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Poll credibility at stake


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IN October 1999 an injustice was done, when the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was booted out of government by the army chief for doing what he was authorised to do.

Thirteen years on, another injustice is being done but this time Mr Sharif is not on the receiving end; rather, he is likely to benefit from whatever has been transpiring. On the receiving end instead are the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), whose members and supporters have been dying in bomb and gun attacks claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

About the events of October 1999, the former prime minister has repeatedly said that he was wrongly ousted from government because the Constitution did vest in him the powers to change the army chief whenever he wanted to. But Mr Sharif, who had to spend a number of years in exile because of the injustice done to him, has not said much about the excesses being committed against the three parties in the crosshairs of the terrorists. That’s short-sightedness, nay sheer opportunism.

The sordid episode began in February, when the TTP conditionally offered to hold dialogue with the state. It said that Mr Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-i-Islami chief Munawar Hasan should act as guarantors of the talks.

Soon afterwards, the TTP took its dialogue offer off the table and urged the people not to vote for the PPP, MQM and ANP. It also declared that the three parties would be attacked because they were ‘secular’ and had adopted anti-Taliban and pro-US policies when in power.

The TTP then proceeded to unleash the kind of terror in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that seems mind-boggling even for Pakistanis who have sadly been hardened by the years-long, low-intensity conflict in the country.

This is not to say that Mr Sharif has kept absolutely quiet about the violence. To be fair, he did assail the attacks but only when asked pointedly by journalists to explain his stance on the violence directed at the parties termed ‘secular’ by the TTP. However, his answers have been evasive.

Answering a question in Karachi on Thursday he said it was wrong to suggest that terrorists had only been targeting the ANP, MQM and PPP. Even his PML-N had not been spared and the Balochistan chief of his party had lost a son, a brother and a nephew in an attack.

What Mr Sharif did not say was that the attack in Balochistan was not carried out by the TTP but by a Baloch nationalist group. So, while his answer was true it neatly avoided any reference to the Taliban.

Similar has been the attitude of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan. Like Mr Sharif, Mr Khan has been focusing more on electioneering than on pre-election violence. He has been campaigning furiously, addressing several rallies each day, and seems to be too busy to spare a thought for the dozens of people killed in the last couple of weeks. Both Mr Sharif and Mr Khan have been saying in their speeches on the campaign trail that they will bring about a change in the country, if voted to power. What they seem to have forgotten is that they have to discharge certain duties as political leaders at all times, regardless of whether they are in power or not.

They should understand that any assault on any democratic party is an attack on democracy itself. They should defend the parties being targeted. Instead, they seem to be relishing the thought of an easy sailing at the hustings as the three ‘secular’ parties have been reluctant to hold public meetings because of the violence.

Mr Sharif and Mr Khan should realise that elections are all about legitimacy and mandate. They should understand that they stand to lose the moral high ground if they don’t speak out against violence now. They should know that elections tainted by the blood of innocent people will do them little good.

They already know that for the first time in Pakistan’s history an elected government has handed over powers to an interim set-up so that fair elections may be held and the caretakers in turn hand over the reins of government to the parties elected. They should realise also that it’s folly to stand on the wrong side of the divide at this historic juncture. In the future, they should be in a position to assert that they had nothing to do with the marring of the historic general elections of 2013.

Civil society should also make its presence felt at this critical juncture. It remained active throughout the last five years but one fails to understand why it has lately been keeping a low profile and making do with issuing statements only.

Now is the time for groups and organisations representing civil society to take to the streets, to hold seminars and conferences, and to speak up against the injustice being done in the name of Islam. Now is the time for them to distribute pamphlets urging the voters to come out in big numbers on polling day in order to thwart the designs of the TTP.

With less than a week to go before polling day, time is running out. All those who want to see democracy flourish in the country should act fast; otherwise this year’s elections will go down in history as among the most bloody and unfair.

The writer is a member of staff.

Comments (17) Closed

Javaid Bashir May 07, 2013 06:24am
Good job, thought provoking piece. The Civil Society and other political parties must speak out against the pre-poll violence aimed at thre secyular and liberal parties, I have been wrottong on these topics and election campaigning which has been marred by the Talibans action and unleashing of violence. We should all condemn this selective violence targetting only secular parties. This vyolence or any violence is wrong and the society that does not condemn this sort of violence is also indirectly a party to it. I will strongly urge Nawaz and Khan to revise their policy of appeasing Talibans, they will be the next target of these rascals. Let us forget all differences and stand united against their violence .This will make them look good in the eyes of the electorate. It is a simple thing , but a grave matter of vital impotance to the nation. Let us say sa big no to this wave of terrorism,. JAVAID BASHIR
Hammad May 07, 2013 06:51am
The three parties facing discrimination were in power last five years, if these would had done some good to Pakistan then the people of Pak would have supported them in facing this they have no good history in making Pakistan prosperous that's why people left them alone and no interest in saving DEMOCRACY.
R K Jain May 07, 2013 05:55am
Very articulate and timely editorial. However, it is sad that the politicians are oppotunists and want power without any regard to morals, fairness, and integrity of the country.
Syed A. Zafar (USA) May 07, 2013 04:06am
it is is of no use singing democracy now when the polls are already being rigged and damage is being done to liberal parties.
p r sharma May 07, 2013 08:50am
On the polling day there shall be more bomb blasts to create panic mainly in strongholds of PPP, MQM & ANP to distance the voters from the polling booth. Security Agencies hopefully must be planning proactively to avert such incidents
Iqbal May 07, 2013 10:00am
ifti May 07, 2013 10:16am
So by staying quite now people support Terrorrism, your logic is as perlexing as These islamic parties. The same Nawaz was being Zardari brother last four years many time when army was to clean up the mess. To me it is a suicide by pakistan that they Give democracy a better chance than the Survival of federation.
Brian May 07, 2013 11:07am
PML-N and PTI silence on the violence is criminal. Also, Sharif must think the people have a short memory, as he thinks he had no role in the coup which ousted him. If Sharif had not neutralized the power of the President with the 13th amendment and prevented any constitutional method of removing him via the 14th amendment, no coup would have taken place. He made it so the only way to remove him from power was by unconstitutional means. Nor does he have any credibility on criticizing military government since he came to the forefront as a leader of the pro-Zia forces. In that he has much in common with Musharraf.
Shahid May 07, 2013 02:10pm
Assalamoalaykum, PTI deserve to be voted. If someone compare the profile of Imran Khan with other political party leaders of Pakistan then we will find that Imran Khan profile is far better than others. Following will support my statement 1. Imran Khan leads a team of professionals and with the donation of people he successfully completed Shaukat khanum cancer hospital which is in operation since Dec. 1994. 2. He establish an university in the Mianwali and this is his another good work. 3. He leads Pakistan cricket team and under his leadership Pakistan won the world cup in early 90s. Another big achievement. 4. He is an Oxford University graduate and his communication skills are quite good. 5. Last but not the least we tried PPP, PML-N, MQM, ANP and also Pakistan army generals-four times in past and nothing work out. So it is better to close the non-work out chapters and begin a new chapter with Imran khan by vote to PTI. I close my comments with supplication to ALLAH ALMIGHTY to grant success to PTI in upcoming election and ALLAH help and guide Imran Khan to lead Pakistan in good way. Amen. Thank you Shahid Iqbal
Brian May 07, 2013 04:53pm
Mr. Khan is someone who will say anything to win. In 2007 he said Bhutto was to blame for attacks on her and her party because she was seen as being too close to Musharraf, and therefore attracted the anger of militant groups. Now he claims he *knows* the Taliban weren't responsible and insinuated that Musharraf's allies were. This election has one big one big apology for the Taliban, which is why they don't touch the PTI. Many people have tried appeasing extremists before. ZA Bhutto tried it. Zia tried it. Sharif tried it. It never works, they just ask for more.
Imran May 08, 2013 01:34am
Shame on PML-N and PTI for not ferociously condemning the continuing violence against other political parties by TTP or other terrorist groups. Shame on them. As candidates, the PML-N and PTI have failed even before being elected. Have some shame you two.
NASAH (USA) May 08, 2013 02:25am
I must say Mr. Nawaz Sharif is playing with fire.that may burn him for life.
Yousuf May 08, 2013 08:12am
In our country security agencies are not supposed to provide security to the ordinary people (voters). They will be too busy safeguarding the "Looters".
Taha May 08, 2013 12:28pm
the writer seems to have forgotten the unrest continued since long in balochistan. It seems to me that newspersons hove no interest in the province and its people
Mustafa Razavi May 08, 2013 03:02pm
Two of these three parties are going to do very well in their respective strongholds. All three are now regional parties, one by choice and the others by lack there of.
Mustafa Razavi May 08, 2013 03:13pm
"Let us say sa big no to this wave of terrorism" You just said a big YES to terrorism by putting Imran Khan and Nawaz in the same category.
Mustafa Razavi May 08, 2013 04:01pm
Kudos to Ifti; Society has a chronological order, democracy comes to republics. We are still in the phase of making Pakistan a Republic.