Time for Pak to embrace democracy

Tomorrow is a big day for Pakistan. We are finally going to have a transition albeit not a smooth one to democracy by holding elections after a civilian government completed its tenure. Had the circumstances been different, we would have celebrated this moment. Instead, we are quivering in fear.

These elections have been dubbed as the bloodiest in the history of Pakistan. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is targeting the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) left, right and centre. These three parties have not been able to campaign due to security threats. Punjab is the only province where we have seen proper electioneering.

No wonder then that people are asking whether it is an election or selection process. Rightist parties like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have not even condemned the Taliban for attacks against the three liberal parties.

They are making a huge mistake by thinking that they would be left unscathed supporting the terrorists. Attacks against political parties are in essence attacks on the democratic process itself. The TTP is against democracy, period. Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are living in a delusional world if they think the TTP can be reformed.

Yesterday, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son was abducted from Multan. People who criticise Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for not going out and campaigning on the streets should realise that the threat to his life is real. “One day I will also lead your (PPP’s) election campaign like Shaheed Bhutto and Shaheed BB.

We have to continue this democratic journey...but we are being stopped, we are being attacked, because we are not Zia’s remnants. We only have the masses,” said Bilawal in his video message. This is not far from the truth. There are threats of terrorist attacks on Election Day. We can only pray for the best but we know how terrorists have the capacity to strike at will. More violence is expected.

By Sunday, we should know which party has won the most seats and is in a position to form a government. So far it seems that no political party will get a clear majority so the next government will also be a coalition. There are fears that it would be difficult to form a coalition government in light of the political differences between the three main contenders, the PPP, the PML-N and PTI.

In such a scenario, the next government might not even last a year. It would give the establishment another chance to strike again. Direct military coup is not an option but a technocratic government cannot be ruled out. Keep in mind that 2014 is an important year for Pakistan’s national security apparatus because of US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It is important for all political parties to stick together and fight the undemocratic forces regardless of their ideology. The people of Pakistan should also unite in this fight against the terrorists. The terrorists want to stop us from voting but we have to exercise our right to vote in order to demonstrate our confidence in the democratic process. Pakistan’s survival depends on the survival of democracy.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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