The country goes to poll on May 11, 2013 to elect the new democratic government for the next five years. The Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso have already assured the people of Pakistan that fair and free elections will be held.
However, the ground reality might be different.
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other right-wing parties have enjoyed large public gatherings in Punjab, while other liberal political parties mainly, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and Baloch nationalist parties have been reduced to conducting Skype conferences and small corner meetings in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Furthermore, religious militant groups such as the Taliban have publicly claimed the responsibility for the killings of electoral candidates of ANP, MQM and political workers of the PPP. These terror threats have made PPP, ANP, MQM and Balochistan nationalist parties unable to hold large public gatherings in their respective provinces. Aside from Punjab, bomb blasts have become a routine part of the daily life in the remaining three provinces of the country.
The unabated attacks on the political activities of the PPP, ANP, MQM and Baloch nationalist parties have multiplied the concerns of Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Mahajirs and Balochis who now raise serious questions of the credibility of the upcoming elections without their active participation in the election process.
Conspiracy theorists believe that if the terror that is engulfing Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan isn’t put to a halt before the elections, the affected political parties may possibly boycott the elections.
Although this seems unlikely now, if the polls go ahead under the current circumstances, I am certain that the affected political parties will lose the election contest.
The wounded parties have never been in such a critical situation before; should they go through with the elections or pull out of them?
Let’s suppose, if they go to poll with the current threats imposed on them, it is likely that they will lose the election to form a central government, however if they boycott the elections, the emergency may possibly get imposed for two to three years and the establishment will provide enough time for its favourite party to prepare to win the upcoming elections for the next government.
This means that none of the affected political parties want the elections to get delayed.
Thus, the question to ask here is, what stance needs to be taken by the affected political parties to bear the least dent instead of the full damage?
The affected political parties seem to have understood that they are the least favourite parties of the elite ruling class. However, despite this, they are trying their best to be part of the central government. They seem determined not to lose their credible chance to form provincial governments in their respective provinces which would keep them politically alive to stay in touch with their constituents for the next elections.
Moreover, it is believed that the attacks on secular parties is only going to intensify in the upcoming days in order to make them boycott the elections- if not, then they will try their best to keep their supporters to stay home on election day to increase the chances of the affected political parties to lose the elections in both houses.
However, the effected political parties believe that if they are not able succeed to form a government in the centre, they will surely be able to form provincial governments in their respective provinces; therefore, they seem determined not to boycott the elections despite the tragic bombings on their political offices and on their party workers.
There are strong indications that if the affected parties are unable to secure enough seats to form provincial government, they will refuse the results of the elections and declare it as biased, tailored and illegible. This will ultimately put a big question mark on the free, fair and transparent elections.
They will also start protesting in their provinces to pressurise the interim government to immediately announce a new date for the elections which will result in providing an opportunity for the international community to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan.
The political instability in the three provinces mentioned will compel the state establishment to either persuade the newly elected prime minister (most probably Nawaz Sharif) to go for a new election date or to declare emergency in place to bring the political chaos under control.
Therefore, the next few days appear to be very crucial. Either Pakistan will go down a democratic path or it will face further political anarchy as the elite ruling class can’t deprive Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Mahajirs and Balochis of their genuine political rights on the pretext of terror.
The article was originally published on The Express Tribune on 10th of May 2013.