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:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail