Elections sans hype | Pakistan Today

Elections sans hype

Where is the beef?

Despite general elections just a month away the hype and excitement traditionally associated with them is conspicuously missing. Perhaps the action will start soon after political parties finalize their respective panels.

Right now the two main contenders are embroiled in dealing with dissent within their own parties over the process of awarding party tickets.

More so in the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), that has inducted quite a few “electables” (those who are ostensibly strong in their constituencies irrespective of their party affiliations) within its fold.

Some say 45 percent of PTI tickets for the National Assembly have been awarded to turncoats to the detriment of the party’s core loyalists. As a result there have been constant vigils in front of Imran Khan’s sprawling Bani Gala estate on the outskirts of Islamabad.

The Khan imperiously addressing them from behind the closed gates of his abode has promised to review the matter. But at the same time insisting that ‘electables were indispensable for his pipe dream of creating a naya (new) Pakistan.’

For the Sharifs the process of awarding of tickets should have been an easier task. So many turncoats have abandoned them for the presumptive ‘King’s Party’; awarding tickets without acrimony should have been a shoe in for them.

But the erstwhile ruling party is facing different kinds of challenges, some of them existential in nature. The kind of onslaught the party has been facing from a pincer movement of the ubiquitous establishment, the judiciary and its political opponents in unison since disqualification of its chief last July by the apex court in the Panamagate corruption scandal, theoretically it should have closed shop by now.

Sharif in spite of running from pillar to post sloganeering “vote ko izzat do” (give respect to the sanctity of votes), does not believe in the age old maxim: charity begins at home. Dissent within the party is simply not tolerated.

Nisar Ali Khan, an incurable narcissist – but an old loyalist and friend of the Sharifs as well – was punished for being extremely vocal in criticizing Sharif’s post ouster strategy and not accepting the tutelage of the designated heir Maryam. The former prime minister even refused to meet Nisar to iron out their differences.

Somewhat at a lesser level the same kind of treatment was meted out to Zaeem Qadri a former provincial minister in Punjab and an old party loyalist. He was simply refused a ticket from the constituency he won last time without proffering any cogent reasons. Naturally Qadri has gone to town on his former boss Shahbaz Sharif and his prodigal Hamza.

Notwithstanding these teething troubles elections are expected be held on time. Some contend the results are a foregone conclusion. The PTI is perceived to be the winning horse in the Derby and the PML-N is going to be the underdog in its bastion for the first time in over three decades.

Sharif in spite of running from pillar to post sloganeering “vote ko izzat do” (give respect to the sanctity of votes), does not believe in the age old maxim: charity begins at home

The PTI has a number of things going for it. The caretaker government despite being toothless under the constitution is being dictated by the Khan. The manner in which the PTI chief was able to remove his financer and close consort Zulfi Bukhari’s name from the interior ministry’s blacklist to leave the country on an Umra junket is the talk of the town. Imran Khan simply called the caretaker interior minister and got the job done.

Similarly massive transfers and reshuffling of the bureaucracy has been conducted in Sindh and Punjab on the PTI’s request as it contends that civil servants in both these provinces ‘behave like personal servants of the Sharifs and Zardari.’

This has created an anomalous situation in certain instances. A relatively junior person being appointed inspector general police in Punjab at least four senior officers refused to attend a meeting under him. Many bureaucrats have simply proceeded on leave on one pretext or the other.

The Khan wants provincial governors especially the KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhawa) governor changed. Under what law, he has failed to explain.

Most politicians try to treat bureaucrats as their personal henchmen. This is probably true both for the PML-N in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh as well. The Khan and his cohorts are no different. But despite this feudal attitude by and large the institution of bureaucracy is still intact.

This is the only tool of continuity when politicians or the Generals fail to govern. Unfortunately the higher judiciary, NAB (National Accountability Bureau) through their edicts and remarks has contributed to the tendency of bringing this institution aground.

The PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif’s relentless campaign against the military and the judiciary, whom he perceives to be hostile to him has been somewhat, marred by the critical state of his wife Kalsoom Nawaz in a private hospital in London.

Sharif is in London to tend to her. He intends to stay close to her while she is on a ventilator. On the other hand the caretaker government on the advice of the NAB court hearing Sharif’s corruption cases wants to put him on the ECL (exit control list)

But right now this issue is only academic. Sharif will only return once his ailing wife is out of a coma. This seems unlikely to happen soon.

But PTI’s social media trolls are in panic mode over the issue of the former prime minister’s ailing wife. They seem to be in an unholy haste to bury Mrs. Sharif. All kinds of rumours are being floated 24/7.

The Khan wants provincial governors especially the KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhawa) governor changed. Under what law, he has failed to explain

According to one theory being propounded on the mainstream media as well, London’s Harley Street clinic is a clinic and not even a hospital. These critics contend that Kalsoom Nawaz’s illness is a ruse to escape the gauntlet of NAB cases against the Sharif family.

Anybody visiting the hospital’s website can notice that advanced treatment of cancer is one of its specialty. Claiming that the Harley Street Clinic is not a private hospital is like saying that the London School of Economics is a school and not a university.

The other theory being floated vociferously on the social media is that Kalsoom Nawaz is clinically dead and is unnecessarily being kept on a ventilator for political gains. If Sharif was actually such a fiend to play politics on the basis of his wife’s precarious state he does not deserve to be in this game at all. It however is unlikely that the family is politically exploiting the state of its dear and close one.

Actually PTI’s apprehensions in this context are comprehendible. They perhaps believe that the Kalsoom factor should be over and done with much before election time. Otherwise Sharif will derive political mileage out of the demise (god forbid) of his wife.

Unfortunately politics in elections 2018 has been brought down to the lowest of the lowest common denominator. Anything goes to attain the coveted prize.

Certainly the original game plan to put Sharif and his daughter behind bars just a few days before the elections has gone in a tailspin owing to sudden turn of events. The PTI is perhaps apprehensive that the PML-N will derive a sympathy wave from Sharif’s woes – being put in the slammer and possible demise of his wife close to polling day.

In a recent leading article the Economist has poised the question whether democracy is in trouble all over the world? The news magazine contends that the least bad system of government is in trouble. It needs defenders. Unfortunately there are few left in Pakistan.


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