The PPP’s Election Manifesto is Funny

By Saeed Qureshi

The ruling partys election charter is least groundbreaking or revolutionary. It seems to be written as if to fill in the blanks with a hodge-podge of overblown objectives. Unveiled by the partys parliamentarians, the manifesto proffers a heavy load of commitments that it could not fulfill during its previous five years in power.

The manifesto was announced in English before the media, by the commerce minister Amin Fahim who himself has been involved in creepy financial scams. Makhdoom Amin Fahim is also the senior Vice Chairman of the PPP.

The parliamentarians, in tandem with Amin Fahim, espoused seven priority issues that the new government of the PPP would take-up in the first 100 days at both the federal and the provincial level. The most outstanding hallmark of the new manifesto is to raise the minimum wage ceiling of the ordinary workers to Rs. 18000 by the year 2018 which is 5 years away.

Besides, poor sections of the society would be given Roti, Kapra Aur Makan (bread, clothing and housing).This slogan is a refrain from the past. It was the central theme of the founder of the PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the eve of launching the PPP in 1967. That became the symbol and slogan of the PPP and that hugely burnished its image as the party of the downtrodden and poor.

The other salient features of the manifesto are, mass education and health, jobs for all, elimination of terrorism, and upholding and hoisting high the democratic culture. The manifesto calls for the creation of a separate province in South Punjab. Eradication of polio by 2018 is part of the newly revealed election agenda of the PPP.

The new PPP government would make the military budget accountable, ensure workers representation in the parliament, facilitate employment of women, and provide security to the minorities; it would give freedom of expression. It would also generate additional 12000 MW electricity. All this stuff is run of the mill and part of every political partys agenda.

The unveiling of the manifesto was tagged and supplemented with the achievements of the PPP government in the preceding five years. The speakers claimed providing jobs to Lakhs of people, sustaining democracy and establishment of the Counter Terrorism National Authority and passing Anti-Terrorism Law Bill.

All these sparkling promises and new lofty goals unfolded by the PPP stalwarts ring hollow. It appears that the PPP had to draft this heavily nourished menu of dainty pledges in a hurry. One would wonder and rather question that if the PPP could not offer a semblance of good governance for five years, how could it fulfill all these marvelous and high sounding undertakings in the coming five years.

However, one feather in the cap of PPP is that it resisted derailing of the bandwagon of the democracy for five years. It did so despite tough challenges and heavy stumbling hurdles, though that resistance was predominantly motivated for an urge to remain in power. Its other notable achievement is amendments in the constitution devolving due powers to the provinces.

But other than that, it has earned more flak and discredit for its misdeeds and glaring shortcomings that kept the country on the tenterhooks of an unremitting trauma. The package of reforms did not make any meaningful difference in the lives of the common man. As a matter the people of Pakistan judged the PPP leaders from their conduct which on the whole was unblemished.

From a crippling load shedding to pervasive corruption to the callous indifference in curbing lawlessness, violence and terrorism have eclipsed the meager achievements of the PPP. The PPPs high command has not given any importance to the murder of its chairman under one pretext or the other.

Of late one of the talkative stalwarts asserted that although PPP knew the names of the assassins, yet could not divulge because they were more powerful than the state and the government. If this in the level of coyness and compromise of the PPPs leaders then how could it pick up courage during the next tenure in office to take bold decisions in public and national interests.

There has been incessant and running tussle between the apex judiciary and the PPPs outgoing government for these preceding five years. From the treason trial of former president Musharraf to Memogate to rental power plants scams, to import of ephedrine, to Swiss bank case, and investigating several high profile murder cases, the government deliberately dithered and no conscious efforts were made or willingness shown to execute supreme courts orders.

All these five years, the executive has been playing hide and seek with the judiciary with regard to the implementation of the decisions of the Apex court. The obvious reason for such a devious conduct was that in these cases several PPP heavy weights were involved. The rental power plants scandal is the elephantine case in which the outgoing interim prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is the principal actor. He was ordered by the Supreme Court to be arrested yet he remained in the office.

The Benazir Income Support program (BISP) is an eyewash mega corruption project for helping the poor families or removal of the poverty. An unbelievably hefty amount of 72 billion rupees was allocated every year for distribution among the needy people. For five years it comes to staggering 350 billion rupees. No one knows where 350 billion rupees have gone and why still the poverty could not be eradicated. Had this amount been spent on building highways, new dams, bridges and power generation units, the country would have hugely benefited both socially and economically?

The blackouts, the persistent water crisis, the ramshackle transportation, the explosions, the insecurity, the robberies, extortions and a host of other crimes are driving the people crazy with no hope for a better future. The studied debilitating and destruction of Railways, PIA and several similar nation building organizations have pushed the country backward for several decades. There is a universal outcry and deep seated repugnance about the PPPs five years dismal performance not only in Pakistan but also aboard.

As such giving even a slim benefit of doubt to the PPP and voting it into power again by the electorate seems to be a far cry and a hard to achieve tall order. The PPP of today suffers from a tarnished image. On the contrary what can be surmised is that a whole litany of charges could be opened up against the respective PPP leaders, keeping them busy for pretty good time. If they slip out of the country, like Hussain Haqqani, then it would be an entirely different scenario.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.


PMLN Stands Bright Chance to Win the Elections

By Saeed Qureshi

The credible indications are that Pakistan Muslim League under its leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif would capture maximum seats in the forthcoming general elections and thus emerge as the majority party. Since it is entering into electoral alliances with ANP, Jamaat-e-Islami, Pir Pagaras functional Muslim League and National Peoples Party, it may form the next coalition government at the center.

It appears that since presently, the PPP does not enjoy the traditional popularity with the masses; it may not be able to win adequate numbers of seats in three provinces of Balochistan, NWFP and Punjab. In Sindh, it could have a split mandate to be equally claimed by MQM in Karachi and Hyderabad. The level of disenchantment is quite high against the incumbent government in the center and also in the Sindh government. But since MQM vote bank is always safe due to ethnic unity and because of severe backlash against those not voting for the MQM, it may win all or most of the seats in their controlled constituencies.

It would be desirable for the PPP to take the backseat and re-formulate its strategy for the next elections in 2018. The PPP leadership should go for introspection as to how it could not robustly deliver this time and therefore reorient its programs and policies to gear up for the next election season. If PPP returns to its pristine image and reboots the manifesto unfurled by the chairman of the party ZAB in 70s, it has the potential of staging a comeback.

Despite PMLN being betrayed after initial political alliances with the PPP, it has been vehemently opposing hijacking of power by the army. It opted out of the coalition with PPP and preferred to play the role of the so-called friendly opposition that facilitated democracy to survive for five years. Despite a chaos ridden five years period of PPP in power, the PMLN refrained from making efforts to oust the PPP from power or proverbially fish in troubled waters.

Now elections must be fair and free and without malpractices. There is a danger of turmoil if the parties that lose allege rigging or fraudulent practices against the party that carries the day. The country cannot afford further agitations and protests and lockouts and mess and crisis. The parties that lose should accept their defeat in good grace and in the supreme interests of the nascent democratic caravan to move forward.

If Pakistan can sustain another five years democratic spell, it would by all reckoning, have a safe and glorious future. Democratic bond is the strongest bond in the contemporary world to keep the nation together and govern the country with consensus. It is an effective recipe to foster internal cohesion and unity. It commands universal respect.

Notwithstanding, the bitter political rhetoric and scathing polemics, the glaring fact is that the PMLN government in Punjab has achieved several milestones for the progress and advancement of the province. Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif is sincerely trying to make the social environment better by providing indispensable facilities like infrastructure, roads and comfortable transportation. He has zealously labored to promote education and health facilities in his province. The lawlessness and violence that is relentlessly endemic in other provinces, is much less in Punjab.

The Sharif brothers have learnt bitter lessons during their exiles in foreign lands for almost 8 years. It is hoped that the stiffness of disposition and punitive tendency in Nawaz Sharif must have mellowed down after spending many grueling years out of Pakistan. Now he should, for the sake of the democratic order to continue, learn to accommodate divergent opinion and not jump to reprisals, such as attack on the supreme court of Pakistan in 1997. He should desist from removing one army chief after another unless there would be inevitable grounds for doing so.

Nawaz Sharif is a true son of the soil whose merits are quite a few and studded with landmark laurels. He was one prime minister who despite inexorable multi-dimensional pressures both internal and external, went ahead with atomic tests following the Indian explosions. He was the one in whose tenure Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Pakistan by bus and recorded indelible pro-Pakistan views at Minar-e- Pakistani. The signing of Lahore Declaration for mutual peaceful relations was a landmark achievement for both the countries.

Pakistan and India were well on the way to mending their fences and enter into a new phase of good neighborly relationship. There could have been the possibility of cutting the Guardian Knot of Kashmir, had he not committed the blunder of sacking the then COAS Pervez Musharraf in a clumsy manner resulting in the advent of military rule once again.

It would be safe and objective to hazard a guess that a quid-pro-quo would be possible between him and the religious extremist groups including Taliban. That might come as a soothing and most sought-after turn of events in the troubled and violence marred landscape of Pakistan.

During the times of Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto, Karachi was bedeviled with violence and the outlaws and criminals of all sorts were at the rampage.

There were, thugs, rogues, killers, desperadoes, and brutal ethnic militants playing with the citys peace and the situation was horrendously precarious. But when the state machinery was mobilized with full force, the peace and normal life returned. Although many an innocence citizen may have perished in the cleanup operations yet a greater good was much better than a little infringement of the established rules.

One would hopefully believe that if PMLN forms the government, it would herald a new era in the troubled and chaotic history of Pakistan. The new Nawaz Sharif would not be a nonchalant and emotional young man of 90s but a much reformed, diligent and sober person who would do the right things for Pakistan.

He may not indulge in money making scams and shun bending laws and amending constitution for self perpetuation and for serving interests of party cadres. If he comes clean, he would make history both for himself as well as for Pakistan.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

PESA sees timely elections solution to many problems

Rawalpindi, MTT News Desk: The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) on Monday said prevailing chaotic environment in the country demands that elections must be held by due dates.

Election Commission of Pakistan must be made independent and powerful and all Constitutional issues must be resolved before elections to remove stigma of muk muka and avoiding any controversies thereafter, it said.

These demands came out in a meeting of PESA with its President Lt. Gen. Ali Kuli Khan (Retd), in chair. Others present included Vice Admiral Ahmad Tasnim, Air Marshal Masood Akhtar, Lt General Naeem Akbar, Brig Mian Mahmud, Brig Masud ul Hassan, Major Farouk Hameed Khan, Major Khurram Naveed Khan, and Naik Raja Muhammad Fazil.

Formation of caretaker government should not be merely confined to a deal between two groups in the parliament. Political parties outside the parliament must not be ignored as these command massive support, the former generals demanded.

They added that views and aspirations of a broader segment of the populace must be taken in to account in formation of the caretaker set up.

The meeting observed that huge amount of funds are being dished out in cash and in kind under different heads like charity, poverty alleviation and income support funds etc. which is as part of pre-poll rigging.

Instead of helping the economy to grow, these programmes have taken the country to record heights of debts and very close to bankruptcy. Election Commission must come out heavily to stop such unproductive expenditure just meant to lure the voters, the former military strategists said.

They said that people are looking for a change; this can happen only if the voters free themselves from stranglehold of feudal lords and influence of baradari system.

It was decided that PESA will soon start a nationwide campaign in conjunction with other likeminded organizations to ask the people to vote on merit alone.

PESA members also took note of the situation created by plans to divide Punjab and create a province of Bahawalpur-South Punjab and strongly opposed creation of provinces on ethnic basis, in a hurry.

Members expressed deep concern about the deterioration of law and order saying that despite orders from the Supreme Court any improvement was now beyond the capabilities of the lame duck government. Solutions will probably have to wait for the next government to effectively deal with disordered situation dominating country.

Grave concern was expressed over disturbing reports of foreign powers promoting their interests by investing heavily in our media. All Pakistanis need to be cognizant of this danger while authorities must take measures to thwart such evil intentions.

Who will Win 2013 Elections in Pakistan

By Usman Khalid, Director RIFA

The Economist of London has predicted on the basis of polls that Mian Nawaz Sharif, Leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N), would be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. I agree with that analysis. Having just returned from a six week long stay in Pakistan, I would like to say, why? The TUQ (Tahir ul Qadri) sit in took place a couple of hundred yards from my house in Islamabad. I would also like to share with readers what it meant something that the local and the international media missed.

Everybody in Pakistan believes that election results depend largely on the way the entrenched electables turn. The entire strategy of Imran Khan, leader of TIP, is based on that and the youth vote. President Asif Zardari a consummate politician has made a plan to win in 2013 Elections on the basis of sure winners issues as well as politicians. But I believe that Imran as well as Asif Zardari are mistaken. The people are no longer driven by kinship with candidates; they are mainly driven by their concern for national security internal as well as external. The nation of Pakistan is more patriotic, more united and more certain of what is good for the country is also good for them. A significant minority does take part in political meets and sectarian processions but often because of the attraction of a free meal and a chance take home chair or two. Every one was surprised at the discipline shown by TUQ followers in Islamabad. The same discipline had been shown only in the meetings of MQM and JUD, or processions by Shia organisations and Defence of Pakistan Council. Discipline is a value ingrained during upbringing or training. It is easily inculcated when the leaders demand and reward discipline.

Dr TUQ organises his followers in communes of sorts where members help each other through thick and thin. This is the same phenomenon that binds generous local leaders with their ilk. The MQM is one political party that organised its constituency in the cities as communes and the core of its leadership is Shia. That an important Shia leaders Agha Murtaza Ali Poya was always present by the side of Dr TUQ informed the country of the emergence of a new alliance one between Shia and moderate Sunnis. It is a benign alliance the objective of which is security in the face of rise of extremist led by the Takfiri cult. If the USA, Canada or other Western countries supported Dr TUQ it is a change in policy that is entirely welcome. Until the Iranian Revolution led my Imam Khomeni, the Shia were the allies of the USA and Israel. But everything changed after that revolution. Now Iran is the leading champion of Palestinian liberation. Shia led Hezbollah of Lebanon is the only force that ever defeated Israel in battle. The erstwhile friends have been bitter enemies since the Revolution. The joint sit in may well turn out to be return to days when Iran and the USA were friends and allies. This is not unexpected; this is practical politics. The Al-Qaeda and other Takfiri groups have had Saudi support which has sustained US ambivalence that is largely responsible for the rise of anti-US cults. After all, the Takfiri led by al-Qaeda have taken no notice of the change and persist in massacre of Shia in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Is it not time, they were sent a message?

There us yet no sign of a shift in the policy of Taliban towards the USA. But the sit in in Islamabad could well mark a watershed in politics of Pakistan. The MQM realised that its policy of defiance of the Executive and Judicial authority of the state that underpinned its absolute power in Karachi and other cities of Sindh until recently has become counter-productive; more Shia are being killed than members of other communities. The support provided by the MQM to Dr TUQ from within the Government was crucial to reaching a deal.. Imran Khan, as usual, said he welcomed the support by TUQ to what was the stand of TIP all along PML(N) responded by assembling an alliance of all opposition parties. Imran Khan was conspicuously isolated and sidelined. But there is another game in town being played by the very same players. The name of the game is public support as against the TUQ game which was about US support. The USA has realised that any role it gives to India in Afghanistan would end in the USA being completely ousted from Central Asia. Pakistan holds the key to peace in Afghanistan and the region.

Patriotism, which had been out of fashion in Islamabad, is the focal point of peoples power. The people see the MQM and ANP as India sponsored parties. The PPP, which was the nemesis of both under Benazir rule, is now the most allied ally of President Zardari. The constituency of the PPP does not approve of that. He has exacerbated the situation by playing the ethnic card naming the Frontier Province as KPK, giving in to MQM demand on local government, trying to sow discord in the Punjab loading the dice in favour of Seraiki speaking in South Punjab. But this is not working. The people see President Zardari as the ally of India sponsored parties and now giving entry to TUQ into his coalition. But there is another side to Dr TUQ. Under the cover of presenting a moderate and peaceful image of Islam, he has declared Jihad in Kashmir to be un-Islamic. All those impressed with the exemplary discipline of the sit in in Islamabad, took notice of his stand on Kashmir. The patriotic majority which, contrary to popular belief, in not a majority only in the Punjab but in all the provinces of Pakistan, will vote for Nawaz Sharif and the parties allied to him. That is the basis of my forecast that PML(N) would win Elections 2013.

The last time PML(N) won a big majority more than 2/3rd of all seats in the National Assembly was in 1996. Within a short period of time he had made so many mistakes that the people heaved a sigh of relief when his government was overthrown by General Musharraf in 1999. Electoral victory of the present opposition is in sight but end to misrule in Pakistan is not. Mian Nawaz Sharif has announced no new policies; added no new talent to his team; and he persists in calling his economic and security policies that resulted in the humiliation at Kargil and brought Pakistans economy to the brink of collapse as success. I remember having conveyed a message from eminent Lawyer Lord Gifford to Benazir Bhutto after her government has been dismissed in 1991. The message was: You will come back to power again, but you should know what to do when you do. No body ha asked me to give advice to Mian Nawaz Sharif. But if I was asked I would give the same advice that Lord Gifford gave to Benazir Bhutto. Mian Sahib is surrounded by the very same losers who helped him lose twice after the people gave him their trust and reposed confidence in him.

Dr. AQ Khan lays down the four point Charter of Demands from the government

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The founder of Pakistan’s Islami Nuclear Bomb and the President of fast emerging political party, Tahreek e Tahafuz e Pakistan (TTP), Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan says that the government should announce the elections dates immediately.

In a press release issued from his Party’s office in Islamabad, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan says that the country does not afford any delay in elections.

“The government should immediately announce the dates for upcoming elections,” he says further in the press release, “Any delay in elections would not be good for the country as well as for the system.”

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan also laid down a four-point charter of demands from the government. The charter of demands includes the essential steps to be taken to end the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan.

In charter of demands, the President of Tahreek e Tahafuz e Pakistan (TT), Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan demands for the election dates, implementation of decisions of Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), establishment of Caretaker Government with consensus of all political parties and the holding of elections under the supervision of Judiciary and the military.

The press release from the office of the TTP also demanded the serving Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to resign immediately after the decision against him from SCP. “Tahreek e Tahafuz e Pakistan demands the decisions of Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding rental cases should be implemented immediately and the Prime Minster should resign to secure the system and the country.”

It is worth mentioning here that SCP had ordered to arrest 17 officials, including then serving Water Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, within 24 hours. The petition was filed by Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat of PML-Q. The then serving Water Minister later nominated as Prime Minister by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, the President.

In the press release, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan also demanded that all political parties should be taken into confidence before announcing the Caretaker Prime Minister.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan said that the elections should hold under the supervision of Military and the Judiciary. He also demanded to ensure the presence of representatives of both Judiciary and the military in each poling both.

Talking about the Long March of Canadian nation Dr. Tahirul Qadri, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan said that the objectives of Dr. Tahirul Qadri are good but the ways to follow these objectives are not appreciatable.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is well known personality in Pakistan and lives in hearts of each Pakistani. He worked on Pakistan Atomic programme for decades and blessed this nation with Nuclear deterrent, which later pronounced as Islami Bomb by western media and their Indian counterparts.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has recently formed his political party named, Tahreek e Tahafuz e Pakistan (TTP) and vowed to find against corruptness of the political class. Due to his overwhelming popularity in Pakistan, TTP is expecting to emerge as one of the biggest political parties in Pakistan.

Uncertain political landscape

By Brig. (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Fast changing political activities have bred uncertainty and doubts whether coming elections will be held in time. All stakeholders inside and outside the parliament have begun to make moves to gain an edge over their opponents. PPP lost the support of Sindhi nationalist parties as well as Jamots of PML-F by associating itself with MQM on the sensitive issue of local bodies. This loss together with the loss of neglected PPP stalwarts in Sindh was cashed in by PML-N, desperately seeking to get a toehold in Sindh. PML (N)-Nationalists-PML-F alliance weakened the fort of PPP in Sindh and to make up the loss Zardari used the occasion of 5th death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto to launch his son Bilawal Bhutto in the political arena. Bilawals address in Urdu did help in boosting the sagging spirits of Jayalas but his unwise diatribe against the judiciary wrongfully blaming it for not arresting and punishing the murderers of his mother was not well received.

In order to stem the downslide of PPP vote bank in Punjab and to enhance political space in southern Punjab, Zardari has appointed Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood as the new Governor of Punjab at a time when PPPs tenure is ending. Earlier on, Zardari had brought in wily Manzur Watoo as PPP Punjab President hoping he in conjunction with PML-Q would bolster PPPs chances in by-elections. But PML-Ns sweeping victory left the two contenders dazed. PPP is now hoping that Tehrik-e-Insaf (TI) would erode the vote bank of PML-N in general elections. PPP is also pinning hopes on the votes of beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Group program. PMs discretionary funds are being used generously and thousands are employed in government jobs to buy voters.

Bashir Bilours tragic assassination in Peshawar was a huge loss for secular ANP which has already lost several of its leaders and over 600 activists in militancy. Asfandyar Wali Khan survived an attempt on his life in his Hujra in October 2008, forcing him to shift to Islamabad. Owing to its tough stand against the TTP and its affiliates, ANPs leadership is on the hit list and this threat would become a serious handicap for the ANP during forthcoming elections. It has now softened its stance and expressed willingness to hold talks with TTP without insisting on surrendering arms first. It was however inspiring to see the sober and dignified conduct of hunted ANP and the bereaved family of Bilour, which was in sharp contrast to the violent reaction of PPP Jayalas witnessed after the murder of Benazir Bhutto and of MQM whenever any its low ranked leader or activist gets killed. Like ANP, TTP consider liberal MQM as agent of USA and counts it as its adversary. As per Rahman Malik, TTP is planning to strike at Tahirul Qadris long march. If so, will it benefit TTP to disrupt the march, wanting to bring down a corrupt government which is fighting the TTP and its affiliates relentlessly?

Although Nawaz Sharif seemingly returned back from exile in November 2007 as a changed person wanting to make amends, but he couldnt set aside his aversion for the military establishment which he had piled up in his heart because of the rough handling meted out to him and his family by Gen Musharraf. Having had strained relations with all the Army chiefs starting Gen Mirza Beg, he is not prepared to buy the idea that the Army is any different under Gen Kayani. It is essentially due to his distrust for the military establishment that Nawaz chose to remain attached with Zardari despite his repeated betrayals thinking him to be a lesser evil.

Another thing which kept him soft towards the ruling PPP was his deep seated desire to regain power with a heavy mandate similar to the one he had gained in 1997 and to have a full tenure of five years. As a result, PML-N behaved as friendly opposition, and overlooked the misdeeds of the rulers. Nawaz readily extended support to Zardari whenever he was in crisis mainly because of the inherent fear that the Army may not step in. This fear psychosis from democracy-friendly Gen Kayani who had umpteen chances to takeover and has categorically assured CEC of Armys full cooperation in holding free and fair elections in a transparent manner is juvenile and uncalled for.

Despite Rahman Malik and late Salman Taseers conspiracies at the behest of Zardari to undermine Punjab government in 2008-09 and willful blocking of Punjabs quota of gas and electricity in Punjab, PML-N has emerged as the most popular party in Punjab. Shahbaz Sharif has proved to be a far better administrator than his counterparts in other provinces. Large numbers of PML-Q parliamentarians have returned to PML-N. It has swept by-elections in Punjab. Besides making inroads in Balochistan and Sindh with the help of nationalist parties, it got a shot in the arm in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPk) when PML-Qs Amir Muqam joined PML-N. It is likely to form an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) which is hoping to capture sizeable number of seats in KPk. JI whose two respected stalwarts died recently has exhorted all patriotic forces to form a grand alliance and block Tahirul Qadris long march.

Tehrik-e-Insaf (TI), which has emerged as the third force is likely to cut PML-Ns votes in Punjab, which may go in favor of PPP. But Imrans Tsunami has lost its steam after in-house heart burnings over induction of heavyweights from other parties and Tahirul Qadris mammoth public meeting in Lahore on 23rd December. The two emerging powers outside the parliament seeking a change have posed a serious challenge to the two mainstream political parties believing in status quo, but TIs decision to go on a solo flight, and if need be oppose Qadri, will weaken both. PPP, PML-N, ANP, JI, JUI, judiciary, Election Commission, and military establishment have joined hands to contest Qadris threat of bringing a change through unconstitutional means.

PML-Q, fast losing ground even in its hometown of Gujrat, is desperately in need of a tonic to put some life in its frail body. It hastened to jump into Qadris bandwagon like a drowning man clutching at the straw. Leaders and activists of both PPP and PML-Q are pressing their respective leadership to break the unproductive alliance before elections.

Dr Qadri rearing to storm Islamabad is these days under fire. He is being asked whether his arrival and demand of electoral reform is well timed considering that elections are round the corner and some reforms through 18th, 19th and 20th Amendments in constitution have been made and an honest Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) acceptable to all stakeholders has been appointed and bogus voters list has been corrected? He is asked whether his choice of allies is proper and how can he expect MQM and PML-Q to reform the system when they are upholders of the corrupt system and have not resigned? How does Qadri digest continued target killings, extortion and kidnapping for ransom in Karachi where MQM is the dominant ruling party?

How would Qadri overlook PML-Qs tainted past of having remained as Gen Musharrafs created Kings Party for five years and suspending and mutilating constitution twice? What is his yardstick of considering MQM and PML-Q better than PPP and PML-N? Why was he sleeping all this time when Pakistan was sinking? How does he expect the electoral reforms to be completed within 90 days when successive regimes failed to do so in 65 years? Does he not know that the TTP and its affiliates wanting introduction of Shariah are against imported electoral and parliamentary system as well as judicial system and would not accept the present system unless brought in conformity with Quran and Sunnah?

The US suspected of nudging ambitious Qadri to enter the political arena and challenge the status quo has denied backing Qadri. Although it has assured that it will support free and fair elections, but so far it has not uttered a word of censor against Qadris outburst. It would like to act as a referee or be in a position to help out winning side and earn its gratitude. GHQ has also adopted a similar stance of neutrality and so far it has kept its distance. Notwithstanding several conspiracy theories in circulation, one thing is clear that no stakeholder in Pakistan as well as foreign powers would like chaos and anarchy in nuclear Pakistan, particularly when threat posed by religious extremists has become menacing.

Timely fair, free and transparent elections and peaceful transition of power to the next government will be in the interest of the country. Talk of Mahmood Achakzai taking over as PM interim government if true is heartening. Considering his upright and honorable conduct, he should be acceptable to all stakeholders. Caretakers and CEC should ensure strict scrutiny of contestants under Article 62 so that only righteous and truthful candidates with good reputation enter the legislature. Let the next government take its time to carryout desired electoral reforms, but its priority should be to restore the flagging health of economy and state owned public enterprises and to end the futile war on terror that has bankrupted the socio-economic fabric of the country.

The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance columnist.

Pakistan to enter Stone Age if ruling coalition wins upcoming election

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Sunday said country will be pushed in the Stone Age if the incumbent ruling coalition wins upcoming elections.

There would be no energy to keep vehicles and economy moving in presence of advisers like Dr. Asim who has done his best to build a negative opinion about the government among masses and business community, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW.

Opposition parties are visibly delighted on the outcome of the decisions taken by the adviser to the PM on petroleum which have enraged people to an extent never witnessed before which will benefit them, he added.

It seems that masses will continue to wander in search of CNG and petrol, wait in long queues at filling stations, while it will be impossible to cook food in the households owing to low gas pressure, he said.

Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that after elections Dr. Asim will leave for his country Canada, leaving party behind to face the consequences of his mismanagement.

Appointment of a person dealing with disorders or deformities of the spine and joints to handle critical energy sector will prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of the incompetent government, he observed.

He said that dismal electricity situation is also direct result of the decisions of petroleum ministry as over fifty per cent of power production is satisfied through gas and oil which is not available.

Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that the PSO, biggest oil company of Pakistan, has been left bankrupt due to interference and objectionable practices of failed experts.

PSO, the largest oil marketing company in the country, with last years sales revenue of Rs. 975 billion and after tax earnings of Rs. 14.78 billion has now taken loans amounting to around 200 billion from banks and there is no way it can fulfil obligations diminishing hopes for further financing, he noted.

He said that the future of PSO will not be very different than that of PIA, Railways or Pakistan Steel Mills.

Welcoming the statement of Asim regarding action against CNG stations involved in gas theft, Dr. Mughal asked that if any action will be initiated against CNG outlets owned by the politicians who continued to get gas even in the load shedding despite being defaulters to the tune of tens of millions.

He said that those who have inflicted great pains on over half a million people dependent on CNG sector for personal interests should be brought to book.

Unholy practice of rigging elections

By Brig. (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja:

Going through the political history of Pakistan, one is constrained to learn that till 1956 Pakistan was without a constitution and it banked upon Government of India Act as an interim instrument to govern the country. It cannot be denied that all elections held in Pakistan were rigged. The first ten-year political era suffered from so much of instability because of the miserable performance of the Muslim League, Awami League and NAP politicians that seven prime ministers changed hands and gave rise to bureaucratic-military oligarchy. The first generation politicians are responsible for laying down weak foundations of democracy. They didnt hold elections for they knew they would be bundled out by the electorates. Absence of elections stopped the process of pruning of the unscrupulous politicians and replacement by better ones. As a result, the same lot of base politicians plagued democracy and Pakistani politics.

Owing to continually deteriorating conditions, President Iskandar Mirza sacked Feroz Khan Noons government on 7 October 1958, abrogated 1956 constitution, dissolved the parliament and provincial assemblies and declared martial law. Political parties were suspended. He appointed Gen Ayub Khan as prime minister on 27 October. Soldier turned bureaucrat, Mirza was firmly of the view that unless desired level of awareness and mass literacy was achieved whereby the common man could discern the value of his vote, his rights and true meaning of democracy, parliamentary form of government would not bring any tangible results. Gen Ayub Khan and his military colleagues shared his views that the system based on western democracy was ill-suited to the peoples psyche.

After sacking Iskandar Mirza on 28 October 1958 and forcing him to fly out to London, Gen Ayub debarred 6000 politicians from taking part in politics or holding any office of responsibility under EBDO and introduced Basic Democracies as an alternative political system. He also promulgated new constitution in 1962, lifted martial law and took oath as president under the new constitution. Ban on political parties was lifted by him the same year. Politicians were unfettered from EBDO on the insistence of his blue eyed Foreign Minister ZA Bhutto who reverently called Ayub Daddy. Ganging up of the morally degenerated politicians, coupled with high ambitions of ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to gain power together with mistakes made by Ayub to sack the two Governors, Nawab of Kalabagh and Lt Gen Azam Khan, and the economic impact of 1965 war which cut Ayub Khan to size, led to his fall, thus putting an end to Ayubs golden era.

Gen Yahya Khan on taking over declared martial law but committed mistakes of abrogating 1962 constitution and dissolving one-unit. The December 1970 general elections were the first ever held since birth of Pakistan. It was widely opined that elections were the most transparent and fairest elections ever taken place. However, the fact is that Awami League had carried out massive rigging prior to and during polling through high handed tactics. Throughout the yearlong election campaign, Awami League activists together with RAW agents terrorized the people of East Pakistan and prevented all other political parties belonging to West Pakistan to hold public meetings. Both the Governor and Corps Commander overlooked hooliganism of Awami League thugs because of overall policy of appeasement of Bengalis. As a consequence Awami League swept the polls.

When power was not handed over to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman because of Bhuttos obduracy, Mujibs small heartedness and Yahya Khans bumbling, Yahya in his earnestness to save the situation launched a military operation on 25 March 1971. It however proved to be the beginning of breakup of Pakistan and triggered a civil war which ultimately led to disintegration of Pakistan into two and creation of Bangladesh. Had he not taken the fatal decisions of abrogating 1962 constitution, undoing one-unit, and parity formula settled by consensus while formulating 1956 constitution, Pakistan would have stayed intact. Elections rather than integrating the nation disintegrated the country.

1977 general elections were again rigged by ZA Bhuttos administration since Bhutto was keen to win two-thirds majority. It led to formation of seven-party alliance called Pakistan National Alliance. Complete deadlock created by the irreconcilable politicians led by late Nawabzada Nasrullah, Asghar Khan and Mufti Mahmood resulted in military takeover by Gen Ziaul Haq in July 1977. Less PPP, all other politicians got adjusted in Zia created Majlis Shura and later took part in party-less elections to become members of parliament under Zia-picked Muhammad Khan Junejo in March 1985. Martial Law was lifted in December 1985 but after getting 8th amendment passed which transferred greater powers to president.

For the November 1988 elections, IJI was formed by the then DG ISI Lt Gen Hamid Gul to prevent Benazir Bhutto from winning. Money was used to win over 30 independents. When she won with thin majority, she was asked to accept Ghulam Ishaq Khan as President and retired Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqub as Foreign Minister since she was viewed as a security risk by the military establishment under Gen Mirza Aslam Beg. In the 1990 elections, President Ishaq, Gen Beg and the then DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durrani were involved in bribing political party leaders to ensure success of IJI under Nawaz Sharif.

In the 2002 elections organized by Gen Pervez Musharraf regime, pre-poll rigging was undertaken to browbeat politicians and make them join hands with Kings Party. NAB, ISI, Rangers and ANF were used to coerce those unwilling to tow the given dictates. Patriots belonging to PPP were created by NAB. Even after so much of manipulations and two mainstream leaders in exile, Zafarullah Jamali could manage to win vote of confidence by one vote only. Former head of ISIs political cell Maj Gen Ehtesham Zameer Jaffery confessed that the 2002 elections were rigged in favor of Kings Party.

In the 2008 elections, although the new Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani recalled all Army officers serving in government departments and prohibited Army institutions from interfering in elections, yet the caretaker government, PML-Q, MQM and USA used their influence to manipulate the outcome of results in their favor. MMA was trounced and liberal parties emerged victorious. The only aspect which went against the script was the entry of PML-N in Punjab and in the centre. The dream team scripted by Washington was formed once PML-N left the federal cabinet.

Imran Khan referred the case of bogus voting to the Supreme Court (SC), when to his and the nations horror it was learnt that from among the 40-45% votes polled in 2008 elections, over 37 million voters were bogus. He maintained that with the termination of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and unearthing of bogus votes, the sitting government had become illegal and had no right to stay in power. When a restraining order to the Election Commission was issued by the SC asking it to rectify the voters list before holding by-polls, the government together with PML-N hastened to introduce 20th Amendment in the Constitution to participate in by-elections.

About 300 candidates got fraudulently elected in national and provincial assemblies who had forged their Bachelor degrees. Large numbers of parliamentarians with dual nationalities have been plundering national wealth, buying properties abroad and maintaining foreign currency accounts in foreign banks. They are all set to flee to safe havens once the going get rough for them. Rupees 8 billion get eaten up in corruption every day. PIA, Railway, Steel Mill, OGDC all are running in huge losses.

While the Army is holding on to FATA and Swat with dogged determination, Karachi and Balochistan are on fire and out of control of provincial governments where target killings and kidnapping for ransom have become a norm. In the last 30 months 8000 people have been killed in Karachi by target killers but not a single killer has been convicted and hanged since the ruling coalition of three parties patronizes armed militant wings and are deeply engaged in turf war to retain/gain hold over their constituencies in port city. In contravention to SC orders, MQM, PPP and ANP have not abolished their militant wings. Delimitation of five districts of Karachi is being vehemently resisted by MQM for it sees it as an attempt to diminish its prospects of gaining total control over Karachi.

In order to accommodate legal and mostly illegal demands of its coalition partners, the PPP has been pursuing policy of reconciliation, which means compromising on wrongdoings. Nepotism and cronyism has flourished under the garb of national reconciliation. As a consequence, merit has been sidelined and corruption, inflation, price hike, joblessness, poverty, and crimes have scaled new heights. The PPP government oblivious of miseries of the people is solely interested in completing its five-year term. It is confident that it will once again win the elections by buying the voters.

Although the new chief election commissioner is a man of high integrity and acceptable to all parties, it is to be seen whether he succeeds in closing the past unholy practice of rigging and holding free and fair elections. The onus of electing the right candidates is on the voters; otherwise one will have to admit that Iskandar Mirzas assessment was right.

The writer is a retired Brig, a defence analyst and a freelance columnist.

Business community facing forced contributions for elections

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Sunday asked the Political parties and contesting candidates to refrain from harassing business community in the name of donations for election campaign.

Business community in various parts of the country is facing unusual and undue pressure for political contributions by some parties which is illegal and immoral, it said.

Pakistani business community is already facing issues like energy shortages, absence of enabling environment, harassment by tax officials, kidnapping, extortion, etc. and now they are being forced to pay donations political campaigns, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW.

He said that after government the political parties are trying best to make trade and investment climate unfriendly for the businessmen who were already facing serious issues.

Businessmen have been asking that is this the reward they are getting for keeping the countrys economy moving.

Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that majority of the businessmen had to agree to the demands to finance party campaigns otherwise they face the wrath of the party workers as well as that of administration.

Repression has forced many side-lined businessmen to seek refuge in other countries which is main reason behind shifting of industrial units and flight of capital from the country.

The investment climate in Pakistan is barring foreign investment and forcing many foreigners to pull out their money from this risky market, he said.

Economic revival is not linked to political speeches on different forums, it can only be attained after infusing confidence in the business community, Dr. Murtaza Mughal observed.

He said that courts and Election Commission should take note of the violation of laws and consider making it mandatory for political parties to disclose the donated amount and its source.

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