“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
– Harry Emerson Fosdick
The campaign for the next general elections has begun with all the major political parties accelerating their mass contact campaign in the country. They have almost completed their party organisations and are now positioning people with sound reputations to lead the onslaught against their adversaries.
The judiciary, too, has not lagged behind. It is fully aware of what is going on in the political arena where, reportedly, the working of the political parties is, more or less, on the lines of monarchies - a concept that was not completely accepted by those parties that have, nonetheless, shown such tendencies.
Leaving this aside, even the political parties aspiring to capture power on the slogan of change, cash in on the sentiments of the people, and want Pakistan to continue with its policy of keeping the USA at arm’s length, are busy in increased political activity, generating a lot of heat in the country’s political atmosphere.
Keeping in view the surge in political activity throughout the country, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani departed from his own style by lashing out at political opponents in a public meeting held at Sargodha. He strongly hinted that those who are impatient for the general elections will not have their way, and the announcement of the date remains a prerogative of the ruling party. However, the Home Minister of Sindh, Manzoor Hussain Wassan, maintained that the next general elections would be held in October 2012. Meanwhile, some analysts and intellectuals suggest that it could be held around budget time and that the government may be planning to take measures that would improve the lives of the masses as well as governance in Pakistan.
Anyhow, the Prime Minister severely criticised the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) (without naming it), accusing it of being a party of opportunists, who had been tested several times by the masses. He also challenged his political opponents to come up with their plans that would benefit the masses. Otherwise, all their rhetoric, according to him, was nothing, but a ploy to mislead the poor souls. This attack came days after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid, Mian Nawaz Sharif, concluded his mass contact campaign in which he had severely criticised the federal government’s shortcomings and highlighted the plight of the Balochis as well.
On the other hand, PTI Chief Imran Khan, along with his motley group of politicians, who have jumped on his bandwagon, was touring the countryside to attract large gatherings, including the youth, which has sent alarm signals to his political opponents in the PML-N and the PPP. Those who oppose Imran have been quick to point out that the initial momentum generated by the party had slowed down, and it is a matter of time before its true face is exposed. Perhaps, Imran has made a serious mistake by allowing several team members of dictator Pervez Musharraf to join his party.
At the same time, the former President of Pakistan, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, did no service to Imran by claiming that he would set up an alliance between APML and PTI in the upcoming general elections. On their part, the religious political parties are making hectic efforts to get together on one platform because in case they failed to do so, they will not be able to make any significant impact on the political scene in the country.
Having said that, some political analysts believe that the government may surprise the opposition, which is not united and fractured down to its core. Perhaps, the PPP-led coalition will exploit this weakness and, therefore, call snap elections, as they frequently result in increased majorities for the party already in power. While others feel that since the government has yet to prove anything concrete during the four years, it will try to delay the elections so that they can make some drastic improvements in their governance and have something to show to the people.
While these manoeuvres and counter manoeuvres are expected to continue, another pressure group consisting of about 150 retired generals, admirals and air marshals have jumped into the fray. They are demanding that the government should allow a level-playing field to Musharraf, who for the time being has dithered on his plans to come back to the country fearing reprisals from his political opponents and religious extremists accusing him of serious crimes.
In addition, they have advocated that the best solution for Pakistan remains in democracy. It is very strange that the generals, who in one way or the other participated in the removal of a democratically-elected government, find democracy as a cure for the challenges faced by Pakistan. Anyhow, while the demand that democratic institutions must be strengthened may be welcomed by all those who believe in the will of the people, no one is going to accept their demand that Musharraf should have a smooth sailing when he comes back to the country.
Keeping in view these developments, it is not difficult to predict that very soon new political alliances will emerge on the horizon in the ongoing effort to win the people’s support. In case viable political groupings are not formed, it may not be possible for a single political party to emerge victorious in the next general elections. Since the present experiment of a coalition government has not been very successful, it reinforces the viewpoint that political forces, who contest the elections together and win could contribute to play a positive and productive role in the country. The question, however, remains: How will the politicians overcome their differences and settle on broad based principles?
Despite this, one thing is certain that the next government will not be a single party government - meaning thereby, the dynamics of a coalition government (indeed, a weak proposition) will continue to be at the helm of affairs of the country well beyond 2013, the day when the mandate for the present setup expires.
The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.