Elections in Pakistan held on February 18, 2008 were seen by some
political analysts as a referendum on President Parvez Musharraf. In
that case the people of Pakistan have clearly passed a no confidence
vote against him. Elections were held for the national parliament as
well as the assemblies for the four provinces. Nawaz Sharif, the ex-
prime minister whom Musharraf ousted in a military coup in 1999,
fought the elections on the platform of getting rid of the army from
politics. He won the largest number of seats in the Punjab provincial
Assembly where he will form the government. In the National (federal)
parliament his party PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) got the
second largest number of seats. While the party of the assassinated
Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got 88, PML-N
captured 66 seats. The Pakistan Muslim League’s pro-Musharraf wing,
the PML-Q, also known in Pakistan as the King’s Party, got a dismal 38.
In Karachi, the Pakistan stock market rose 2.15 percent and the
newspapers screamed victory. “All the King’s men, gone!” proclaimed a
banner headline in the Daily Times. “Heavyweights knocked out,” read
the Dawn newspaper.
People also gave their clear and strong verdict against the Islamists
and pro-Taliban parties. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) alliance,
comprising two major components, Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiat-Ulema-i-
Islam (JUI), was the third-largest grouping in the previous national
parliament with 50 seats. They were reduced to a miserable 5 seats.
They also lost their control of the North West Frontier province in
the provincial elections gained in the last parliamentary elections
in 2002, when they benefited from Pakistani anger over the U.S.-led
invasion to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. They lost at the hands
of a secular nationalist party called the Awami National Party (ANP).
While ANP captured 29 seats, MMA could only get 8 seats.
People at the Presidency and the US embassy in Islamabad must have
spent sleepless nights before the polls and there are many other
sleepless nights ahead. How can Washington’s blue eyed boy be saved?
As the results show, PPP and PML-N can make a coalition government on their own with 154 seats out of a total of 272 seats. With support of other parties they can muster a three-fourth majority in the
Parliament thus giving them power to call for impeachment of
Musharraf. That would mean he will have to step down as president and also be tried for imposing emergency and sacking the supreme court judges en bloc. But are they willing to do that? People have clearly given them the verdict to do exactly that.
People of Pakistan have three major enemies: the Army, the feudal
lords and the USA. The three of them have strong and historical roots
in the country. People of Pakistan have won the battle of ballots and
now it is the uphill war against the triple arc of evil in order to
move towards a strong and durable democracy. The people of Pakistan
have now to build and strengthen democratic culture in their
institutions and political parties that are still dominated by the
feudal class. That is the only guarantee for democracy in the long
run. It is the democratic culture that can prevent the army from
slaughtering democracy as it has been doing at its will since the
country was born in 1947.
Feroz Mehdi is General Secretary of Alternatives International