The NEWS (Thursday, February 21, 2008)
Much has been said on how the election results are a referendum against the policies of General Musharraf. While there can be little disagreement with this, there is a clear lesson for Pakistan’s urban intelligentsia that had been screaming about the futility of this election.
True, Pakistan’s troubled polity will not transform overnight, nor will the endemic civil-military imbalance dissipate in the air with the formation of the new civilian government. But this is the magic of electoral politics — it allows the least risky path to a civilian transition. The road ahead is messy we know, but that is the only road that a fractured polity can tread.
The classic failure of the Pakistani urban educated will not go unnoticed. Led by the rhetoric Imran Khan, the delusions of the lawyers’ movement and the rake opportunism of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and General Hameed Gul, the boycott chanting individuals and groups should re-examine their standpoint and ultimately their “politics.”
Unwittingly, they took the risky path of de-legitimising the main political parties that have had the roughest time during the Musharraf years. This was also the time, which the electorate vividly remembers, that Qazi and his allies were feasting on the fruits of power in two provinces and were de facto beneficiaries of the establishment. Not to mention that Mr Imran Khan was campaigning for the general during his referendum. The urban classes term the mainstream politics as “feudal” and the participants “uneducated.” This has to change, lest the opinion leaders are relegated to the dustbin of history. This dustbin already contains some rudiments of political streams, not to mention the left parties, such as the one headed by Mr Abid Hasan Minto, harping on the boycott mantra and middle-class pretensions over the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
In a country of 160 million people with strong traditions of democratic yearning, the process of change cannot be articulated outside the mainstream electoral politics, however faulty the political parties. This is the biggest lesson we have learned. Mian Nawaz Sharif who was lambasted for his pragmatism now stands vindicated. And, above all, the vision of Benazir Bhutto, who was attacked left right and centre for insistence on the electoral route, stands validated. There could not have been a better tribute to her legacy. Continue reading