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Election 1990 -- uncertainty persists.

Election 1990 - Uncertainty Persists

The election date is fast approaching and political parties are making hectic efforts to win the elections. Alliances and secret deals are being hammered out. The dream of grand alliance of COP has been shattered as the MQM and JUI decided to stay out of the alliance. Benazir succeeded to form Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA), a 4-party alliance with TI, TNFJ and PML (Qasim Group). PPP in Balochistan sought an understanding with two Baloch nationalist parties, the BNM (Balochistan National Movement) and PNP (Pakistan National Party) as well as the Pukhtunkwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP).

The IJI appears to be ripping apart. The battle is going on who would be the future Prime Minister. The one to one fight is no more valid. Jamat is now at Nawaz Sharif's throat on his decision of withdrawing IJI candidates from MQM fold.

Political pundits calculate smaller turnout of the voters. Already the voters turnout is showing a downward trend. It was 67 per cent in 1970, declined to 66 per cent in 1977 and to 58 per cent in 1985. The fall was attributed to the fact that political parties were not allowed to participate in the elections and MRD's decision to stay away. Again in 1988 voters turnout declined to 46 per cent. Possibly the elections were issueless and the ID Card condition. According to one political observer it is a kind of cynicism that when people feel that casting their vote makes no difference to the overall political scheme of things they prefer not to vote at all. The political parties have done nothing to eliminate this kind of cynicism. Thus the prediction is that sense of disenchantment in peoples mind persists and the turnout in 1990 may be thinner.

The judgment of Peshawar High Court has given a boost to the morale of the PPP. The Peshawar High Court opined that the dissolution of NWFP Assembly on August 6 was unconstitutional. Its verdict that the said assembly be restored has been stayed by the Supreme Court in response to the appeal of the caretaker government. Nevertheless, the judgment will have far reaching effect and is likely to change the course of politics. The judgment was hailed by PDP Chief Nawabzadah Nasrullah Khan and Ghulam Mustafa Khar; other petitions against the dissolution of National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies are being heard in respective courts.

Yet another significant event was the release of G.M. Syed the exponent of Sindhudesh. Benazir Bhutto would get an edge over her political opponents in the Punjab over his release. Surprisingly, G.M. Syed reaffirmed that he stood for the independent Sindhudesh and did not recognise Pakistan's present Constitution. He demanded the framing of a new confederal constitution without using the word "confederal". He said that all the five nationalities - Punjabis, Sindhis, Pakhtoons, Balochis and Saraikis-should have equal representation at the Centre. He made open his feeling that Sindh should be a part of greater India, What was surprising that MQM swallowed this bitter pill quietly. One remembers their sky shaltering slogans "Sindhudesh Banane Walo Hum Tumhari Mot Hain."

The process of accountability has completely backfired. Not only the sedition charge against Benazir was unfounded but also charges against her ministers were baseless. For instance reference against former Federal Minister Mr. Jehangir Badr was returned by the special court comprising of Mr. Justice Munir A. Sheikh, observing that charges against him were not maintainable.

The US Ambassador Robert Oakley referred to the accountability exercise going on in Pakistan and observed that in order to remove the impression that the process was being conducted in a partisan way and avert further division in the country, the process should include the 1985-88 period when the IJI parties and politicians ran the Government. He said: "In my view, if there is to be accountability for those holding political offices, it should not start from the November 16, 1988 elections which brought the PPP, but should also include the 1985 period. Otherwise the proceedings will inevitably be seen as partisan and further divide the country." Meanwhile an observer team of National Democratic Institute of America is likely to arrive in Pakistan to monitor October polls.

Benazir has already appeared before one of the tribunals. The campaign on the electronic media against Benazir is acting like a boomerang. The IJI leaders who have so far appeared on TV have nothing to offer to the voters. Their aim is to put roadblocks against Benazir Bhutto. Political observers are speculating on the present situation. There may be four options that may emerge in the near future.

Option I - PPP Wins: This means it has secured 109 out of 199 general seats in the National Assembly. Even then, a smooth transfer of power may not take place. The resentment against Benazir in the establishment is so strong as to be ludicrous, and it may be felt that it would be better to intervene, American aid or no American aid. After all, General Zia started out under the same inauspicious circumstances. Even somehow Benazir returns to office (despite hectic horse-trading and efforts for an alternative PPP Prime Minister) she will not know how long she will last. For a stable government she needs a comfortable majority in the national assembly.

Option II - IJI Wins: Even if IJI wins it will not be possible to form an IJI government in Sindh. The issue of Prime Minister will break the IJI into pieces. MQM has left three seats uncontested in Hyderabad. Sympathy wave will be very strong in Sindh. Benazir has very intelligently exploited her dismissal. IJI will not be able to hold together in the National Assembly. Jamaat has already declared war against Nawaz Sharif.

Option III - Elections Postponed: This will be a chaotic situation. However, it must be remembered that the Constitution makes no provision for such a postponement. While Article 232(6) allows the term of the National Assembly to be extended by a maximum one year during an Emergency nothing says that elections may be postponed during an Emergency imposed after a dissolution. There have been murmurs that the Supreme Court might consider allowing a postponement via the backdoor of Article 260, which simply validate any act otherwise constitutional which may have been delayed. This scenario is being discussed in the corridors of power. In this scenario caretaker batch of politicians is also allowed to discredit themselves to the point where the army finds it opportune to step directly into their shoes, once again "Accountability can be a double-edged sword. Many of these moth-eaten politicians can be dismissed on the same charges as Bhutto was" argues a senior bureaucrat in Islamabad, as he comments on what he sees to be the army's broader gameplan. "No-one can say if they will stop short of amending the constitution in order to formalise their power-sharing formula, but much of that may also depend on the American interest at that place and time. If they still need the army to prop up their presence in the Gulf, they may be persuaded to go in for supporting a Turkish style constitutional amendment in which the army shares power with the politicians".

According to another report published in newspapers it was apprehended that the Government was planning to take some supra constitutional measures in the near future, like the formation of national security council by amending the Constitution.

Whatever the case, it is very apparent now that what happens in the next few weeks will shape the future of Pakistan for years to come. The rumour mills are working overtime, but despite that, one thing is clear-democracy in Pakistan remains balanced on the thinnest of edges.

Option IV - Martial Law: Martial Law or no martial law the Sindh problem will not go away. General Aslam Beg has said several times that Martial Law is not on the cards. But general law and order situation is such that it may tempt the army to take over. There is an intellectual realisation even among the military that such control is counter productive.. Another motive that cannot be neglected is that of the expire of tenures due early next year. The Chief of Air Staff is due to go in March, the Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Naval Staff in August and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in November. For the first three the extensions to be gained from taking over might provide a subconscious motivation. Such extensions would mean throwing away all the re-institutionalisation achieved since the end of the Martial Law and President Zia's death.
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Title Annotation:forecasting Pakistan's election outcome and its effect
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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