Counting votes in Karachi,
a pro-Musharraf constituency
Controlling Army-led Democracy
Through Manipulated Vote
Wajid Shamsul Hasan
August 23: Pakistan's founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah
was a democrat par excellence. If he had known that the ideals
that he had lived for, struggled all his life and fought for,
would be raped so blatantly, as has been done repeatedly by its
military establishment and Bonapartist generals, he would have
thought twice before opting for an independent state.
did not have, nor did he seek, help from more than a 100,000 Muslim
army officers and other men in uniform serving as the most loyal
servants in the British imperial armed forces with quite a few
of them at the top licking the boots of their Gora (white)
higher ups for promotions. He believed in the power of the ballot
over the bullet and hence restricted his struggle for freedom
within the democratic parameters.
his first speech to the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan (11 August
1947) he had laid bare categorically his magna carta for the democratic
management of the country. In his Pakistan all citizens were to
be equal irrespective of their caste, creed or color and that
religion had nothing to do with the business of the state.
subsequent emphasis, as long as he lived, was that since it was
to be a people's government, responsible to the people and none
else but the people, it was the sole prerogative of the masses
to change the government in Pakistan and its policies. It also
rested within the powers of the people to vote in and vote out
a government when it failed to perform in the largest interest
of the greatest numbers. He had also warned the civil and military
bureaucrats and told them: "Make the people feel that you
are servants and friends" and that they should maintain the
"highest standard of honor, integrity, justice and fair play."
goes to the credit of the people of Pakistan that despite subversion
of democracy by frequent military interventions, they have stood
by their commitment to the democratic ideals bequeathed to the
nation by the Quaid.
However, now we have come to a crucial pass after many constitutional
and electoral dislocations, especially following the farce in
the name of local bodies elections that were inflicted on us on
Thursday, August 18, that a stage has been reached for the entire
nation and its political leadership to evolve a new strategy to
meet the Praetorian challenges.
from home, thank goodness to the number of Pakistani TV channels,
we could see with our own eyes the most shameless mockery of vote.
It seemed to be in continuation of the policy of the militarization
of the state by the present regime to further disenchanting the
masses away from the power of vote, thereby to weaken the democratic
forces that don't give up challenging its absolute authority.
sponsored rigging, fraudulent results and installation of military's
favorites in the government have disheartened the voters to the
extent that they feel discouraged to vote since they have been
denied their right to elect their representatives. This is one
major reason for the gradual decline in the voting pattern and
the regime feels confident that it can hoodwink international
opinion by jacking up falsely the figures of voting turnout.
Pervez Musharraf's Local Government Ordinance of 2001 drafted
painstakingly by the best Praetorian brains, aided by their civilian
experts, had an overall objective of not promoting democracy at
the grass root level but to control it so that managing of local
affairs remains at the mercy and sweet will of the Center. It
was perennially designed to convert the real rulers, the people,
into serfs and power sharing in it was so devised that on paper
it seemed to be devolution but in fact it meant more of overwhelming
control of Islamabad. In short, it has been the most deplorable
recipe for controlled democracy in the country.
has been rightly alleged that instead of devolving power in three
tiers, by moving power down the provinces and reducing the load
of federal ministries, the President has become the reservoir
of all power. General Musharraf has had the cake and has been
gulping it too. He has used local bodies not for empowering the
people at the grass root level but as an institution for extending
semblance of civil legitimacy to it, much in the pattern of General
Ayub Khan's basic democracy and General Zia's party less local
Musharraf's they also had one objective to further fracture and
fragment Pakistani society so that instead of national cohesion,
there should be more of local biradari lords with the
sole purpose of reducing and minimizing the power of the collective
vote. Especially from General Zia's time to this day, calculated
attempts are being made to fragment the society into ethnic, feudal
and sectarian groups to divide and reduce the democratic power
of the people to change a government through their collective
vote. This has been real reason for holding non-party local body
elections rather than the empowerment of the people.
usual the regime's propaganda machinery is busy orchestrating
that Thursday's local polls were the most transparent and peacefully
held ever with more than 50 cent of registered voters turning
out. Contrary was the view of various panels of experts who were
invited by the private TV channels to comment and analyze the
daylong proceedings punctuated by bloody violence, 11 deaths with
was also a sad commentary on the performance of the Election Commission.
It is understandable since an Acting Chief Election Commissioner
heads it. It did not take cognizance of pile of complaints lodged
at its doors from the day elections were announced. The blatant
transfers and postings of officers by the Chief Ministers and
for other bandobast (management) it did not have spine
good and strong enough to take a stand. Rather, the President
and his Chief Ministers who did not feel shy for lobbying openly
for their favorite candidates did it most obtrusively in gross
violation of its code of conduct.
to TV discussions. Some panelists had a point that needs to be
answered by the political leaders. They were of the view that
since General Zia's time the political parties had been opposing
non-party elections and yet they have been participating in them
knowing well that the very concept of non-party elections is tendentiously
undemocratic, especially when it is inherently designed to divide
the political power of the masses.
is time a consensus decision was taken by the ARD and APC and
get over with their contradiction of demanding party-based elections
and yet surrendering themselves to a party less contraption designed
entirely for the service and perpetuation of the military regime.
therefore, expects that having had the bitter and nightmarish
experience of the first phase of local bodies elections, ARD and
APC parties should get together to tell Musharraf enough is enough,
that they cannot be a party to his shameless electoral farce.
It needs to be noted that he is already under pressure and he
is no more in a position to shrug off lightly any united protest
by the Opposition parties. It is time they corrected their stand
on non-party polls.
writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK