By Islamuddin (Comment)
Pakistan’s just concluded historic elections billed by some as most transparent and by others as managed to benefit the forces of status quo have repeated the results of 2008 elections for Chitral with one change.
The highly educated and respected professional Ifikharuddin has succeeded his father as the new MNA on the platform of APML, and the two provincial seats have been retained by PPP and APML (then called PML-Q) though with reduced majority. It is a bit confusing that General Musharaf had called for boycotting the elections to demand a fair deal and level-playing field for his party and for this purpose had called upon his workers to hold sit- in in front of the polling stations on the polling day. However, his party in Chitral chose to contest the elections to capitalize on his popularity as the architect of the Lowari Tunnel. As expected, the decision paid dividends except on PK-89 where the APML candidate lost. The fact the people came out to vote for Musharaf despite the boycott either shows the lack of political awareness among the people or the boycott was not meant for Chitral. It is yet to be seen as to what political and legal implications this will have for those elected on the APML ticket.
PTI made significant gains in terms of attracting votes despite the fact that it was newly organized and ill prepared to reach every area of the district for electioneering. After election of its office-bearers the party was left with very little time to prepare for the general elections. However, its campaign did attract public attention especially among the youth although it could not be converted into vote power due to poor planning, motivated volunteers or resource constraint. Despite its failure to get any seat in these elections, the party has proved its potential to fill the vacuum created by the decline of PPP. Another popular candidate, Shahzada Amanur Rehman, also failed to convert his popular support into vote power for the same reasons that afflicted the PTI.
Overall, these elections have wiped out PPP and ANP from the landscape of the two northern provinces, creating an impression that Punjabi chauvinism is there to stay and this coupled with Mohajir chauvinism is likely to harm national identity if saner voices did not prevail. If this trend is allowed to continue, Chitralis will also have to think on similar lines to protect their interests and cultural identity. Another significant fallout of this election is the rising impression that progressive and liberal forces are fast disappearing from our active political scene giving way to conservative and retrogressive elements. The PTI will have to move from the right to the center left to present an image of a social democratic party to fill the gap and provide a platform to the people committed to this ideology. It is time that farsighted and budding politician like Iftikharuddin should develop a strategy to protect the long-term interests of Chitral rather than getting into the corridor of power on crutches provided by others. Musharaf is not likely to create any impact on the politics of Pakistan and has no political role in future. Therefore, by using this election as a spring board Iftikhar should put his act together and plan to play durable role in the politics of Chitral and outside Chitral on a more permanent footing as becoming a maverick will not suit his stature and expectations that Chitralis pin on him. The PTI on its part should overcome its organizational weaknesses and project a united stand to evoke confidence in the people especially the youth. The commitment of its leaders should not be driven by desire to get into power but by passion to work for its vision and ideology which needs to be modified to make it a center left social democratic party like the Labour Party of UK. The PPP will have to reinvent itself if it wants to remain relevant in the future for which at present it neither has the capacity nor the desire.
The people of KPK would look forward to the kind of dispensation that the PTI has promised in its election manifesto. At present, it does not have the required majority. If it can make the right alliance it can put up a model system in KPK for other provinces to emulate. Failure is not an option for PTI if it wants a bigger tsunami to take place in 2018 elections. Nawaz Sharif and Maulana FazluRehman would like to conspire which they appear to be doing at present to deny power to PTI in KPK by putting up a coalition of sorts to perpetuate the present corrupt system and escape the eventuality of being challenged. In that case the entire election process in KPK would come to a naught which the two leaders would not mind if it suits their vested interest.
May 12, 2013.