Pakistan: A House Deeply Divided


Make no mistake. The 11 May General Election has sharply divided Pakistan. The back-slapping commentariat has been congratulating fellow Pakistanis for democratically voting out a government. Before the end of the next week, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has won the most seats in the National Assembly, will become prime minister. This election is being touted as a deepening of representative democracy in Pakistan because it is the first-ever “smooth” transition from one elected civilian government to another.

But in truth, as with many elections in Pakistan in the past, this time, too, there is widespread belief that the results have been manipulated. Of course, it may never be known if the charge is accurate or not. It must be stressed though that the world would be in error if it believed that Pakistanis see this election much differently from the past ones. They don’t. Perhaps they are angrier than in the past as for the first time the charge that an elector may have rigged the vote is the elephant in the room. In a rush to hail Pakistan’s arrival as a nation of elections, no one wants to talk of vote manipulation.

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If chance will have him king Embracing the future, while stuck in the past
An old war horse make s a bid to become Pakistan’s prime minster a third time since 1990. All he needs is to not be bowled by the cricketer | By Jason Burke Sharif and Imran hardsell a naya Pakistan, but remain tight-lipped about the details | By Ayesha Siddiqa
“My brothers,” calls the rotund, balding, middle-aged man on the stage. The words, distorted by a poor public address system, are barely audible. “My brothers,” crackles again across the stadium in Sargodha, a nondescript small city in central Punjab, Pakistan. The stadium is ringed with trees and birds flap overhead. In the distance there are the craggy hills of the salt range against a setting sun. “Today I feel a revolution has come to this town,” the man is saying. “I have a passion for change. Is it not change that has come? Am I not a revolutionary?” There is a lot of visible excitement in the streets of most urban centres in Pakistan. The last time there was even greater public involvement was during the 1970 election when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto promised change for the betterment of the downtrodden people against the 21 rich families of the country. The 11 May election is accompanied with a lot of passion and expectation of a naya (new) Pakistan, which is expected to be different from a corruption-ridden country led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Nawaz Sharif, in a white salwar kameez and a brown waistcoat, raises both arms. Earlier, an excited warm-up speaker had informed the crowd in hushed admiration that Sharif had asked for the glass plates protecting the rostrum from sniper fire to be removed. The 63-year-old tycoon glances down at his notes and calms noisy supporters at the front of the crowd with a downward movement of his palms.
In the past five years, the term ‘Zardari’ has become synonymous with financial mismanagement on an enormous scale and poor governance. Notwithstanding deliberate and focussed propaganda against one party, the PPP and its leadership ought to share the blame for mismanaging the country. Moreover, its leadership was almost absent from the lives of ordinary people.
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