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Pakistan Elections 2013: A Kashmiri's perspective

May 14, 2013

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I vividly remember many insightful conversations on Pakistan affairs with my Pakistani friends and colleagues in Bonn, Germany, who, like people from other regions, have their political beliefs, ideologies and opinions — some strong and some not-so-strong. They come from varied backgrounds. Parents of some of them have served in Pakistan army and close relatives of few others are still discharging their duties in military. Others are quite liberal in their outlook and admire Argentine’s Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and German philosopher Karl Heinrich Marx. There are others who love Imran Khan and believe only he could save Pakistan. A lot of them are fond of poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Habib Jalib and John Elia. Very few aspire for an Islamic state or Caliphate though.

Somehow, I can’t forget one interesting remark made by a friend from Karachi who, once in a discussion argued that democracy will never suit a country like Pakistan. She obviously has a military background. Her father has served in the Pakistan Air Force. I recall sending her a text message from the Cologne-Bonn airport in August 2008 when Pervez Musharraf bowed to intense pressure and resigned ahead of impeachment proceedings. The message read: “Pakistan’s dictator finally resigns.” Her reply was “Gowhar, very mean of you!” She obviously loves the Pakistan army and Musharraf. She’s been a good friend.

On another occasion, another Pakistani lady left an informal discussion in protest as she could not tolerate the views of her fellow nationals who were critical of the Pakistan army’s interference in political matters. Being fond of poetry, she is otherwise an epitome of tolerance in most matters.

There are some friends who nurture a strong passion for vibrant democracy in Pakistan and argue that democracy should be allowed enough time to mature to provide good results. Their line of thinking is that any bad democracy is far better than an able dictatorship. Others do not approve of the Taliban-style governance, as was practically showcased in regions like the Swat Valley.

All this isn’t surprising for me because I come from a place like Kashmir where people have strong opinions on politics and religion. In Indian-administered Kashmir, we have people who can endlessly debate and defend their political ideology of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Same is the case with the pro-independence lot. Yet, there are people who think of the “independent Kashmir” movement as an “unrealistic goal” and therefore, seek a solution within the ambit of the Indian constitution. Obviously, the votaries of a free Kashmir are in majority.

So, I could easily understand this diversity of narrative from my Pakistani friends.

The author with his Pakistani friends in Bonn.
The author with his Pakistani friends in Bonn.

It was December 2007 when Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in the military garrison town of Rawalpindi. I remember covering this horrific event live on radio. It wasn’t easy. Talking continuously for half-an-hour about the death of an individual of Benazir’s stature was obviously going to be difficult.

And who could forget these words from Musharraf: “Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the dignity of the nation would be damaged, the office of the president harmed.” I am sure there are still some people who share this perspective that Musharraf should not be humiliated. But the question which no one bothers to provide an answer to is, why shouldn’t he pay for his undemocratic actions like deposing many senior judges of Supreme Court, removing an elected government of Nawaz Shareef in a coup, declaring emergency, and his style of authoritarian governance in the garb of ‘enlightened moderation’?

Covering Pakistan politics, current affairs, human rights, culture and sports for many years from Germany for radio Deutsche Welle, aka the Voice of Germany, I was quite sure about two things: One, Pakistan’s military dictator General (retired) Pervez Musharraf had to go after the lawyers’ movement. That did eventually happen. Second, the people of Pakistan will prefer democracy over dictatorship. I am glad both my predictions based on my observations and insightful deliberations with friends, acquaintances and colleagues were proven right.

Like many, my personal choice would have been Imran Khan for two reasons. One, I’m a huge cricket fan, and remember the legendary cricketer-turned politician lifting the coveted world cup trophy in 1992.

Second, I believed as a philanthropist he gave Pakistan a good institution in Shaukat Khanam Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. So I thought his leadership skills and no-baggage could prove handy for Pakistan.

But I was also a touch disappointed after listening to his interviews on the Kashmir issue wherein he stated that India and Pakistan should allow the coming wiser generations to find an appropriate solution to this dispute. Also, his six poll promises did not include the K-word. I thought Imran lacked vision on Kashmir.

Some would argue that a dictator like Musharraf scores a point or two over Imran in this respect, as the former did offer a four-point formula as his solution to the vexed problem like Kashmir by thinking ‘out-of-box’.

Still, I quietly wanted Imran to win elections and form government. But I also knew it was not going to happen for the simple reason that Imran’s in-dippers and yorkers were not going to be as lethal on the political turf as they were on the cricketing strip. And as experience matters on the cricket field, it certainly does matter on the political field as well.

I would argue with my Pakistani friends, exchange numerous e-mails and Facebook messages that Imran was going to make a decent start to his political innings but it was highly unlikely that he would be in a position to form government. I would argue that the number of people participating in rallies does not necessarily translate into votes. But young friends from Pakistan were expecting instant results, as instant coffee generation often does. They are disappointed. I am not.

It delights me to no end that Pakistani voters behaved maturely and came to cast their important vote, despite threats from radical elements, hot mercury and uncertainty of many kinds. I am glad that the Pakistani people led their nation to a smooth transition from one democratic government to another. I am happy that Pakistan chose democracy over dictatorship.

Imran may not have won many seats, but he certainly did make a mark and became a catalyst for CHANGE. I respect the peoples’ mandate.

I’m not blind to many a challenge that Pakistan faces today like bad economy, the pathetic security scenario, irregular power cuts and what not! No cricketing nation is visiting Pakistan. Hugely talented Pakistani players are not featuring in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), which, in my view, renders the IPl brand orphaned. This brand has Caribbean flavour, Australian aggression, South African precision, but what it lacks is the fearless brand of Pakistan cricket! Pakistan’s relations with India are not good. But Pakistan has made a brave decision by giving democracy another chance.

Now it is up to the rulers of Pakistan to respect the peoples’ decision by governing them well and ensuring peace, prosperity and smiles return to Pakistan!

Today, I, as a Kashmiri, want to congratulate Pakistan for making the right choice at the right time for the right reason!

 


80-Gowhar
The writer has served as Editor at Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has contributed features for the BBC. He can be reached at gowhargeelani@gmail.com

 


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