. More than ever, the media in the election campaign 2013 will be remembered for the role it played in changing Pakistan or otherwise.
Within the run up to these elections, currents, counter currents and international compulsions will cast their shadows on the outcome and must be factorised. As ever, the propensity to engineer results will remain endemic.
Two major issues relating to the economy of Pakistan and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will be the main determinants of Pakistan’s future power structure. Both have an effect on the quality of life and Pakistan’s future. A self reliant and proud Pakistan; or, a pliable, dependent and discredited country of thugs and thieves, ready to sell their mothers?
As the financial year draws to a close with targets of the FY2012-13 abandoned even before they became implementable, Pakistan’s economy is heading towards a severe jolt. Though the government is trying its best to lure International Monetary Fund and other International Financial Institutions for induction of high interest rate structural adjustment funds, the timings are critical. At the roots of the crises are the issues relating to heavy domestic borrowing from the banking sector by the government denying even remote chances for the private sector growth, energy crises with issues of circular debt, insufficient growth to bridge the minimum budgetary deficits, printing of paper money resulting in inflation and stagflation, starving export industries of much needed energy and insufficient foreign exchange reserves with the central bank. The indictment is that the government has failed in its macro-economic policies and non performing micro economic indicators. The situation is compounded by the law and order situation, war on terror, past and future effects of natural disasters.
It is most likely that the worst of Pakistan’s Economic Crises would materialise before the IMF and global communities act to bail out the country from its woes. It is also comprehensible that this bail out would not be without strings and cast its shadow on the election scenario. What is still unknown is that who will negotiate with the IMF? The present government, that may stand to lose its commitments in future; or a care taker government, incapable of holding its guarantees in future? Whatever the case, the inevitable cannot be avoided or delayed. This is a theme that can be played effectively by a good opposition to its advantage.
Yet despite massive bad-governance and having deliberately reduced Pakistan’s bargaining position to zero, we have a political dispensation in power comprising the PPP, PMLN, PMLQ, MQM, ANP, JUI (F) with their minions going to the electorate with high sounding jargons, themes of being victimized and narrow volatile emotionalism. This fusion of misleading propagandas, vitriolic themes and jingoism will soon eclipse their spirit of mutual back scratching and most likely make the election scenario bloodied and dangerous in the restive pockets of Pakistan notably Karachi. The proliferation of armed militant wings and extortionists/criminals within the ranks of these parties will compound matters for parties who believe in the power of the ballot and abhor violence.
On the external front, United State’s contemplated withdrawal from Afghanistan will also cast its shadows on who forms the next government in Pakistan. Gerrymandering of constituencies in 2002 was carried out with an implied purpose to bring a dispensation to power that supports the terrorism policies. As a follow up, the NRO was also negotiated on similar contours to ensure that the USA agenda in the region is not adversely affected. Having complied faithfully, the dispensation in power will obviously look for rewards for a job well executed at the peril of its citizens.
In a scenario such as this, any political party, vying for change will have to effectively divert the attention of the people of Pakistan from traditional clan, biradari, feudal, parochial and sub nationalist politics to the real issues that confront the country. To challenge and defeat the forces of inertia that will fight back with fury, public perception managers of these parties of change will have to challenge emotionalism, nostalgia of Bhutto Legacy, vitriolic sub nationalism and obscene jargon with a well crafted and imaginatively executed media strategy. They will have to ensure that the real issues of Pakistan sink into the hearts and minds of the people.
These issues are the reinforcement of a cohesive national narrative, revival of a sustainable growth led economy, a comprehensive national terrorism policy, restoration of balance in Balochistan, incremental de-weaponisation, a farmer friendly agriculture policy and local self government. The words like Self Reliant, Proud and Strong Pakistan will have to be put into parenthesis to make the nationalism themes attractive and absorbing.
On the external front, these parties of change will have to assure USA and the international community about the superiority, credibility and viability of their alternative options that facilitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan, restore peace in the region and control militancy inside Pakistan. The intellectual emotionalism of this shift must have an appeal for all humanity. Built around the emotive factors of nationalism, people’s power and non-destructive pacification policies, the national terrorism policy must have well crafted comfort zones for international actors to make the paradigm shift to a social dimension of a conflict, attractive and fruitful. Words like Peace at Home and Peace Abroad must make the headlines of such a policy.
So which party from amongst the opposition must seize the initiative in the highly polarized and opportunist politics of Pakistan to return the country to its people? By logic and elimination, least likely are the ones in the corridors of power. This leaves the field wide open for Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf to morph itself into a nation-wide movement of change and national pride against all forces of inertia. Converting the prevailing foibles of Pakistan into an election winning strategy is a challenge that the leadership of this party will have to take by the horns with imagination, commitment and beyond self realizable objectives. The party will have to convert the massive sea of energy created during its intra party elections into a constructive tsunami that rids the shores of Pakistan of all its debris.