FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Elections in Pakistan

by SUFYAN BIN UZAYR

Back in May, Pakistan went to the polls and elected members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies. Nawaz Sharif’s party, the PML-N, secured a comprehensive victory in the elections.

Thus, the 63-year old steel magnate, Sharif, was recently sworn in Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time in his political career that spans over three decades. In his address, among other things, Sharif talked about drone bombings and terrorism. Obviously, in a country that has seen numerous casualties and a good deal of collateral damage owing to Washington’s involvement in Afghanistan, it only makes sense for the Prime Minister to oppose drone bombings. But the challenge that lies for Nawaz Sharif is much greater than mere words.

To begin with, the apparently never-ending war in Afghanistan has caused enough damage to set into motion the notions of terrorism and extremism all throughout Pakistan’s tribal areas. Blame whoever you want — the US for its unfair wars, the Afghans for their, let us say (for lack of a better word) not-so-rational attitude, or the Pakistani tribal folks themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time — at the end of the day, drones kill people, and the Pakistanis too, just like any other nation, do not like being killed. The fact that Nawaz Sharif got an overwhelming majority and the voter turnout in the elections was well over 60% further shows that the Pakistani masses crave for a change — not necessarily the change Obama keeps promising; albeit a change where drones do not act as substitutes for alarm clocks and wake people up.

Coming back to the elections. Prior to the polls, almost every major pundit out there predicted a hung government or split verdict for Pakistan. After all, the country has had its share of weak democratic traditions, and the ethnic diversity in Pakistan is enough to create multiple regional parties. Apparently, PML-N’s victory has proven all of that wrong.

Come to think of it, the results are not that astonishing either. Even though the initial surveys were showing a visible favor towards Imran Khan’s PTI, PML-N defied the odds. More than half of Pakistani voters dwell in rural areas — areas that are dominated by headmen and chiefs, and like it or not, such headmen and chiefs are at better terms with the much older and more experienced PML-N than the relatively newer PTI. Anyway, if you are looking for a more sombre explanation, the fact that the country is marred by frequent power outages and acute electricity shortage also played a role in Sharif’s success — Imran Khan promised change, but Nawaz Sharif promised electricity, and when it comes to power crisis, rhetorical promises of change fall flat.

The question that now arises is, what next? Terrorism and power outages are not the only challenges before Sharif’s government. Sluggish economic growth, ever increasing unemployment, rampant corruption and energy crisis are just few of the many problems that Pakistan is currently facing. Add to it the fact that Pakistan has had a history of shaky democratic governments, and the Prime Minister’s post surely seems like a crown of thorns. Furthermore, Sharif’s own previous track record does not speak highly of him. This is his third tenure as the PM, and the earlier two terms were marked by cases of corruption and instability all around Pakistan. Intimidating judges, threatening officials, carrying out nuclear tests while the country suffers from poverty — you name it! PML-N’s earlier outings as the party in power have not be promising, to say the least. Oh while we are at it, let us not forget cases of nepotism. For the record, almost one-half of Sharif’s household and relatives enjoyed political positions in his last run at the office, and it goes without saying that hardly any of them enjoyed affection of the masses.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and right now, Sharif also seems to enjoy the respect of his rivals, coupled with the new democratic zeal that Pakistan is experiencing of late. Add to it the fact that Sharif currently enjoys a rather impressive majority in the Assembly, and you have every ingredient for a stable and successful government. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that it was Nawaz Sharif who played a key role in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997.

As of now, it makes little sense to expect miracles. There is nationwide consensus in Pakistan that the erstwhile PPP government did little to uplift the country from its sorry state. Instead, cases of corruption and NATO appeasement proved to be the nail in its coffin. The best thing for Pakistan is to expect that a comparatively less corrupt Sharif will provide a better government than PPP.

In terms of agenda, Sharif has talked a great deal: better ties with India, curbing terrorism and extremism, pursuing economic growth and solution to the energy crisis, as well as regional peace in South Asia. Ah… the utopia!

The last few years have been tough for Pakistan; so tough, that it can be argued that Pakistan’s hopes of becoming a regional hegemon seem to be fading away. Pursuing a friendly policy towards India is, thus, an obvious choice for Sharif. Similarly, staying aloof from extremists is no longer a luxury but a compulsion for any democratic government in Pakistan. Corruption and energy crisis are not issues that can be solved overnight — and assuming that Pakistan continues to struggle under the clutches of corruption, having a peaceful neighborhood may provide it the economic boost it needs (the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, for instance, can serve as an apt example of economic growth stemming out of regional co-operation).

Pakistan has served as a key player in the region for the past six decades, primarily due to its location and also due to its rather decent and interestingly cordial ties with mutually suspicious nations (China, USA, Russia, Central Asia and Middle East). Nawaz Sharif, as a result, has a great responsibility of bringing peace to Pakistan in particular and South Asia in general, and also countering extremism whilst saving democratic institutions in the country. Whether or not Sharif succeeds with his responsibilities is a question that only time can answer. For Pakistan’s and South Asia’s sake, let us pray he does.

About the author: Sufyan bin Uzayr is a writer based in India and the Editor of Brave New World (www.bravenewworld.in). He is associated with numerous websites and print publications and has also authored a book named “Sufism: A Brief History”. You can visit his website (www.sufyanism.com) or find him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sufyanism).

Sufyan bin Uzayr is a writer based in India and the Editor of Brave New World (www.bravenewworld.in). He is associated with numerous websites and print publications and has also authored a book named “Sufism: A Brief History”. You can visit his website (www.sufyanism.com) or find him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sufyanism).

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at sufyanism@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail