Wishful thinking versus reality

Published: May 28, 2013

The writer is a London-based lawyer and tweets @ayeshaijazkhan

The elections are over. Many thought Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N would emerge as the winning party but few could have predicted a sweeping victory. On the other hand, the PPP has seen a rout in the 2013 elections while the PTI has won enough seats to form the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) but could not rival the PML-N nationally. Post-elections commentary is mostly optimistic, some even euphoric. Yet, I see little cause to celebrate. It may be well and good that a civilian government completed its term, was booted out electorally due largely to poor performance and that the incoming government is not a weak coalition cobbled together but one that has a clear mandate for an established party that could theoretically deliver. However, there is much to despair as well. The recent elections were the bloodiest ever. Certain parties were targeted, their workers and candidates killed and kidnapped, reportedly because of their liberal and secular stance.

Although much ado had been made of an impartial Election Commission, headed by a widely respected figure, Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, little action was taken by him or the commission to level the playing field when some parties could not campaign for fear of their lives, while others canvassed unabated. In the public at large as well, there was little love lost for those politicians who suffered the brunt of the targeting. Perhaps, they were so despised for not delivering basics that the average citizen could not muster any sympathy for those widely believed to have usurped state resources for personal aggrandisement, while the rest are left to 15 hours of power cuts. But there is a danger in such apathy, for it emboldens those who target and the culture of violence takes root. It may be Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son or Ghulam Ahmad Bilour’s brother today but tomorrow, it could very well be those who have just been voted in.

Much is being written on the enhanced voter turnout and the increased awareness and politicisation of the historically apolitical, often referred to in good-natured Pakistani humour as the ‘burgers’. This is all good for democracy and the country we are told, but I am not sold on this logic. Rigging is not new in Pakistan. Surely, it shouldn’t happen but shouldn’t the priority be pre-poll rigging in the form of target-killing or signed agreements disenfranchising the entire female population in certain areas of our country?

Imran Khan is often credited for mobilising the ‘burgers’. Previously disinterested in politics, they fell for Imran’s mantra that the choice was “no longer between left and right but between right and wrong”. His followers, whether 16 or 60, seem to have imbibed that rhetoric and viewed this election as a choice between good (Imran/PTI) and evil (tried and tested parties). The reality, however, is that politics is not about good and evil or right and wrong but about ideological positions. Granted that it’s not just the PTI that is ideologically wanting, Pakistan’s other political parties have also lost their way ideologically, relying instead on patronage and constituency politicians, who hover from party to party, remaining in government incessantly. Thus, though we may see a rotation of political parties through elections, we are far from seeing a new vision or positive change.

The PML-N has rightly been talking about fixing the economy on a priority basis but I wonder if their better minds are able to make the connection between combating terrorism and improving the economy. Often, they seem to have the cause and effect reversed, thinking that an improved economy would result in less terrorism, when in fact it may be very difficult to revive the economy without first tackling terrorism. What’s worse is that since both the PML-N and the PTI are soft on terrorism and have cultivated populism by promising an end to “America’s war”, a wishful segment of the population will continue to expect this of them. It remains to be seen whether they will change their stance when reality strikes or continue to call each other out on showing some ghairat.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2013.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (11)

  • startrek
    May 28, 2013 - 11:16PM

    The cause of failure as a nation is due to the lack of incentives we Pakistanis have as is shown in this article.The bigest problem that this country face is poor economy and that is the direct reusult of terrorism.To adress economy curbing terrorism thus becomes an utmost necessity which coming government can not avoid no matter whatsoever is pmln politicle stand is on the root cause of terrorism.I can foresee massive crack down on forcess responsible for terrorism.This country is blessed with smart people who can take this country to better future.I believe Nawaz Sharif is the one who can do miracles if he shows better statesmenship taking Army in confidence.Hypocrites must be defeated who have brought down moral of this nation appering on print and electronic media.Shame on these hypocrites with their mantra of ‘clean politics’.


  • gp65
    May 28, 2013 - 11:32PM

    Very thoughtful editorial. But I would not minimize the empowering impact that the public has experienced of throwing out parties that showed poor governance. OF course there is a long distance to traverse on the path which Pakistan has started and the issues that you highlighted have to be addressed along the way. Good luck Pakistan – I hope you do not get waylaid this time..


  • Kohatian
    May 29, 2013 - 10:43AM

    Its a good attempt, but there are few things I would like to reply to as a “Pashtoon” and resident of KPK who hails from a middle class educated family.

    We do acknowledge that ANP has lost many workers and few from the top leadership too because of violence thrust upon them because of their liberal views. But, this is not enough and we can’t afford another 5 years of same level corruption. The voter of KPK is mostly free, and in the end no one enforces him to vote for a particular party. We don’t expect Imran Khan to do miracles in 90 days, but we do expect him to show us that he is working hard by constantly delivering. At the moment, there are positive vibes as well as negative vibes but still the situation is much better than many last post-elections.


  • Nida Ali
    May 29, 2013 - 11:11AM

    Either the author could not read the numerous survey results of Gallup, IRI, The Economist etc predicting clear landslide victory for PML-N or she deliberately kept her eyes closed to continue living in dreamland.

    It is always the Economy that drives other areas. The reason behind sudden rise of Arab Spring was economic miseries, when an unemployed vendor set himself on fire.
    The Scandinavian countries are peaceful because of economic prosperity, where the State takes care of social welfare of masses. There was no terrorism inside former USSR but it still collapsed because of economic miseries. As Bill Clinton had rightly said, “its economy, stupid”.

    PMLN has clean-swept the elections because of its clear cut stance on economic reforms.


  • Parvez
    May 29, 2013 - 1:46PM

    You have so correctly called it like it is.
    All the champions of the so called democratic system are scratching their heads because they see no substantial change. The same beneficiaries of the old system are back with a small exception and the politics of patronage remains strong. For this I blame the ECP and our judiciary for not doing what they could and should have done.


  • May 29, 2013 - 3:41PM

    Well written article. However, why would you not name the parties who were in your words “Certain parties were targeted,…”? Whereas, you name both the PTI and PML-N, you have chosen not to name the parties that were targeted.

    It is a well written piece. However, it also seems as if there is an attempt to promote PTI albeit disguised as a neutral observer. I could be wrong, but there is a strong chance for that. :)


  • May 29, 2013 - 3:43PM

    You also mention good and evil and pair the two with Imran/PTI and tried-and-tested respectively. What gives?


  • Maula Jat
    May 29, 2013 - 5:12PM

    There must be a disconnect between how the literati and the common citizens interpret the election results? The common people other than PTI supporters did not have any exalted expectations, so they are more cool about the outcome. The educated will dissect, split and extrapolate. You may not agree but some khakis call it “paralysis by analysis”.


  • Mirza
    May 29, 2013 - 7:51PM

    A sane analytical Op Ed. I agree with the author and thanks for being objective. My detailed comments were not included, just wanted to say thanks for being fair.


  • Raja Islam
    May 30, 2013 - 8:33PM

    In my opinion the biggest fallout of this election was the ethnicization of politics in Pakistan. PPP being the only national party was put to rout. If you look at the voting patterns, Punjabis voted for PML, Pathans for PTI, Sindhis for PPP, Balouchs for nationalists and the Mohajirs for MQM. This does not bode well for the country.

    In terms of priorities, nothing will change. The focus needs to be on law, order and justice, elimination of corruption and then liberalization of the economy. As long as vested interests rule, whosoever is in government will continue to pander to the interests of individuals and the state of lawlessness and corruption will remain.


  • Ali S
    May 31, 2013 - 12:33AM

    In the article, the author said “The reality, however, is that politics is not about good and evil or right and wrong but about ideological positions.”

    The reality is that politics in Pakistan is largely divided among ethnic and demographic lines. PML-N is admittedly the most popular party in Pakistan by far, but that has very little to do with their ideological stance.


More in Opinion