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Heavy turnout and the militants

May 18, 2013

PAKISTAN has just turned a new leaf in its chequered political history. With an unprecedented 60 per cent voter turnout, one message has resonated across Pakistan, nay worldwide, regardless of its flaws, imperfections and inadequacies, people of Pakistan still believe in democracy and they want it to continue.

The threats, intimidation, coercion and violence perpetrated by militant groups for more than a decade has failed to subdue the spirit of the nation. If Hakimullah Mehsud, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Malik Ishaq and their ilk have any conscience left, they must bury their heads in sand with shame.

The mammoth turnout from Karachi to Fata, including a record number of women voters who showed up defying all pre-poll violence and threats of violence on the ballot day should be enough lesson for the militants to give up their vile ways.

Once in power no party should ever take its popularity, mandate or sympathy vote for granted. Unless it delivers through good governance, impartial accountability, keeps corruption under check, shows respect for institution and, above all, invests in populace, its fate may not be too different from that of the PPP which has been reduced to a local non-entity.

Since the majority in Pakistan only watches and listens rather than read or write, the predictions by the brand of so-called analysts and political gurus appearing in droves on the electronic media could be quite misleading, if not wide off the mark.

There was no tsunami though the PTI deserves credit for galvanising the masses to vote.

The reconciliatory words expressed by Nawaz Sharif in his victory speech will have to be transformed into real substance.

Hopefully, the leadership has now matured and will not be indiscreet or reckless as in the past. It must rise above petty politics to carry the entire nation along.

As the democratic evolutionary process unfolds, political parties will have to shun their militant wings, reach accommodation, show tolerance and accept public verdict in grace.

For a variety of reasons, despite suffering marginalisation, women voters are conscious of their political rights. Their long queues in sweltering weather is a clear demonstration.

The iconic image of the army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani casting his vote in uniform will remain etched in public memory. It is a novel addition to the annals of the country’s history.

And now as the jubilation starts to dampen, the road ahead is rocky. For the PML-N, an immediate recovery from looming economic bankruptcy, review of foreign policy vis-à-vis the US, India, Afghanistan and Iran and tackling the twin menace of terrorism and energy crisis are immediate challenges.

With his majority now firmly established in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, let us now see Imran Khan reining in the TTP, cutting down on drone strikes and administrating a province bordering shaky Afghanistan, especially after the US withdrawal next year. With the disillusionment of the past five years behind us, let us build a new Pakistan.


PML-N and challenges

KHYBER Pakhtunkhwa’s majority has endorsed Imran Khan’s philosophy in these elections. It will pose a serious challenge to the PML-N-led central government and the military establishment.

Imran Khan distinguishes himself from other leaders on three counts: to take Pakistan out of ‘the US’s war’ in Fata; negotiations with the militants in Fata, followed by a targeted and indigenous military action against the ones who continue defying the state; and shooting down CIA-controlled drones violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The new government in Islamabad faces tough challenges, apart from the ones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the fields of wavering economy, energy crisis, foreign policy (Afghanistan, US, Iran and India), and poor governance, especially in Karachi and Balochistan.

Imran Khan himself faces a tough challenge of translating his philosophy, which is backed by the majority of Pakhtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, into a reality after the PTI forms government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In fact, Pakistan’s major domestic and international challenges have their roots in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. The question is: will Islamabad and the military establishment endorse the next Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s policy on the three challenges mentioned above?

The other question is: will the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, without its leader himself as the chief minister, ever be able to deliver on its promises? Imran Khan has to make a choice between the slot of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and a leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.


Terrorism ignored

NAWAZ Sharif, in his speech after the victory, pointed out loadshedding, unemployment, price hike and poverty as major problems the people faced. But he did not speak about terrorism.

It is a fact that without eradicating the menace of terrorism, the country cannot make any headway.

It is hoped that Mr Sharif would clearly elaborate his party’s strategy against terrorism during his maiden speech in the parliament.


Good governance

THE PML-N is going to form government after winning elections. We have issues such as terrorism, loadshedding, unemployment, drone attacks and inflation.

The new government should take up these issues on a priority basis from day one. It should ensure good governance and wipe out corruption.

My advice is that a small cabinet should be formed as the government’s responsibilities have been increased. The nation wants competent and honest members to be included in the cabinet.

Fair and transparent accountability should be started and all those involved in corruption should be taken to task until they return the stolen money back to the national exchequer.

It is hoped that the government would fulfil all promises made during the election campaign.


Long live Pakistan

ALTHOUGH it pains me as a Canadian-Pakistani to learn that many innocent Pakistanis died or were seriously injured in the elections, I still think that primarily the victory for Nawaz Sharif’s and Imran Khan’s parties was a fair and representative response of the nation.

To the satisfaction of all, candidates of many other parties were also elected to Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies.

It was for the first time that a democratic coalition government at the centre was able to complete its full mandate of five years.

Congratulations to all the political parties and the people of Pakistan for this great achievement.

Long live Pakistan! JALALUDDIN S. HUSSAIN     Canada