Political temperature is rising
The two mainstream parties used to crib that they couldn’t deliver because they were not allowed to complete their five years tenure and were ousted prematurely during the democratic era from 1988 to 1999. This crib was duly addressed when the last PPP led government completed its full tenure, but instead of delivering it bled the nation white. It has left behind such a huge mess that it will be near impossible for the next government to clean it up within its five-year tenure and show some positive change for the benefit of the people.
Biggest crooks of the country donned the legislature for five years. They are still not satiated and are keen to re-enter the pleasurable halls of power to recommence orgy of loot and plunder. They are pooh-poohing Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution saying that none in Pakistan measure up to its requirements. They resisted scrutiny arguing that it was below their dignity to furnish details of their families and belongings. Questions asked from the contestants by the Returning Officers (ROs) to ascertain their basic knowledge about Islam were ridiculed by the politicians and media. Instead of feeling embarrassed for showing total ignorance on basics, they felt insulted and made fun of the ROs asking such silly questions.
Clauses (d), (e) and (g) of Article 62 define pre-requisites required of a contestant to contest elections. It says that a contestant should be of good character, should not have a reputation of violating Islamic injunctions, has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings, practices obligations of Islam, abstains from major sins and should not have worked against the integrity of Pakistan or opposed ideology of Pakistan. In short, he should be ‘Sadiq and ‘Ameen’ and a patriot. Print and electronic media which was till recent crying hoarse for strict implementation of these Articles made a switch and came to the rescue of the wrongdoers by vilifying the Articles and the scrutinizers. Each pre-requisite was disparaged in a manner as if knowledge of non-Muslims about fundamentals of Islam was being tested.
Demonizing Islam in one way or the other has remained a favorite hobby of secular media. They are demanding revisit of Articles 62 and 63 and scrapping them from the Constitution since in their view they are superfluous and irrelevant. On the other hand they have no objection to secular parliamentary system, which is unsuited to the psyche of our society and is out of sync with the aspirations of Islam loving people of Pakistan. They are not bothered about the loot and plunder by the fraudulent rulers who ruled the roost for 65 years as a result of rigged elections and faulty electoral system and are ready to welcome them again, but not those who preach Islam and are God fearing.
Change for the good is only possible if honest, clean and efficient legislators enter the legislature. ECP was mandated to carryout pre-poll screening test of all the contesting candidates to separate wheat from chaff and thus enable the people to vote freely to the contestants duly whitened by the EC. Effective screening would have helped the people to freely make their choice from among the whites and not from among the mixed bag of white and black or from all blacks.
However, claims made by so-called independent and powerful ECP that it will carry out ruthless screening proved elusive. ECP buckled under pressure and not only ROs were restrained from asking so-called embarrassing questions but it also removed the net it had spread to net big and small fish that had dirtied the pond. To the utter shock and disbelief of the people, almost all bad hats have cleared the screening test. It is feared that the same stock of self serving feudal lords, landlords and industrialists will take charge after May 11. It will be like change of faces and uniforms only. Being the chips of same block they will add to the mess rather than cleansing the Aegean Stables.
Ruling parties that have accumulated bagfuls of ill-gotten wealth through graft, mega scams, commissions, kickbacks in foreign deals and shady businesses are currently doling out millions on ads in media and raising catchy slogans to once again dupe the gullible people. They are shamelessly lying and promising moon when they well know that economy is in dire strait and country is neck deep buried in foreign and domestic debt. Their connection with the masses is only up to 11 May after which they will recede into their own world of pleasure.
As predicted, election campaign has become bloody and deadliest. Several political leaders, activists and election offices have been attacked by TTP. While ANP is the biggest sufferer with its 700 workers and leaders killed in terrorist acts, MQM, PPP and PML-N have also suffered some casualties recently. Even election convoy of JUI-F was hit on April 26 because of TTP’s differences with Maulana Fazlur Rahman. While leaders of liberal parties have ducked down to save themselves from terrorist attacks, Imran Khan, Sharif brothers and leaders of religious parties are holding big rallies since they had not been threatened by TTP. Irrespective of several attacks by Taliban, no party has buckled and exited from the electoral contest on 11 May and election temperature is rising with each passing day.
Seculars are suspecting that it is a deliberate attempt to marginalize liberal parties and to bring forward Islamist parties and re-enact black era of Gen Zia. They are making hue and cry that a conspiracy is underway to once again push the country to monstrous Zia era which nurtured religious xenophobia and bigotry.
Seculars are unhappy with Imran Khan for his softness towards Taliban and got more disturbed when he started courting JI for seat adjustment. They are also displeased with PML-N’s linkage with banned extremist groups and also hobnobbing with JI for seat adjustment. They are disturbed over ANP’s change of heart toward TTP and agreeing to hold peace talks. It looks as if this time the contest will be between secular parties and religious cum conservative political parties. Pendulum has swung in favor of the latter because of the poor conduct of liberal parties.
The voters while queuing up to vote on 11 May will not forget the pains they had to endure during the five-year black rule of PPP-MQM-ANP. They had endured up to 20 hours a day of power outages, suffered prolonged gas load shedding and waited in long queues to fill up their vehicles from CNG stations. They got jobless as a result of industries shutting down due to load shedding. To their utter horror and helplessness, they received inflated gas and electricity bills despite outages. They had seen daily bloodletting in Karachi where target killers were patronized by the three ruling parties. Politicized police backed the robbers and criminals and spent more time in protecting the ruling elite rather than the people. Situation in Balochistan had got from bad to worse because of connivance of rulers with criminals and their complete indifference.
People had seen parents killing their children or committing suicide because they were unable to feed them. Lawlessness reigned supreme throughout the country but the rulers remained wholly engrossed in looting national wealth and in merrymaking. They kept hearing about scams in which billions were embezzled. PIA, NLC, NICL, Railways, Steel Mills, CDA, RPP, Nepra, Hajj scams made headlines but nothing came of it because NAB protected the wrongdoers. Circular debt rose from $38 billion in 2008 to $70 billion in 2013; poverty level increased from 23% in 2008 to over 40% in 2013; GDP dropped from 7% to 3%. Accused involved in memo case were allowed to flee and remain unpunished. People heard their leaders making noises that drones were counterproductive and must be stopped but to their dismay they later learnt that drones were being fired by CIA with the tacit blessing of government. It is now to be seen whether people would again get misled by the fakers and vote them to power, or reject them and empower clean and honest leaders.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst and columnist.