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Editors view about elections 2008 in pakistan

Posted by admin | Posted in Elections | Posted on 29-06-2011

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Editors view about elections 2008 in pakistan

Editors view about elections 2008 (Before the Death of Benazir Bhutto)

It is a common thought that a person who reads Pakistani press can not be capable provide a precise idea that what is happing in Pakistan. Secondly the concerns uttered by Musharaf government about media’s responsibility in development of Pakistan, makes the character of media even more suspicious. Third, common men are not able to understand the difference between views of the newspaper and column writers. Most of the people just start reading a piece of writing by selecting their titles. And try to discover the truth. But when after one week if somebody asks what is the main theme is, so they will have no answer. For the reason I thought that there must be a piece of writing which can provide the overall analysis about forthcoming elections. So I selected two English newspapers namely Dawn and The News and copied their Editorials from their web editions from 1st December to 21st December 2007. I just made an effort to get their views about upcoming elections, political parties and Musharaf government. Mostly all the items are in one way or another related to the elections. This article will provide a glimpse of events of three weeks and all at once the reader can judge whether a prediction or analysis made by any newspaper was factual or fictional.

About the holding of elections in January the Dawn (“The task ahead” 1st Dec) believes that possibly the elections will not take place in peace for the reason that the promises made by Musharaf to withdraw emergency and PCO may not make happy all the fragments of the opposition and boycott of elections by the PML (N) and JI will have an effect on the credibility of the elections. One interesting sentence “There is more to the elections than satisfying the APDM. A greater precondition for a fair and transparent election is the need for lifting the curbs on the media”, shows that Dawn supposes that APDM is not seriously working for lifting the restrains on media. That’s why Dawn has set such a proposal to the concerned authorities and general public.

Adopting a very straightforward outlook about the boycott politics the Dawn (“Talks, not threats” 2nd Dec) condemns the APDM in these words “The APDM is far from being clear on what lies beyond the boycott”. And on the other side criticizes the composition of the present caretaker government and election commission of Pakistan. But at the same time shows mirror to the opposition in these words” Looking at the composition of the current caretaker setup and of the election commission, the opposition is justified in casting doubts on the fairness of the polls. But the opposition will also have to share the blame for the current mess in view of its failure to forge a united stance vis-à-vis the dictatorship in Islamabad whose strength is, among others, based on the disunity of its adversaries”. The Dawn not only points out the problems with the portrait but also gives a proposal for the cure of the syndrome. “The only way to set aside all such worries on the part of those willing to contest the election and convince the boycotters to join the fray is for the president to convene a multi-party meeting to iron out all such differences and to make certain changes to avoid aspersions being cast on the election process”. All the opposition parties are putting question mark on the credibility of election process, only putting aside PML Q and Mollana sahib. The Dawn (“The ‘common goal’” 5th Dec) represents this idea as such” Any election held under the circumstances will not be acceptable to the entire opposition, save perhaps Mollana Fazlur Rahman. What credibility an election which only the erstwhile ruling party and its officially designated leader of the opposition regard as free and fair will have is anybody’s guess”? The News (A step into the future” 1st Dec) sees this situation of boycott in different perspective ” At the same time President Musharraf’s firm assertion that general elections would go ahead as scheduled in January, and that “no one would be allowed to create a hindrance in the transition to democracy” are welcome. They give an indication of the resolve to make a full return to the interrupted process of democracy. Given the examples that exist from the past, political parties would be well advised to participate in the process, rather than staging a boycott. Full participation by groups representing all shades of opinion is in fact the best way to strengthen the system “. The News (“Free Aitzaz Ahsan” 3rd Dec) puts an allegation ” Aitzaz is, by any yardstick, a popular politician, a brilliant orator and a successful lawyer — right now he is the man the government is so scared of that he has again been caged for 30 days. He is also a candidate in the Jan 8 election and how can he possibly woo his constituents if he is detained. This would suggest that what the government is doing in his case is nothing more than pre-poll rigging — and that too of the most blatant kind”. Next day The News ( Pressure cooker” 4th Dec) “The one issue on which every party is raising its voice loud and vociferously is the credibility of the regime to hold a genuinely free and fair election. This is the biggest challenge facing President Musharraf and he has already indicated that if the results of the Jan 8 poll are unacceptable, he may quit the scene. This may be seen as a sign of weakness but his best option as the civilian president of the country would be to honestly and sincerely rise above the political fray, stop patronizing some of his past allies, sit down with the main political leaders giving them due respect, create a transparent and fear-free atmosphere and that way he will make the elections non-controversial and more about issues rather than his own person”. Criticising boycott of elections The News (“Mr. Boycott ” 10th Dec) suggests” Boycott is much on the lips of politicians as we move towards the election of January 2008, and it as yet unclear which of the parties, if any at the end of a period of ritualized posturing, will boycott the polls. Boycotts have a very mixed history in terms of success, and any ‘boycott’ of the electoral process by the parties is likely to inflict greater wounds on themselves than on the institutions and processes they are boycotting. It could be argued that in the present case a boycott of the process would move those so engaged even further from the levers of power than they already are, and do little to revive their parties which are still recovering from years of absentee landlordism”.

On the subject of the disagreement among Nawaz and Bhutto camps, the Dawn (Split on boycott 8th Dec) evaluates the reasons as “Technically, the talks were held between the ARD and the APDM. But for all practical purposes it was the two former prime ministers who were exploring the possibility of adopting a joint stand on the general election. The ARD team was relatively homogeneous, but the diversity in the APDM delegation did not seem to have come in the way of a consensus within the Nawaz camp, Prof Khursheed Ahmad’s presence itself symbolizing the hard line adopted by the MMA’s Qazi faction. The two sides also have differed in their attitude towards President Pervez Musharraf. While Benazir Bhutto had implied that she was willing to work with a president out of uniform, Nawaz Sharif made it absolutely clear that President Musharraf, whether in or out of uniform, was not acceptable to him”. And in the end The Dawn validates Nawaz approach,” President Musharraf may be out of uniform, but the state machinery is not out of the dictatorial mode”.
In this feudalistic and capitalistic civilization of Pakistan, every facet of life is under their influence. It is evident in the days of elections when party tickets are given to this segment of society. Dawn (“Feudal stranglehold” 9th Dec) raises the curtain from the stage of upcoming parliament in these words ” OVER the decades, society in Pakistan has undergone many changes but one major component of our body politic has resisted all change: the feudal control of the country’s political institutions… According to the report, the three mainstream national parties — PPP, PML-N, PML-Q — and the Sindh-based PML-F have made no efforts to diversify class representation in parliament and have continued to give party tickets in overwhelming numbers to feudal lords”. The News (“Taking the lead” 2nd Dec) shows other side of the came coin in these words ” In recent years, the gradual disappearance of ideology — except that adhered to by religious parties — from politics in Pakistan has in fact left behind a situation where policies regarding key issues such as privatization, welfare and taxation no longer figure in electoral campaigns. Instead, the exercise has been reduced largely to tussles between powerful individuals, whose personal standing, influence and wealth decides the outcome of the contest for a particular seat. In other words, elections have become little more than a kind of wrestling contest between such ‘strong men’, and occasionally women, whose success or failure is at best only vaguely related to the programme of their parties”.

From the very beginning, foreign hands are involved in Pakistani politics. Dawn (“The real constituency?” 9th Dec) gives details of this situation. “ANSWERABILITY to the people is a basic tenet of democracy. True we are currently living in dictatorial times, but public opinion has been largely inconsequential in Pakistani politics even in times of democracy, engineered or otherwise. Our leaders in recent decades, be it Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif or Pervez Musharraf, have all looked to foreign shores for validation and subsequent consolidation of power. When out of office and on the wrong end of the power equation, our politicians make a beeline for Washington or London in an attempt to destabilise the incumbents in Islamabad. Their true constituency, it seems, is not the people of Pakistan but the US and its allies in Europe and the Middle East — and of course the GHQ in Rawalpindi, in some cases…. The image abroad is clearly more important than opinion at home. When elections can be rigged, losing votes and the confidence of the people is not a primary worry. Ours is a country that has imported two prime ministers, one from the World Bank in Washington and the other from Citigroup in New York. Yet, our leaders talk of ‘sovereignty’ and waste no opportunity to condemn foreign interference… We have only ourselves to blame for any meddling in our internal affairs. ‘Advice’ from overseas has been kowtowed to all along, so why should it be surprising that the Saudi envoy can meet Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry when former prime ministers of Pakistan and the deposed Chief Justice’s colleagues, friends and admirers cannot? Or that foreign diplomats have been dispensing advice to local politicians in the run-up to elections, or visiting the offices of media outlets banned under the emergency? The Turkish president recently met with leading Pakistani politicians, going so far as to coach them on how to deal with the military. No doubt he has some experience in this matter but purely in the context of Turkey”.

Criticizing the boycott politics and suggesting a way for political parties the Dawn (“PML-N in the field” 11th Dec) writes these lines” The boycott drama, which should have been behind us now, has taken a bizarre turn. Having failed to reach a consensus on the boycott issue in their critical meeting on Sunday, the APDM participants had glossed over their disagreements by announcing that all component parties were free to go their own way. Not to anyone’s surprise, the PML-N decided to enter the electoral fray only to find itself being thrown out of the APDM that Mian Nawaz Sharif had himself founded in July… How the participating parties fare in the elections now depends on numerous factors such as their ability to enter into seat-sharing arrangements, the position they adopt on the restoration of the pre-PCO judiciary in their election campaign, and their success in mobilising the voters who have been depoliticised over the years and are, by and large, apathetic and cynical vis-à-vis the game of politics that is being played out in the country”.

PML Q has designed its manifesto with 5 D’s and makes some promises with the nation. Dawn (“The manifesto season” 12th Dec) exposes the party in these words” The two leaders said the PML would never support the presidential system, even though the constitutional system as it exists today has been stripped of its parliamentary character and is presidential in all but name….Like all manifestos, the PML-Q’s programme contains aims and promises that, if fulfilled, can help end poverty, create equality, spread education, give the people a higher standard of living and take Pakistan into the 21st century. However, once in power, the parties tend to ignore their election pledges, and it is the bureaucracy that draws up and implements plans that often conform to the conditionalities imposed by the aid donors”. While The News (“The five D’s” 12th Dec) criticizes the same phenomena in these words ” It is also true that both the two detailed manifestos released so far, with their carefully planned words and their mottos, have something in them that resembles a charter put out by a group of boy scouts or some similar organization. There is something a little childish about the focus of the whole effort, particularly since the document, as is the case with the one by the PPP, makes no effort to provide insight into the ideological basis of the policies the parties hopes to follow, but reads essentially as a list of promises, or solemn pledges. This also says something about the wider role of manifestos in Pakistan’s politics. The fact is that the assertions made in these documents are rarely, if ever, implemented. And the knowledge of this reality is perhaps one of the reasons why parties can afford to allow so many high-sounding words and phrases to dominate them, confident that in a system where checks and balances have increasingly slipped away or been thrust aside, and the powers of people to retain or throw out leaders taken away from them by interventions from the outside, or tampering with the election process itself, they are unlikely to be called on to fulfill the promises made…. Whereas in its manifesto, and in the speeches made at its launch, party leaders of the PML-Q spoke of democracy within and outside the party, the reality is that during its five years in office, the party has done little to build such a culture”. And commenting on the manifesto of PML N the News (“Restoration theme” 17th Dec) writes these words” Using the acronym ‘RESTORE’, the PML-N has joined the sudden flurry of manifesto announcements by political parties, with the stress laid on the return of deposed judges and an end to the military’s role in politics. The seven letters in the word ‘RESTORE’ stand for restoration of the judiciary, democracy and the 1973 constitution; elimination of the military role in politics; security of life and property; tolerance; overall reconciliation; relief for the poor and education and employment. Like the ones announced by the PPP and the PML-Q over the past month, the agenda of the PML-N is quite obviously an impossibly ambitious one”.

Only lawyers are left to stick with their stand of boycott of elections. Rest of the main parties decided to take part in elections. Dawn (“Lawyers and boycott” 14th Dec) describe this situation as ” MR Aitzaz Ahsan’s decision to finally withdraw from the election seems to be in keeping with the legal community’s boycott of the Jan 8 vote. The lawyers’ stand is that those who are taking part in the general election are legitimising the Musharraf government…. The politicians have not shown unanimity on boycott. Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s decision to go for election has divided the MMA, and the boycott camp collapsed when the PML-N virtually defected to the other side. The boycott is now confined to the Jamaat-i-Islami, besides some small parties. The legal community’s principled stand against the president’s March 9 decision and the promulgation of the PCO will go down in history as unprecedented in terms of the sacrifices rendered. However, one often feels uncomfortable about the danger of the legal community getting politicized”. The News (“The middle path ” 7th Dec) raises the issue of the new Judiciary role in lection in these words ” It is a fact, and rightly pointed out by Mr Malik, that hundreds of district judges, additional district judges and civil judges throughout the country were transferred with immediate effect by the chief justices of provincial high courts just before the announcement of the election schedule. It is these lower court judges who will become returning officers and are crucial cogs in the electoral process. Appeals against their decisions will go to the high courts and the current Supreme Court, and all of these are now manned by judges who took a fresh oath under the PCO. Thus the entire election edifice has been constructed in such a manner that any unwanted political candidate can be excised from the process at any stage. That is where the system could be rigged as has been amply demonstrated by the rejection of nomination papers of both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif”. The News (” In the president’s court” 13th Dec) puts some light on the promices of Musharaf ” Thus the 2008 election is slowly moving to become what President Pervez Musharraf had once described as the ‘mother of all elections’. It is also reassuring that the president has stated publicly that he will accept the results and will try to work with anyone who comes to power after the elections. Though his claim that “I interact with people quite well, I am not such a trouble creator” may sound like an oversimplification or slightly optimistic, at least he seems to be sounding the right notes to work with a genuinely elected parliament….While Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif have to prove their strength in the polls, Mr Musharraf has a much more difficult task to accomplish. He has to prove his words, repeated frequently, that he is neutral and will not support any political party. This needs more than a few statements to establish, especially if one looks at the way state and government resources have been commandeered by the former Punjab chief minister as he and his party go about trying to gain an “upper hand” in the electorally-crucial province”.

Ms Bhutto analysis that the ousted judges were doing politics before the promulgation of the Nov 3 Provisional Constitution Order which sent them packing, and her claim that elections will not be fair, the Dawn (Bhutto’s strange logic” 15th Dec) gives history of emergence of political leadership in Pakistan. “A sense of wonderment must also be felt by many over her caveat that the Jan 8 election will be rigged. Is she the only one to be trusted in the whole game plan devised by the devil himself, as it were? This acute sense of paranoia is indeed unsettling…Ms Bhutto surely has a good memory but it tends to fade rather selectively. There has been a historical pattern whereby assertion of independence by civilian players never went unpunished; and the list is long. Of late, it is worth recalling that Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made his debut in politics under a martial law regime and assumed power after an election held under army rule. Mr Mohammed Khan Junejo was handpicked by Gen Ziaul Haq. Both asserted their independence in due course; Bhutto paid for it with his life, Junejo with his job only. Do not the ousted judges merit credit for their stand in 2007″? The News (“Principled step ” 15th Dec) on the other hand supports Civil Society and Lawyers movement and praises Aitaza Ahsan boycott of elections ” The decision taken by SCBA President Aitzaz Ahsan to withdraw nomination papers he had filed from a Lahore constituency as a candidate of the PPP, has immediately raised his status as a man of principle. Explaining his move, which deviates from the line of the party Aitzaz has been affiliated with for decades, he stated that he had decided to stand by the community of lawyers who had so bravely led the struggle for judicial independence”.

Predicting some facts about the next parliament Dawn (“Bhutto’s strange logic” 16th Dec) says” The amendments made in the Basic Law since Nov 3 cannot be undone, except by a two-thirds majority, and all indications are that the Jan 8 elections will give us a hung parliament in which the opposition will find it impossible to garner that many votes. In other words, the lower house that will come into being next month will be presented with a fait accompli. What position the PML (Q) will have in the assembly is difficult to say, but it should not be beyond the president’s power to manage a two-thirds majority with the help of the “king’s party” and those willing to go along. That the president chose not to do this, and the amendments have already become part of the Constitution show he has decided not to give the assembly even rubber-stamp status”. Next day in its editorial (Pakistan in its labyrinth), Dawn suggests that this situation is very helpless for the people of Pakistan, ” As far as the Jan 8 election is concerned, there was precious little in the president’s Saturday night speech to allay the opposition’s fears as to the polls’ transparency, even though Mr Musharraf has invited any number of foreign observers to witness the process. At the same time he made it amply clear that he will not allow any agitation or rejection of election results by anyone. Under the circumstances, poet Faiz’s prophetic lines come to mind: ‘Take a vow of fidelity or of separation, do as you please/ what do we control? What will you have us endorse?’ The people of Pakistan have never been this helpless in shaping their political destiny”. And on the same day in another editorial ” Voters’ list” The expresses its concern over the female voters participation in elections” Here it may be pointed out that an issue that needs to be addressed by the Election Commission and also the NGOs working at the grassroots level and civil society is that of the participation of women in the election process. Over the years more and more women have been taking part in the polls, thanks to the efforts of advocacy groups that have conducted consciousness-raising campaigns to educate women politically. But the aspect that gives rise to major concern is the fact that in some constituencies the female turnout has actually been nil. This has been attributed to a patriarchal culture with male elders forbidding women from casting their ballots. This is reprehensible. The Election Commission must look into this matter and take measures to pre-empt the use of social pressure to stop women from exercising their right to vote”.

Even Dawn criticism of the next hung parliament, it is in favor of taking part in elections.” Participation by a majority of the mainstream political parties in the election is the right decision, though the PPP and the PML-N have said that they are taking part under protest. As the big two failed to agree on a charter of demands as a prerequisite for their participation, the hope that the polls could be held under a more even-handed dispensation is now all but dashed. It is clear that those who have chosen to stay away have left the field open to their opponents, which may achieve little else besides disappointing their committed voters. The JI is perhaps atoning for its sin of being a party to the 17th Amendment and now refuses to do anything that might be seen as approving Mr Musharraf’s tailor-made system yet again. Mr Imran Khan and the nationalists have no faith left in the current system because they believe the next parliament, like the outgoing one, will remain under the president’s thumb”. While the News (“Role reversal” 11th Dec) after Nawaz decision to take part in in election, describe the next parliament in these words” In this situation, a dilemma also arises for the ruling group and indeed for President Musharraf. A two-third majority in the new assembly is essential for the presidential camp, so that the necessary parliamentary stamp of approval can be given to post-November 3 decisions. The decision by the PML-N to take part in polls makes this task harder — at least if a free and fair election is organized”.

Some political parties are expressing their concerns about rigging in election and making threats to launch agitation after election. Dawn (“Rigging and agitation” 21st Dec) recollects the history of Pakistani politics and gives direction for future “The government lifted the emergency on Dec 15, leaving only three weeks for campaigning. The business class is, of course, very happy with the government. The people might have remained poor, but the economic benefits to Pakistan in the aftermath of 9/11 have gone mostly to the business class, which has prospered at the people’s expense. For that reason, this class has no reasons to fund an anti-Musharraf (read anti-American) agitation. In fact, quite a few tycoons are contesting the elections and will most probably make it to parliament because of their power to buy votes. If, therefore, some parties are planning a popular agitation after the Jan 8 vote, they had better read the situation carefully. As the events since March 9 have shown, the lawyers’ and journalists’ agitation has failed to evoke a popular response, and it is unlikely that the people will respond zealously to an anti-government stir the way they did in 1977″.

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