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The Polls & Power Frenzy

Election is a game of numbers. Stakes are high and this time again things aren’t going to be as simple as they are apparently. Delay in electing a new setup is next-to-impossible. It will benefit none; neither the army nor the politicians. International forces won’t be receptive either.

Country’s security establishment may not dare to prolong the tenure of the caretakers with empty hands. History tells us that ‘Triple One Brigade’ always got into action with the consent of international forces. The United States, the European Union and the IMF ‘all want civilian setup to continue in Pakistan. According to some reliable sources in security establishment, there are diverse opinions in army. And that’s why Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani time and again reminds us that Islam can never be taken out of Pakistan and Islam shall always remain a unifying and binding force.

This time, two orthodox arch rivals ‘PPP and PML (N)’ are in a position to come into power. PPP’s sugar level is down and it is mostly relying on personal auras of its candidates. PPP’s dancing horses do not influence voters. It has traditional base in Sindh and no significant change is foreseeable. The ten-party alliance against PPP in Sindh is a brainchild of Pir Pagara’s Pakistan Muslim League (Functional). This communion comprises religious and nationalist hardliners though it’s a fact that nationalists never won even a single seat in Sindh.

PPP is not going to be routed completely in the Punjab, initial calculations suggest. Seat adjustments with PML (Q) and open contests may not be fruitful, political pundits opine PPP voters won’t ever go for PML (Q) candidates and vice versa. The PPP’s slogan of new province in South Punjab still remains a myth that fails to survive reality checks. President Zardari has been prohibited by the courts from making appearances in PPP’s election campaigns. His 24-year-old son, Bilawal, the party’s chairman, is also bunkered in Karachi.

Apparently, PPP has realized that it won’t make a big impact this time. That’s why serenity prevails among the PPP’s rank and file. But President Zardari has, time and again, proved to be an astute political guru in the context of Pakistani politics. He should have multiple aces up in his sleeve. At present, he is waiting for the rolled dice to stop so he can analyze his numbers and do his gimmickry again. We have witnessed that the outgoing rulers always face an acute plunge in popularity. Nevertheless, if the PPP scores a century in polls, the President will surely carve out a coalition government and the ‘char ka tola’ (the gang of four), as Shahbaz Sharif says, will rule the roost for another term.

 President Zardari has, time and again, proved to be an astute political guru in the context of Pakistani politics.
 On the other hand, PML (N) is walking on air. It is manifested in the fact that it hasn’t forged any major alliance. Overwhelmed with cocksureness and certitude, it crafted various unions with opposition parties but marched solely towards the May Day i.e the Election Day. Its leadership is absolutely sure of coming into power this time. They apprehend that in case of seat adjustment, the handshaking partner would reap the benefits of their skyrocketing popularity. PML (N) had come into power twice and on both occasions it led a political alliance.

There is no denying the fact that Imran Khan’s PTI poses a real threat to PML (N) in the Punjab. However, numbers game will be decisive on outturn. Higher turnout means fresh and enlightened youth votes, which ultimately will benefit PTI. A 2008-like turnout is not going to affect both PPP and PML (N) in a big way. The PTI has also defied Asfand Yar Wali’s ANP in Kkhyber Pukhtunkhwa. Religious groups might have a heyday on 11th of May. The biggest challenge for the ANP, however, is to motivate its supporters as red hats are scared of Taliban attacks while religious parties and PTI are less prone to such heinous acts.

Five years are lost in Balochistan as during this period a number of hilarious scenes were created. This time atmosphere is different altogether. Mainstream Political parties are weak, while Baloch nationalists, independents and religious groups are relatively in a strong position.

Our future government will have to deal sensibly with the USA. Uncle Sam eyes a graceful exit from Afghanistan and it wants a safe passage. It also plans safe relocation of its high-tech arsenal and equipment from Afghanistan as well as from Jacobabad and Pasni. It wants a docile role of Pakistan in post-withdrawal Afghanistan.
 The parachute landing of Pakistan’s former dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is a calculated move.
 Security establishment believes in giving another chance to Mian Nawaz Sharif who recently went abroad and spent quite a few weeks very quietly, whereas, his party leaders were busy in knitting their brows on party tickets’ confirmation. PML (N) has assured, according to some sources, international forces to remain pegged on the keel of war on terror, Afghanistan and affairs of love and hatred with Uncle Sam. Though PML (N) is blamed of sheltering terror outfits in Punjab, it has assured international forces of eliminating the outlaws. Some sources say that the incident of Joseph Colony was a test case for the party.

Altaf Hussain’s MQM, too, wants timely polls. It does not take election as a means of operation against it in urban Sindh, particularly Karachi. MQM fears right-wingers will be prioritized and some analysts believe that MQM is trying to reach a truce with the hardliners. MQM has its blood boiled over redrawn constituencies in Karachi. Jamat-e-Islami is active in this issue and that further infuriates MQM.

Last but not the least, the parachute landing of Pakistan’s former dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is a calculated move. The travails of his return from four years of self-exile furthered the humiliation of a person who once enjoyed absolute power in Pakistan. He faces an unprecedented situation in a country where the military has held sway for decades. This shows the determination of judiciary to hold him accountable.

One must not forget that Musharraf was a commando and he renounced his lavish life of London and Dubai purposefully. Why he is here, asks everyone? The answer is simple: Political economy is dancing frenziedly in polls and power game in Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf is here to broker a deal between the International forces and Pakistani establishment. He is here to act as a guarantor for the safe exit of US and its allies in Afghanistan. Former general expects power in return. However, the commando should have ensured safe exit for himself before landing in Pakistan. Otherwise, the nation will witness an unprecedented saga to pass it on to the next generation. The political history books will need a rewriting as well.

By: Asad Kaleem

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