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Smokers’ Corner: Lurching for meaning

Published May 19, 2013 10:47am


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PTI chief Imran Khan.—File Photo
PTI chief Imran Khan.—File Photo

I’m sure, by the time this column appears on these pages, a lot has already been said, written and investigated about the rather stunning results produced by the May 11 election.

It was interesting to note that, alas, though the electronic and social media is effective in generating hype and virtual commotions, they do not necessarily impact voting trends the way one was expecting them to.

If one believed in the sustained hype about PTI’s ‘tsunami’ in the social media, he or she was understandably left mouthing incoherent and disoriented gibberish on Twitter and Facebook the moment it became clear that PML-N would bulldoze all opposition, especially in the Punjab.

Not only was PTI drubbed severely in the Punjab by PML-N, it could not even go past the number of seats won by the PPP — a party that was pushed into the corner by threats and attacks by the TTP and came to the election as a highly unpopular outfit after spending five chaotic and mismanaged years as the outgoing ruling party.

In Sindh where, according to the electronic media, PML-F and the Sindhi nationalists were set to finally topple the PPP’s traditional supremacy, they simply failed to even slightly check the PPP’s sprint towards victory. The PPP ended up winning a comfortable majority in both the national as well as provincial assembly elections in the region.

However, the electronic media was correct in predicting the success of the MQM, the major party of Sindh’s capital, Karachi. The party managed to retain its electoral hold in the city, even though PTI accused it of rigging the election.

The truth is, even if one takes back a chunk of the votes that the MQM received, it will still manage to win in Karachi. Those residing outside Karachi, or for that matter, away from the more congested areas of the city, have yet to figure out the rather complex and paradoxical nature of the party’s electoral popularity among the Urdu-speaking majority in Karachi and in parts of Hyderabad.

MQM cannot be defeated in Karachi with lofty middle class idealism and moralism or with flag-waving patriotism. Not only are these perceived by MQM voters to be tools and excuses to undo the economic and political interests of the city’s Urdu-speakers, these also don’t unclog gutters, mend electricity wires, and guarantee regular water supply to areas far way from trendy boulevards and shopping malls of Clifton and Defense.

Apart from PML-N’s stunning show in the Punjab, the other most interesting bits about the election was the way PTI managed to gather a semblance of respectability by winning big in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

Though the media did allude to PTI’s growing popularity in KP, however, during the last few weeks of the election campaign, when the province’s outgoing ruling party, the ANP, was suffering a continuous series of brutal assaults by the extremists, TV channels began to float the idea that the ANP might benefit from a sympathy wave.

Nothing of the sort happened and the party was rudely wiped out by PTI that managed to win the largest number of seats in KP.

But perhaps the most noteworthy bit, at least to me, was to see how Peshawar in KP and Rawalpindi in the Punjab voted. Both these cities went to the PTI.

Rawalpindi was swept by the left-liberal PPP in the 1970 and 1977 election. It gave a split verdict between the PPP and the conservative PML (IJI), in the 1988 election, before falling completely in the lap of PML-N throughout the 1990s.

The PPP did manage to win a few seats here in the 2002 and 2008 election, but Rawalpindi remained to be a PML-N stronghold until this year’s election.

PTI dislodged PML-N’s supremely here on May 11, and ironically, it did so in an election in which the PML-N completely swept the rest of the Punjab!

Peshawar where PTI enjoyed a clean sweep on May 11, has turned out to be an even more (if not the most) temperamental city when it comes to elections. Its seats were shared between the left-wing NAP and the right-wing JUI in 1970.

Then between 1988 and 1997, these seats altered between the PPP and the left-liberal ANP before going completely to the right-wing alliance of religious parties, the MMA in the 2002 election.

In 2008, Peshawar re-adjusted itself and once again voted for the secular ANP and the PPP, only to obliterate both these parties in 2013 and give the centre-right PTI all four of its seats.

Some observers believe that whereas voting in Rawalpindi still takes place on the basis of ideology — reflecting Punjab’s shift from left to right ever since 1990 — voting trends in Peshawar however, always exhibit the city’s pragmatic nature where its Pashtoon and Hindko voters are merciless in judging both left and right parties purely on the basis of performance.


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Comments (56) Closed

Waqas May 19, 2013 02:25pm
KPK votes for PPP and PML N too
BRR May 19, 2013 08:15am
The mohajirs left India because they were not connected to Hindus there, and now over 60 years they are still not connected to or reconciled with the Sindhis, or the punjabis, etc. They must think they are superior beings.
Pro Bono Publico May 19, 2013 06:07pm
The liberals and secularists hated PTI and Imran. Indeed they must must be dancing in their drawing rooms downing their chota pegs now their beloved "Loin" of Raiwind has come!
Ahmed May 19, 2013 04:08pm
PMLN won seats in every provincial assembly. It won an overwhelming mandate at the center. Regardless of your negative comments, Pakistan has emerged a stronger and more cohesive nation than at anytime in recent decades. These elections have confirmed the experience in the rest of the world, namely that constitutional change of power provides a stronger cement for the nation than any ethnic, religious or ideological divides.
ahmad butt May 19, 2013 08:41am
The sad truth is Imran Khan trusted Mr.Fakhruddin and ECP. I think this was his biggest mistake, wasnt he aware that these frauds occurred before. I guess now he has to wait for PMLN to perform in the next 5 years, or the army will be taking over if they think Pakistan has run out of politicans.
Ali S May 19, 2013 05:37pm
Read the whole comment before replying. Like I said, PPP swept interior Sindh because of unconditional, judgment-free support from its jiyalas. I never said that PTI is only for educated youth and elite. I do agree with your argument about ethnic divisions - sad but true. MQM and ANP actually have great, progressive and well thought-out manifestos, but their actions and vote bank have little relevance to it. I do like the fact that KPK doesn't give second chances to failed politicians - it's by far the most conservative province in the country, but over its history it has voted different parties from all ends of the political spectrum into power. That in itself is a sign of progress - it's more of a deliver-or-get-out situation instead of blind loyalty - but that makes things much tougher for PTI like I said.
G.Nabi May 19, 2013 04:05pm
roots of Mohajir Qaumi Party in other provinces ? myth in the mind of Altaf.
Pradip May 19, 2013 04:06pm
As an outsider and being a long time Dawn reader, I thought some of the results were interesting to me and confounding as well. 1. Like someone said, Pakistan votes primarily on ethnicity much for "umma". 2. All parties are regional and have no appeal nationally. 3. Interesting to see the bad blood between the sons of the sold vs....the Mohajirs: a nail in Jinnah's absurd dream of a nation based on religion coming slowly unglued. 4. The last and the funniest: the blue jeans wearing, burger eating, English speaking and Facebook twitting crowd's party wound up with KPK, a place where if they showed up, will all be shot by the bearded men - burqa or not. Speak of disconnect!! On the other hand, it is an experience, many in Pakistan will savor coming as it did after 60 years of drought...and hopefully the change will show slowly - evolution rather than revolution?
Rajiv May 19, 2013 09:22am
I am sure imran got more than what he was dreaming of.. he is not an kid and he knew he wont win whole way and that was the only reason why he was making fake promises like getting rid of corruption in 90 days etc. He got more than what he wanted... the game he and his party would play now is that we got the toughest state of manage, that is to ensure that when they fail they already have sympathy of common pakistani... i know PTI supporters wont like it but if you see how PTI has played its cards in election, its just old song in new DVD....
pankajdehlavi May 19, 2013 02:32pm
People of Pakistan have given extremely wise & mature verdict: (1) Punished PPP for non-performance, still gave them Sindh, if they are willing to change (2) Gave Islamabad to Nawaj for his impeccable devotion to democracy, and track record to fight Army (3) gave PTI, most difficult task to bring KP back to normalcy, if IK really have guts to implement whatever he promised, he will need to prove it in KP. Then, only he should think about Islamabad...... (4) Told ANP to take rest for some time, let all extremists show if they really can deliver..... ANP shouldn't be disappointed.. They should remain patient, their time will come. Balochis have told Pakistan to excuse us please, so, no analysis can be done.
Citizen May 19, 2013 09:28am
Brilliant, independent analysis by NFP as usual. I wish, however, that he or NFP analyze by what percentage the number of voters and seats should be considered enhanced for those parties who never got a chance to hold public rallies compared to those that did i.e. PTI, PMLN etc. Even if there was not a single incident of rigging anywhere in the country, wouldnt the results be considered skewed to start with. In this scenario, it is revolting to see the self righteous PTI supporters crying hoarse about rigging; if anything a downward percentage should be applied to the number of voters and seats they were able to gain.
Block May 19, 2013 02:34pm
All I can say that people like you still don't get it?
imran May 19, 2013 06:36pm
I wish we had Left without Zardaris and Altafs. I dont understand why they do and talk like extremists. It looks like there is no proper LEFT anymore.The heads of today,s lefty outlets are bunch of fools.And right cant be a way forward for Pakistan.
El Cid May 19, 2013 11:24pm
This disconnect is in your mind and its perverted thought process. But good try...
Aussie May 19, 2013 08:10am
Pakistan is back to square one - it has exactly the same government and distribution as 2008, with minor changes in the faces and flags. One party ruling in centre is in opposition in provinces. One party ruling in a province is in opposition in centre. so every one gets a bone to keep them from barking at others. We should start listening to TUQ more seriously.
Aussie May 19, 2013 08:06am
you argument is basically flawed. PPP did not lose the elections cos they did not deliver. If that was the cause then why did they sweep rural sindh ? and PTI did not win simply because its vote bank is the educated youth and elite who are a minority in Pakistan - the PMLN had the populace of Punjab in their pocket as they ruled the province and had made inroads into the bureaucracy and managed the elections in their favour. The most interesting test of my theory that the ideology, party manifesto, reasoning, argument, performance etc do not have any influence on voting, but it is the ethnicity, pedigree and loyalties that matter. Take 5 candidates, each of an ethnicity (Punjabi, Pathan, Sindhi, Baloch, Mohajir) and stand them in different areas all over the country and then see the voting pattern.
Farhan May 19, 2013 07:55am
You know NFP, you have written these things before, and I believed in you. But that was until I hadn't experienced the electoral process first hand. Having done so now, I don't believe in you anymore. I found out how elections are won, what tactics are used, how people are fooled. The more congested areas of Karachi that you are talking about, I've lived there and witnessed the change. Free and fair elections would have brought about vastly different results. You write good satire NFP and I think you should stick to that.
Aussie May 19, 2013 07:58am
Whatever the elections - one thing is clear and has come out repeatedly - there is not a single "national" party in Pakistan - they are all regional based on ethnicity (MQM - urdu speaking, PMLN - Punjabi, PPP - Sindhi, PTI, JUIF - Pathan .. it shows how Pakistan is divided on ethnicities.
Ali S May 19, 2013 07:49am
NFP needs to stop finding excuses for his beloved PPP and face the music - if there was any party that was backed into a corner by the extremists, it was ANP - though I don't support them, I'll admit that they paid huge sacrifices and got nearly nothing in return for it in terms of votes - not the PPP (and that also in interior Sindh of all places). The PPP was pushed out of Punjab because of its failure to deliver, period - see any city in interior Sindh and apart from the much-hyped Benazir Income Support Programme tell me what development the PPP has been responsible for that you can see (don't take my word for it, just visit Larkana). PPP was voted into power in Sindh by its jiyalas, who can be relied on to provide unconditional support even when the PPP spits and slaps on them. For all the MQM's disrepute (and as a Mohajr I'll admit that a lot of it is well-deserved), they did do a lot of development in the city when they were given the reins and it shows anywhere you go. However, it will be very interesting to see how the PTI deals with the boiling pot of issues that it will have to deal with in KPK. It's a make-or-break situation for them - it seems like the PTI is still disappointed that it didn't impact (let alone 'sweep') that Holy Grail of N.A. seats which it was aiming for (i.e. central Punjab, where its rhetoric was pretty much annihilated by PMLN) which would have been far less of a headache to govern. But still, I genuinely hope that as newcomers PTI are able to deliver (at least reasonably) on their promises and prove to all the youth that came out to vote for them ('burger' or not) that their junoon didn't go wasted.
Adelaide May 19, 2013 07:20am
Good analysis especially of MQM vote bank. I agree with NFP. Mohajirs don't see their interested will be protected by any of the parties. They voted for JI, Noranni sahaib, but with out luck. In fact Mohajirs don't feel connected with either PTI, PML-N, and even with PPP.
umer May 19, 2013 06:57am
and dhoti clad Punjabis vote for MNS
excalibur May 19, 2013 06:44am
What Elections . Muk muka personified in PMLN & PPP delivering status quo by turns as agreed in COD. As for IK where is the tsunami in D Chowk when the elections have been the worst rigging artwork in history and only a blind voter will be forgiven to accept it ? Where is the CHANGE ? The toilet bowl tsunami with IK as the flotsam in it
excalibur May 19, 2013 06:48am
quite clearly true Where is the tsunami in D chowk promised by IK if the elections were rigged. ? Match fixing should be clear to IK when his protege Wasim Akram was tutored by him on this art . Cant he see or will he foolishly prostrate before the EC /SC ( Selection Commisiion ? All jokers
Yawar May 19, 2013 06:44am
LOL! These PTI guys usually go off without ever bothering to use their brains.
excalibur May 19, 2013 06:51am
lollipops of dharnas is comic. Remember Tahir ulQadris words pleading IK to join forces and ensure transparent elections before the event. Keep on crying over spilt milk ans sucking it up with your burgers an fries. you deserve it fully
jn May 19, 2013 06:31am
who is a kocha?
Mirza May 19, 2013 06:29am
This is an excellent piece with in-depth analysis. Thank you NFP, for having the courage yet again to call a spade a spade.
Hasan May 19, 2013 06:27am
u mean to say IK is also one of the puppets..?
umer May 19, 2013 06:15am
How conveniently are the lessons of history forgotten! It was the Mohajir-based establishment that gave birth to ''middle class idealism and moralism or with flag-waving patriotism''.Now that Punjabis have taken over the reins of establishment, the Mohajirs are getting a taste of their own medicine. It is also no wonder that the MQM is championing local government and autonomy.During the decades of 50s and 60s anyone calling for local autonomy and government at the grass-roots level was labelled as traitor and a communist.
Khan May 19, 2013 06:03am
I think the writer is living in another world or he is so naive that he cannot see that the whole election results were designed long back by our "masters - USA" via Saudi Arabia. PMLN got the reward of playing the role of "friendly opposition" during Zardari's tenure and nothing else. I am sorry but all what the writer has mentioned is BS, our nation has been goverened by puppets and all the chaos out there is orchestrated by "outsiders" who have vested interest in our nation.
Syed Asad May 19, 2013 06:11am
Nonsense. Look at pictures of dharnas in different cities. PTI is popular than any other political party today.
malole May 19, 2013 05:34am
Only kochas and jihadis vote for PTI. Maybe Pindi and peshswar are full of them. Afterall KP is.
Guest May 20, 2013 07:32pm
The country you left had democracy and the country you now live in has democracy stop propagating your foolhardy ideas.
Guest May 20, 2013 07:35pm
So you agree that the majority is the one whom you define as "liberals and secularists"......should majority rule or should minority run the country
CaptainJanjua May 19, 2013 07:19pm
What are you retarded? KPK has historically been progressive and voted simply on the basis of results and not promises. And what would an indian know about Pakistan? Why don't you focus on the issues the Bengalis and Tamils are having in your "country"! india was founded on the basis of hindooism by gandhi who hypocritically donned his orthodox-hindoo attire when British withdrawal became imminent. Jinnah who till then had been very much against partition (something that the world except for you hindoos know), was forced to realign his beliefs. And finally, no where did Jinnah endorse the idea of Pakistan being an Islamic Republic (that's something we have dictators who wanted to legitimize their rule to thank for) unlike india and its bandar mantaram or whatever. Finally parsnip or whatever your name is, like I said earlier, why don't you focus on your "country" and its hypocrisy against the Assamese, Bengali, Tamils and Muslims. indio, according to the international media, is fast becoming a fascist hindoo state, which is ironic since hindooism promotes fascism anyway.
El Cid May 20, 2013 04:14am
A little below the belt but good. You said it better than I could. I like it.
Saeed May 20, 2013 03:17am
Finally Jamati thought will be taken over in the cities like there presence in education institutes .Educated people want caliphate system in Pakistan . This is will be pakistan future , my advice to all the minorities leave the country ASAP.
Baykaralam May 20, 2013 03:12am
Pradip..You may not remember a historical photo.. General Ayub Khan standing with entire opp. parties when in 1965 India attacked Pakistan. All parties still harbor no evils against Mr. Jinnah or against religion.. Pakistani still happy not to be part of Hindustan.
Karachi Wala May 19, 2013 03:12pm
I am surprised NFP overlooked one glaring fact that came out as a result of the election. MQM movement (Mohajir movement not Muttahida movement) of 80's and 90's has spread to other provinces. The election results clearly show how divided we have become linguistically and ethnically. What started in Karachi and Hyderabad has taken its roots in the rest of the country. If Taliban menace is not enough to destroy Pakistan, this ethnic divide will. .
abbastoronto May 20, 2013 03:24am
What a circus. Iqbal's soul would be shedding tears. Would he have still suggested the idea of Pakistan had he known that we would end with democracy, a concept he never liked.
gangadin May 19, 2013 01:36pm
Complete Non-Sense. It only shows that the nation is comprised of Punjabis, Pathans, Baluch and Sindhis. Urdu speaking illegals are segregated to Karachi but its only a matter of time. Sons of soil are already knocking on their doors. Message to Altaf is very simple: Keep promoting self-destruction.
Ghani K. May 19, 2013 01:40pm
PPP the Bhutto-Zardari family vehicle ran out of fuel .Imran K has reshaped the politics of the country,unassailable feudals have fallen way side- even hot bed of coercive politics of Karachi has been shaken - About time for NFP to jump off the stranded vehicle of Bhuttoism , throw away the garb of PPP Jayalaism and wake up to reality.
Concerned Pashtun May 19, 2013 09:50pm
"Voting trends in Peshawar however, always exhibit the city
ghaleezguftar May 20, 2013 06:50pm
what a worthless article! come on NFP. you can do better, incite some emotions, provoke some sentiments or stir some controversies!
ghaleezguftar May 20, 2013 06:48pm
why dont u leave this space? and why dont u show the door to the minority who takes care of ur sanitation system and u treat him as an equal human being?
Guest May 20, 2013 07:56pm
Wouldnt that also mean that no one understands them ....or tries to understand them. And if i may remind your one of the ex-general now under house arrest also thought he was a superior being ....u said it now own it
G.Nabi May 19, 2013 04:03pm
NFP, isn't it fair to devote next column to enumerate factors demolishing the myth of Bhutto-Zardari clan's infallibility ?
Nasir May 19, 2013 10:58am
Come on guy whats with the tone, Punjabi's vote for MNS as Karachi votes for MQM and interior votes for PPP (I am not saying there is no rigging, but there is public support), now why was KP changed from regular ANP and JUI to PTI and JI, wait for the answer in near future??
Noor Ahmad Khan May 19, 2013 11:12am
I agree with you. NFP is naive. He still believes the earth revolves around the sun while in fact it is a propaganda of west, especially USA. He doesn't see the conspiracy against our destiny to rule the world.
Guest May 20, 2013 07:59pm
Did you vote sir? You mean you r the one with brains and the majority who voted for PMNL are blind n dumb that they did not see what you see
Jackson Thomas May 20, 2013 10:02pm
When no proper logical answer indulge in name calling and delusional logic. Btw Tamils, Assamese, Bengali's etc are all Hindus!
Guest May 20, 2013 07:51pm
Nice satire Farhan....:)
Guest May 20, 2013 07:50pm
What Aussie meant was now begins the State vs Center war
Guest May 20, 2013 07:49pm
Spot on.
Guest May 20, 2013 07:46pm
Very well written
Guest May 20, 2013 08:02pm
Where do they sell these conspiracy glasses ?