Choose wisely

General elections in Pakistan are just around the corner. Everyone is waiting to see which party will be able to form the next government. Chances of a hung parliament are quite high as no political party is in a position to win a simple majority. While the real battle is between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), all eyes are on Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to see how much of an impact PTI’s recent rise in popularity will have on election results. Most political pundits are of the view that Mian Nawaz Sharif can become the next prime minister of Pakistan but it largely depends on voter turnout as well as how voters in Punjab, especially in urban Punjab, choose to vote.

PTI is expected to cut into PML-N’s traditional vote, i.e. centre-right and rightwing vote but another factor that goes in Khan’s favour is the youth vote. There is a large section of population under 35 years of age in Pakistan. At least 20 percent are between the 18-25 years old. A product of Pakistan’s inadequate education system with few job prospects, these youngsters have grown up espousing religious nationalism and anti-Americanism. Imran has been quick to respond to his youthful constituency.

Both PTI and PML-N have adopted a vague approach on terrorism and the Taliban. It is because of this ambiguity that these two parties are not being targeted by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) whereas the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have directly been threatened by the TTP because of their liberal and secular ideology as well as for taking an anti-Taliban position. These three parties cannot campaign freely due to security concerns, which in itself is pre-poll rigging.

Attacks on ANP rallies have become a usual occurrence, more so during the election season. MQM has decided to temporarily shut down its election offices after several attacks on party workers. PPP’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is unable to directly lead his party’s election campaign in the wake of security threats. What is appalling is the silence of PML-N and PTI in this regard. Irrespective of their political rivalries and different ideologies, the least these parties could have done was to show solidarity with their political counterparts by condemning TTP threat and attacks against the PPP, ANP and MQM.

All those who are either justifying these threats for one reason or another and/or are silent spectators should be ashamed of themselves. If we do not stand by them in these difficult times, we are as guilty as those who are out to get them. If PML-N and PTI think that by remaining silent, they will somehow save themselves from the wrath of the Taliban, they are in for a surprise. TTP and their ilk are against the very idea of democracy. They consider the electoral process un-Islamic. Negotiating with the Taliban is not a solution. Make no mistake, they are our enemies. Those who support them directly or indirectly and those who choose to ignore their terrorist activities are guilty of strengthening the undemocratic forces. We have two choices now: disorder or development. Pakistanis must choose a side and choose it wisely, for our future depends on it.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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