ELECTION meetings are finally taking place. The flags have been unfurled, the chants pierce the air and rallies move the crowds. The media is projecting the electioneering as an exercise which signifies the Pakistani people’s hope in democracy of which a general election is the first and basic ingredient. The debates between candidates, the exchange reflected in the speeches made by politicians at their rallies, the focus on issues even when personalities remain prominent — all this is good advertisement for the system, and let us hope that this is how it will continue right up to the May 11 vote. Let us also hope that poll activity will be diversified with time, for there are complaints that not every party is enjoying equal opportunity to project itself before the people as their worthy representative.
To begin with, the militant moral keepers of this land have made it absolutely clear that, while they oppose demo-cracy per se, when it comes to dishing out penalties, they consider some of the players more guilty than others. This has forced some visible campaigners of the past, such as the PPP and ANP, to keep a low profile this time. Just as the interim administration and the media need to strive towards creating as even a playing field for everyone as possible, the leadership of these ‘restrained’ parties must find openings to reach out to the people. And for that to happen, the leadership must first be seen to be leading in the face of the odds. It may sound cruel to be preaching bravery to the targeted but there is simply no other option. This fact has been to an extent illustrated in the ANP’s controlled electoral drive. The PPP, which has been least visible on the election radar, must also realise this. It must somehow arrange for itself to be seen electioneering and being led by someone who is in command and seen to be so. So uneven is the contest. Such is the truth.