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

August 31, 2016
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Human Shields as Preemptive Legal Defense for Killing Civilians
Jim Kavanagh
Turkey Invades Syria, America Spins The Bottle
Dave Lindorff
Ukraine and the Dumbed-Down New York Times Columnist
Pepe Escobar
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, a Woman of Honor, Confronts Senate of Scoundrels
Jeff Mackler
Playing the Lesser Evil Game to the Hilt
Steve Horn
Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit
Patrick Cockburn
Has Turkey Overplayed Its Hand in Syria?
John Chuckman
Why Hillary is the Perfect Person to Secure Obama’s Legacy
Manuel E. Yepe
The New Cold War Between the US and China
Stephen Cooper
Ending California’s Machinery of Death
Stacy Keltner - Ashley McFarland
Women, Party Politics, and the Power of the Naked Body
Hiroyuki Hamada - Ikuko Isa
A Letter from Takae, Okinawa
Aidan O'Brien
How Did Syria and the Rest Do in the Olympics?
David Swanson
Arms Dealing Is Subject of Hollywood Comedy
Jesse Jackson
The Politics of Bigotry: Trump and the Black Voter
August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail