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Hopes and promises

Elections have taken place and – except for a few incidents of violence – they have been mainly peaceful. People were very keen and determined to vote. The last time I voted, the polling station had been deserted. But this time I had to stand in line for more than half an hour awaiting my turn. For me this was discomfort gladly borne as, after my slipped disc surgery, standing still for any length of time becomes painful.

First of all, I would like to congratulate all the successful candidates and their party leaders. Special kudos to Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif for performing better than all forecasts and expectations. Nawaz hit Imran for a sixer and now he won’t be able to play for the next five years! All jokes aside, had Imran not fallen from the lifter, his final rallies would probably have brought in a few more votes.

The ANP’s pro-US policies cost the party dearly. The PPP played it safe, pinning all its hopes on the next elections and thinking that by that time people would have forgotten its misdeeds. The party did manage to organise a well thought out psychological warfare against the Sharif brothers, but such tactics seem to work only in developed and advanced countries where they can turn the tables.

In our country, the most influential source of gaining votes is public meetings. Both the Sharifs and Imran Khan broke all previous records in doing so. They made whirlwind tours using planes, helicopters, cars, etc and sometimes addressed five or six meetings in a single day.

Years ago, all opinion polls for the upcoming elections in the UK gave the Labour Party a comfortable lead. Just one day before the elections a leading conservative paper put out a front page message that turned the tables completely. The message, a masterpiece in psychology, simply read: “Will the last Brit leaving the country switch off the lights, please?”

In a similar manner, President Clinton, when facing Bush who was basking in glory after the Gulf War, used the following as a motto: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ and turned the tables on the seemingly indomitable Bush Sr. President Obama’s slogan: ‘Change we can believe in’ earned him victory over his Republican opponent.

In our country slogans did not make the slightest change in the voters’ minds. They voted for already tried and tested people, even though these people did not have an enviable record. People preferred the old, overhauled Pakistan to a new, unknown one.

Here I would like to pay tribute to the Chief Election Commissioner Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim and his able and hard-working team. They were admirably helped by the Supreme Court, the army, the Rangers, the police and the administrative staff. There have been some reports of rigging at a few places, but considering the size of the country and a population of almost 185 million, these incidents can be rectified by re-elections in a few polling areas. That 60 percent of the eligible voters actually cast their votes is, to a great extent, due to the admirable work of the ECP.

The role of the media is also commendable. All anchorpersons, journalists, analysts, etc discussed the pros and cons of the performance of the various parties and their leaders. This made people aware of the importance and the sanctity of their votes and encouraged them to participate in the election. Some analysts identified the many problems faced by the country and advised on how these should be handled.

In Punjab, the PML-N is in a commanding position to form the government, with only a few more seats needed. There will be a PML-N government in Punjab, a PPP government in Sindh while Balochistan will probably have a coalition government. The PTI has the right to form a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but in politics mathematics often doesn’t work while intrigues do. The Americans, the Europeans and the army might not like the PTI to govern in KP because of Imran Khan’s anti-American stance. If this happens, it will be a blow to the democratic process in our country.

Nawaz Sharif is in a comfortable position to form the federal government, if some independents agree to join him. The tricky question will be the selection of the leader of the opposition. My guess is he won’t let Imran Khan occupy this position and the PPP, together with the MQM, will be in a comfortable position to do so. By being sidelined at the centre (and, to some extent in KP), Imran will be neutralised for the next five years.

As far as the position of the PM is concerned, Mian Sahib’s long cherished dream has been fulfilled. The signing of the Charter of Democracy, the alliance with the PPP, the ‘friendly opposition’ and the 18th Amendment all contributed to achieving his goal. All the credit goes to Mian Shahbaz Sharif for his good performance in Punjab, to the dismay of many of his opponents. However, I have always praised him for this.

A number of analysts, media persons and admirers of Nawaz Sharif are claiming that he is a different person now than he was 20 years ago, and that he has learnt from his past mistakes and won’t repeat them. One can only hope and pray that this may be so and I wish Mian Sahib all the best for the next five years. He will have to work very hard and only good governance will be the deciding factor.

But for good governance he will have to shed his excess baggage, viz the sycophants who surround him and give him wrong advice. He should listen to the advice of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, which will be sincere and honest – without ulterior motives.

During the Cuban crisis all the ‘hawks’ advised President Clinton to go for confrontation (and WW III) with Russia. Only Robert Kennedy advised him to give Russia enough space for face-saving disengagement. This resulted in guarantees to Russia that the US would not topple Castro by force or subversion. Missiles were withdrawn and the world saved from a nuclear holocaust.

Pakistan needs technocrats who can deal with the most pressing problems like energy, education, science and technology, economy, agriculture and population and find a solution. As in developed countries, the projects and programmes in Pakistan run by various ministries should be left to competent technocrats and bureaucrats.

Finally, it would be a good idea for our respected and noted analysts, like Dr Farrukh Saleem, Ansar Abbasi, etc to keep a record of the promises made by the incoming rulers, especially those made during these last three months. Their performance can then be evaluated every six months or so to see what their strengths and shortcomings are. This would be in the public interest.

Email: dr.a.quadeer.khan@gmail.com

Dr A Q Khan, "Hopes and promises," The News. 2013-05-20.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political process , Political leaders , Policy-United States , Government-Pakistan , Elections , Violence , President Obama , President Bush , Shahbaz Sharif , Nawaz Sharif , United States , Pakistan , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , PPP , ANP , ECP