Political polarisation is at its peak in Pakistan is as accurate as saying water is denser than air. There is no denying the fact that as the economy stands virtually broken, the quest to find answers to the conundrum is the need of the hour. Currently there are two differing political options being proposed by the mainstream political parties. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) calls for immediate fresh polls, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and allies maintain that undoubtedly one way or another we have to go for elections in coming days but it will remain a futile exercise if done without the necessary and important reforms. My party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), throws its weight behind the latter argument.
Pakistan at best has enjoyed procedural democracy at brief intervals of times in its checkered history. Starting with the undemocratic traditions established by its civil servants, militablishment, political feudal families and industrialists, it has come up to the stage where it seems that the level playing field in politics for a common man is non-existent. With growing urbanisation and expansion of the middle class all over the country, the structural discrepancy is more glaringly obvious than ever before. It is an elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. Only a certain class being custodian of mainstream politics has made it a ‘rich men’s club’. That needs to be broken. And it can only be possible when serious structural efforts are undertaken by the mainstream political parties inside the parliament. Inclusion of gender minorities in policymaking, youth quota seats and reforming reserved seats for women are among those issues that need serious deliberations. Going into the polls without it would be akin to expecting phenomenal results on a tried, tested and –let me say – failed formulae.
Secondly, unlike India, Pakistani elections have always remained controversial. Except the 1970 polls, every election has been marred with serious questions on its legitimacy. This needs to change. An agreed mechanism that ensures transparency of the polls is needed: one that can at least limit the influence of external forces from the electoral process, if not completely eradicate them. The electronic voting machines and overseas voters are now being looked into through parochial party lenses all across the political spectrum. These two pertinent issues have not been taken into account through the seriousness that they deserve. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and executive have to assess the ‘do-ability’ of both before following precedent that a judicial verdict dictates the matter – with questions on its constitutionality.
The last 2017 census was the biggest injustice done to the people of Karachi. Every single mainstream political party except PTI raised their strong reservations over the number given by the official state document. According to the census results, Karachi, the capital of Sindh, is the most populated city of Pakistan, with a total population of 16,024,894, after the addition of over 6 million people since 1998. The number makes no sense. Karachi is undercounted. State resources are distributed and the electoral structures of the country are made according to the census numbers. Here urban Sindh has been criminally ignored by the state for the sake of various vested interests. Fresh delimitation after a census is a need of the hour. Karachi is not being given its due financial and political share right now. Without addressing this issue, one can’t expect democracy to function. Elections right now would be the manifestation of a purely procedural democracy at best.
Lastly, fresh polls immediately at this point of time are a perfect recipe for violence all over the country. Indeed, election are around the corner – sooner or later. But before going for it there exists a charter between all political parties to lower the temperature. The PTI’s recent long march has shown that we are just one or two excesses away from intense political violence. Better sense should prevail now all across the board. Let politics be politics. Let us not turn it into a ‘jihad,’ because it is not. All players – be it politicians or others – before entering into the electoral contest agree and respect the rules of the game. Because if we go to polls, say after three months, there remains a huge possibility that the polls will be marred with blood from Khyber to Karachi.
Lastly, Pakistan urgently needs a billion-dollar relief package from the IMF in the coming days to give itself the fiscal relief it needs. Every single day without it is costing the country. Rather than waiting for the next 90 days where the country is on the verge of bankruptcy, a better decision would be to go for it in coming days.
Today, every political party claims to be ready for fresh polls, but is the time conducive for it? That is the biggest question.
The polls are meant to happen, and they will indeed happen. One would be happy to have them after a delay of some months, rather than to have them after three months with the possibility of unforeseen events.