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August 13, 2014

The rigging Khan doesn't see

Opinion

August 13, 2014

This was discussed before in this column - the shifting of the coordinates of the political pendulum in Pakistan over the years completely to the Right and the pendulum oscillating between the Right, Further-Right and Ultra-Right.
Ideologically, both in terms of the interpretation and use of religion in legal and public spheres and in the way neo-liberal economic principles are pursued by all and sundry, there is not a single party with any significant following which can claim leftist credentials in the true ideological sense. The PPP, the MQM, the NP and the ANP have a somewhat more inclusive outlook but they have drifted towards the Right particularly in terms of the economic principles of globalisation, rent seeking enveloped in the functioning of capital and financial markets, free flow of capital, real-estate development and the kind of trading that favours the rich.
All our parties, without exception, bend over backwards to uphold neo-liberal principles. Even when some like the PPP do try to strike a balance between neo-liberalism and social democracy, neo-liberalism prevails at the end of the day. This consensus has helped various governments mobilise the international financial institutions to their benefit as well.
The general elections held last year translated that ideological shift in paradigms into numbers in parliament and in provincial assemblies. Barring Sindh, where the PPP gained simple majority, it is the pure right-wing parties who made it to power. Balochistan is unique that it has a nationalist cum quasi-social democratic party running the government on the props of the right-wing PML-N.
However, it is the political pendulum and the economic paradigm of the leadership and elite decision-makers in political parties – grossly influenced by branded clerics and neo-liberal economic managers – that has seen a complete shift towards the Right. Not necessarily the opinion of people at large, their desires and aspirations, dreams

and plans, analysis and world view have completely shifted to the Right. They may not be able to express and articulate it due to the absence of an effective platform or platforms and so remain voiceless at the moment.
Those who such people have traditionally considered lesser evil if not good – political parties that somewhat believe in more inclusion and pluralism for all citizens irrespective of their faith, and, also strive to create more jobs or subsidies for the poorer segments of society – were virtually disallowed to campaign for the general elections of 2013.
When speaking of a level playing field and reforms in the electoral process, what people like Imran Khan will never dare say is that the first pre-poll rigging that happened in Pakistan before the 2013 general elections and went to his PTI’s and the PML-N’s combined favour was the violence perpetuated against the ANP and the massive security risks created for the PPP across Pakistan by terrorists.
The TTP had openly threatened and, in fact, executed many of these threats against the ANP, the PPP and the MQM. They had said that they did not want these parties to campaign for the elections. There was an internal contradiction though. On the one hand, the TTP etc rejected the constitution and democracy as a political system. But on the other hand, they wanted only the right-wing parties to contest.
The ANP lost more than 700 of its workers during the last few years including scores of leaders, candidates and workers who were murdered in the run up to the elections. The ANP’s top leadership was attacked, its ministers and advisers or their close family and associates killed, its meetings bombed and its workers kidnapped or killed. The ANP’s rival in Karachi, the MQM also suffered at the hands of the TTP and other such outfits. The MQM, which itself has a chequered past when it comes to violence in politics, was seen as a liberal political outfit by religious terrorists and was therefore under threat.
The PPP’s former prime minister who was the party’s mainstay in the Seraiki Waseb of Punjab, Yusuf Raza Gilani, dealt with a severe blow when his younger son was kidnapped three days before the elections. The party cadre and voters were terrorised. After losing Benazir Bhutto at the hands of terrorists and hundreds of workers in Karachi and Rawalpindi in lethal firing and bomb blasts, it was not advisable for Bhutto’s young son – the symbolic head of the party at the time – or her daughters to move freely and campaign for the party across Pakistan.
The PPP has the largest share in numbers of slain workers, tortured leaders and workers, and disenfranchised voters. Over the years, it is the only party to have lost two of its heads in succession besides seeing the most high-profile assassinations. In such circumstances, it faced the threats of the TTP and other terrorist outfits.
When the Taliban and other militant religious outfits were attacking the ANP and PPP, there was no regret or remorse ever shown by the right-wing political parties of Pakistan. When they would condemn the murder of someone like Bashir Bilour or Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s son, they would stop short of taking the name of, and condemning, the perpetrators even if someone had claimed responsibility.
Gilani had publicly transferred decision-making power about the operations in KP and Fata to COAS Kayani soon after coming to power. Swat was cleared in 2009 but Fata kept burning. When the ANP was scorching under the Taliban sun, the PML-N was requesting the Taliban to spare Punjab (saying they shared the same faith and religious ideology).
During these times, Imran Khan was being seen as the TTP’s man, not just by his critics but by the TTP itself. After all, how could anybody forget that the TTP had nominated him to hold dialogue with the government of Pakistan on their behalf? In the august company of Maulana Samiul Haq (JUI-S), Mufti Kifayatullah (JUI-F), Maulana Abdul Aziz (Lal Masjid) and Prof Mohammed Ibrahim (JI) – men who were always clear in what they want both state and society to become – Imran Khan was the only mainstream right-wing politician.
Living up to his reputation of confusion about who to finally stand with, he budged and refused to represent the TTP. Later, he further budged and now says little about the carpet bombing of North Waziristan and the subsequent movement of our ground troops there. He campaigned against drones that struck with far more precision compared to aerial bombing by an air force. This time it is not confusion, it is expediency. He doesn’t want to make the military unhappy, of course.
Coming back to the 2013 general elections in Pakistan; in the run up to the elections, the military was being hit and not hitting back. The military and law-enforcement agencies were themselves being hit but their leadership had left the government institutions and the citizens of Pakistan at the mercy of terrorists. The PML-N was not only shying away from taking the terrorists on in Punjab, it was requesting to be kind to their rule and to their party. The PTI leadership was openly sympathetic to the terrorists. The PPP and ANP were continuously threatened and hit since they were speaking out against the terrorist outfits. Their governments served under a weak state that could neither defend its institutions nor protect its citizens. They were not allowed to properly canvass and campaign.
It is not important if they won or lost. It was not a level playing field. That was the worst pre-poll rigging that happened in 2013 which Imran Khan will never speak about. Is it confusion Khan Sahib or expediency?
The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]