“The purification of politics

is an iridescent dream.”

– Ingalls

The dust that was kicked up about the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the election itself, and which created confusion and despondency among the people of Pakistan, seems to have finally settled down. 

A majority in the country now believes that the polls will be held on schedule and the process will be free, fair and transparent. With this, the political parties have also settled down and started focusing on their election campaigns. Obviously, the real contest will be between the two major political parties - Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, the small regional parties are expected to play an important role, as they consolidate their powers of influence in different parts of the country.

Having said that, the situation in Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remains somewhat volatile. It, therefore, raises questions not only about the next election, but also its outcome: whether or not it will steer the country out of the present mess?

The answer could be ‘yes’ and  ‘no’. Yes, because democracy remains the only viable option to deal with the present economic and security quagmire. No, because in case quick solutions are not found by the new setup, it will be impossible for them to complete their tenure; an achievement by the present Assembly against all odds.

Nevertheless, there are certain factors that may have an impact on the election results. The PPP and PML-N need to be careful about their role, especially in the urban areas. One factor is that Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PTA) has the ability to sway voters away from them and thus upset the applecart.

True, PTI lacks political expertise that is required to win the polls. But if youth participation is high that has enthusiastically showed its support for change, it may weaken the PPP and PML-N traditional/political strength. While PAT, headed by Dr Tahirul Qadri, may wean away about 1-2 percent of the voters in some constituencies.

As usual, political parties, like Jamaat-i-Islami (JUI), Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) etc, would have limited voters’ support and only marginal change is expected in their representation in the new setup.

Keeping in view this scenario, President Asif Ali Zardari has made deft political moves to send a loud message to people and media. That while the PPP-led coalition government’s performance remained weak in sectors, like energy and generation of jobs, there are many issues for which it can claim credit.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif is playing the politics of convenience and has captured some of the dissidents or opportunists from both PPP and PML-Q; some of those who have significant presence in their constituencies. However, both PPP and PML-N will have to be careful while awarding tickets specifically to turncoats; since some PML-N members too have switched over to the PPP.

In addition, the political parties must ensure that candidates with fake degrees, as also tax evaders, who had resigned or were disqualified after due process of law, should not be allowed to contest the elections. This is necessary to change the image of Parliament after the elections are held. More so, since ground realities suggest that PPP and PML-N may compromise on principles to accommodate the winning candidates, regardless of their reputations.

It must be remembered that change through a democratic process is sometimes slow. But if it is endured by any country and its people, then the long-term benefits of democracy would be enormous. Besides if people, in true sense, are allowed to participate in the affairs of the state through impartial elections, then several misgivings existing in Pakistan will come to an end.

Anyway, the decision of ANP and MQM to sit on the opposition benches means that they do not want to share the dangers posed to the coalition government during the elections. The people, however, are well aware of this manoeuvre and so they may not achieve any substantial success. Consequently, this will lead to another hung Parliament that would be subservient to the politics of convenience currently practiced in the country.

Another example is the debate for and against the creation of new provinces in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where both the major political parties have been careful, to the level and extent of hypocrisy, as not to annoy the voters of this area, while pursuing their political goals. Here the major beneficiary is expected to be PPP that will not only win additional seats in South Punjab and Bahawalpur, but also make inroads in certain areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where JUI and other religious political parties have been winning the elections. To counter this threat, PML-N chief has struck a deal with the Sindhi nationalist and also to put PPP on the back foot in Sindh.

It is, however, hoped that the present system of politics of convenience will be defeated by the politics of principle that would usher in an era of progress and prosperity, and improve the living standards of the masses.

As a final word, the introduction of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Mariam Nawaz in Pakistani politics will provide new hope for people. How far they will be successful in the elections, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: even traditional supporters of major political parties believe that the new leadership has the vision and capability to provide better governance than the old one.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.  Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com