From 1977 to 2013 my mandate has been stolen ten times with two fake referendums for a total and tally of twelve detours. The people of Pakistan are at the edge, another manipulated electoral exercise in 2018 will result in serious street protest. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the first truly elected Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan was impressed by the political sagacity of the masses. As the sub-continent had a long history of freedom struggle their level of activism was very high was his expressed opinion.
In 1946, the Muslims of India voted for Jinnah against the religious right. Then again in the free and fair election of 1970 they voted for change. It was then decided by the forces of status-quo to manipulate the electoral process for ‘Positive Results’. Muslim countries are famous for these evil mechanisms. Through six fake elections Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for thirty years (1981 – 2011). Finally, he was forced to go home after street protests. The country has the second largest army (310,000 soldiers) after Pakistan (560,000 soldiers) in the Ummah. Before Mubarak, Anwar Sadat ruled over the country (1970 – 1981) as a stooge of the West. Since 2014, General Abdel Fattah El Sisi has been assigned this role.
Pakistan is not Egypt; no usurper has been able to play the ‘Hosni Innings’ here. Ayub Khan the first dictator was toppled in about ten years (1958 – 1696). Yahya Khan had to step down after the Eastern Wing debacle in two years (1969 – 1971).Zia-ul-Haq prolonged his rule by selling national interests in becoming the frontline state in the Afghan conflict. Pervez Musharraf despite his somersaults to please his external masters had to resign in disgrace (1999- - 2008). And President Asif Ali Zardari was the first incumbent to complete his term in office.
Pervez Musharraf is currently being tried under article-6 of the constitution, if convicted he faces the maximum penalty. How this case unfolds will have a major impact on the future political scenario. The next elections are crucial for the country and its threatened democracy where will of the people has not prevailed in the last four decades (1977 – 2017). Misadventure by any party will be disastrous. Election Commission of Pakistan(ECP), Supreme Court (SC) and Army have promised free and fair elections in 2018 which are scheduled for July 25.
When evolutionary forces of change are blocked, revolutions take place. Twentieth century was full of such upheavals. Three revolutions (Bolshevik 1917, Chinese 1949, Iranian 1978) and two world wars (1914, 1939) had a heavy human toll. The demography of the world has changed since then and so has the distribution of wealth. So far the twenty first century has been relatively calm with contained flash points.
The Chinese and Iranian revolutions have reshaped the world. New power blocks are emerging. US dominance is receding. In the overall changed scenario, people of Pakistan are being restrained and pulled back due to poor political leadership that came out of the manipulated ballots. It is time to break the shackles either through the power of the vote or the push of the revolution as was done in China and Iran. Mao-Tse-Tung led an armed struggle to liberate his country while Imam Khomeini toppled the Shah through massive street protests. In both the countries the entire colonial structure of governance was dismantled, to be replaced by revolutionary structures that were designed to serve not rule. While the Soviet Union has collapsed, the revolution has kept its course in China and Iran. With an independent and resurgent Pakistan, Asian dominance will get a serious boost. True democracy is the only way forward.
The emerging scenario in Pakistan is quite volatile. The first time voters were the ones to hit the streets after the elections in 2013, this time around the reaction will be even stronger. The dharna at Lalik Chowk was spontaneous as the results were unacceptable to the youth. Daud Khan a Cricketer cum PTI activist organized the protest. On my information late Ahsan Rashid and Hamid Khan of PTI joined the protests after it had been initiated. As Kaptaan was hospitalized the movement did not gain steam while the electables within the party went home to lick their wounds. The long march to Islamabad in August 2014 was too late.
The caretaker PM Justice (Retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk presided over the commission that investigated allegations in the conduct of the 2013 electoral exercise. He did point out serious irregularities but gave a clean chit to PML-N. However, all the four candidates of PML-N in the test constituencies were disqualified. Serious contra dictations exist in this approach. Free and fair election is the prime responsibility of the PM. In 2013 all hopes were pinned on the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim but it proved to be his waterloo.
History is privy to the fact that it is either the ballot or bullet. Unfortunately, with twelve failed electoral exercises, a credible ballot is a big challenge. Especially in Punjab which is the main battle ground.
The position of caretaker Chief Minister (CM) Punjab is also critical in the conduct of the election. Between now and July 25, 2018 the caretakers have to start a massive cleanup operation to deliver a neutral and unbiased administrative set up. With the Punjab Police, neutrality may not be possible. I suggest isolating them from the electoral process, by confining them to their lines on the day of polling. A similar approach was adopted in the 1965 elections in Karachi where police stations were encircled by the students enabling the BD members (Basic Democrats) to vote according to their will, as a result Fatima Jinnah won, it proved to be the beginning of the end for the dictator. For the sake of our coming generations a fresh start has to be made for the will of the people to prevail which is the only course left to stall a revolution, which may be the first of this century.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.