By Naeem Tahir
May 11, 2013
The centrist/liberal are attacked and harassed, candidates killed, justice made a joke and revenge is prevalent
As this article appears you may be preparing to cast your vote. As I sat down to collect my thoughts for this article I noticed a headline on the front page of a newspaper: “ANP candidate and son shot dead in Karachi.” A lot of blood continued to be shed afterwards.
Terrorist actions continued. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and even the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) have been targets of terror and injustice in every possible way. These centrist political parties are traditionally tolerant, progressive and hail from the middle classes. The Awami National Party (ANP) has lost most lives, the MQM is a close second followed by the PPP and APML. While the APML has not yet lost lives but its office bearers have been kidnapped, offices attacked, women harassed and workers jailed and injured. Above all, the treatment meted out to the APML chief, Syed Pervez Musharraf, makes fair-minded people hang their heads in shame, even if they had differences with him. The so-called ‘justice’ appears more like ‘revenge’.
The ANP, MQM and PPP have lost lives and property; they are old parties and have the resilience to continue and contest elections, but the APML, not even three years old, found it impossible with their leader in Adiala Jail and cut off from all public contact. He is restrained from contesting elections and from public access. One judge in Peshawar has gone beyond his legal jurisdiction and powers to declare Musharraf disqualified for life! When a judge goes beyond his powers he is only showing an inclination for revenge and one is reminded of the expression ‘kangaroo courts’. Therefore, the APML has announced its decision to boycott the elections 2013, although it had over 100 candidates for the National Assembly and some 300 for the Provincial Assemblies. The Awami Tehrik of Dr Tahirul Qadri also announced a boycott a long time ago.
Only two parties have been able to campaign peacefully. It seems they have a clear understanding with the Taliban, their associates and terror outfits. Seemingly, a part of the Taliban system is the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and its support of the Taliban has been continuous for over 15 years. It funded Jamat ud Dawa, a banned outfit, with the Punjab government budget; it greets the terrorists when they are released from jails, supports their families, and has given a party ticket to one of them.
I am reminded of the experience of a very distinguished barrister who was asked by a terrorist to take up his cases. Here is the story: a heavily built, and heavily bearded man walked into the office of the barrister and wanted to engage him for defence against any objections to his candidature. The barrister asked the ‘candidate’ if he had ever been convicted. The candidate denied that. The barrister asked if there were any cases, past or present. The candidate said, “Yes, but no conviction.” The barrister took notes and took some time for deliberation. The candidate went away in his formidable entourage of SUVs and lethal weapon bearers. The barrister investigated and found out that the candidate had never been convicted because there were no witnesses. He also found out that over 10 witnesses against the candidate had been murdered before they could record evidence. The barrister decided not to take this case.
The PML-N has support of such powerful elements so that it carries its campaign peacefully. The PPP seems bent to expose this party with published evidence but the PPP itself is under attack and handicapped by its extremely poor performance, internal split, and lack of unifying leadership.
The other party carrying out its campaign energetically is Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The PTI is safe from terrorists because it sympathises with the Taliban thinking and Taliban issues. At this time he needs power and can promise anything to get it. He also has the advantage of minimum baggage from the past. Intermittently, he keeps issuing statements to appease the Taliban outfits. He speaks against drones, and the war on terror. He has also included his prayer pictures in publicity, to reinforce a ‘rightist’ image. He has built up a campaign and motivated the urban voter. His accidental fall was unfortunate; it hurt him but not his vote bank.
Therefore, the fight is symbolically between the ‘bat’ and the ‘cat’ (the lion belongs to the cat family), or in Urdu ‘balla vs billi’. The two parties of the ‘right’ on one side, and the centrist, liberal, and tolerant parties on the other. The latter group are a target of terror, oppression and suppression. The rightists and pro-Taliban have a complete free hand.
The centrist/liberal are attacked and harassed, candidates killed, justice made a joke and revenge is prevalent! Rightists and extremists have full freedom in electoral campaigns, and recorded terrorists are allowed to contest. This is the reality of the ‘free and fair’ elections promised to us by the Election Commission and the interim government for 2013.
Still, go and vote. Take your best choice. If that is not available then take the second best and if you do not even find that then put your vote in the cancelled vote list! Even that is one way of expressing your will, but vote one should. A cancelled vote will show your lack of confidence in the system or support of the boycotting parties, i.e. the APML and Awami Tehrik.
In any case, the listed and recorded terrorists who are contesting elections must be noted. I gave that list in my article last week. Do not vote for them, unless you support them or share their thinking and want them to win.
At the end of the day, when the result comes in, it may indicate a hung parliament. No one party with a clear mandate. If the PTI succeeds and gets more seats than the others, it can claim a share in the government. However the ‘change’ so heavily publicised may only be towards ‘Talibanisation’. The best part could be if a new government with PTI can check the massive syndicate of the corruption mafia, and control revengeful courts to ensure justice.
Naeem Tahir is the former CEO Pakistan National Council of the Arts; Chairman Fruit processing Industries; Chairman UNESCO Theatre Institute Pakistan; COO ‘ICTV’ USA, and currently, Senior Vice President APML (Central).