Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2013

A new Page in Pakistan Politics

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

It happened for the first time in the post-Independence politics of Pakistan, that 60 percent registered voters came out to vote. There was a generational stir and every citizen, eligible to vote or not, decided to resurrect hope by undertaking their civic duty to vote or facilitate a voter to vote in the interests of their present and future. They rose from the ashes of neglect, oppression and disadvantage. None other than the cricket legend Imran Khan raised the slogan for a ‘change’. Pakistani youth and the women responded to his call and have shaken the entrenched politics in Pakistan.

Back on the radar

The election of May 11, 2013 has put Pakistan back on the radar as country which in addition to Muslims is a home for seven non-Muslim communities namely Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Qadiyanis, Bahais and Buddhists. Except for the boycott of some 200,000 members of the Ahmadi community, 1.40m are Hindus, 1.23m Christians, 5,934 Sikhs, 3,650 Parsis, 1,452 Buddhists and 809 Jews played a crucial role in 96 constituencies. Of the seven minority communities living in the country Hindus constitute the largest group. They woke up as the citizens of a country to attempt a change through ‘vote power’, a strength denied to the people of Pakistan since 14 August 1947. These polls will mark the first time that a civilian Government has completed a full five-year term and handed over to an elected successor since Pakistan was created in 1947.

Fatwa-‘Islamic obligation’

2013 is Pakistan’s lucky year. A lot happened in many different ways. On 25 April 2013 over 300 clerics belonging to different schools of Islamic thought issued the fatwa in Islamabad nearly two weeks ahead of the parliamentary elections and declared that casting vote was ‘compulsory under Islamic injunctions’. The fatwa views casting vote as an ‘Islamic obligation’ of the people and the action of those who avoid casting vote will be considered a ‘sin’. The edict was in contrast with the stance of the Taliban, who view the democratic system as un-Islamic and also asked the people to stay away from casting votes.

Carry Out Civic Duty

Two days before the elections, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on behalf of 195 countries of the world urged all eligible Pakistanis to peacefully take part in the country’s upcoming elections while also expressing concern about the recent wave of violence and attacks aimed at disrupting preparations for the 11 May polls. Like the fatwa UN chief also expressed his hope “that all eligible Pakistanis peacefully take part, regardless of their religious affiliation, ethnic background, or gender and carry out their civic duty on this important day.”  Muslim scholars had described the casting of vote as a religious duty and UN Secretary General described it as a ‘civic duty’. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), PML-Quaid, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as minorities have also supported the decree.

Commendation

After noting the 60 percent turn out at the polls, UN Secretary General would be justified in his appreciation of “the efforts of the Government, the Election Commission of Pakistan, political parties, civil society and religious leaders to encourage voter turnout, particularly amongst women.”

New turn and Treason

Pakistan is going to take a new turn. At variance with the perpetuated habit of being above law, the Election Commission under article 245 of the Constitution was able to summon the army in aid of civil power to maintain law and order during the polls in various parts of the country. It has been a good beginning as soldiers under oath under the Constitution. Nawaz Sharif, too seems to have graduated in experience and he has made it clear that his government would decorate the senior most in rank as the next Army Chief, when General Kayani is due to retire on November 27, 2013.

Military has been driven back, though at a slower pace, to their Constitutional duties by an assertive superior judiciary. Civil society and emerging free press have equally contributed to the debate of a military adhering to its oath of non-interference in the politics of the country. The exile, return and fate of General Musharraf remains on the side of the general debate, that a soldier is there to serve according to his oath and under article 245 of the Constitution. Beyond that he would attract treason under article 6 of the Constitution.

New Government

Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) lead by Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) headed by Imran Khan as two major parties have to conserve the faith and hope of the people, who came out in unprecedented numbers to find hope. Along with domestic duties the new Government shall have to respond to its regional and international obligations.

Nawaz Sharif had pioneered a new start to resolve the various pending issues with the Government of India. Kashmir remained as one of the issues. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reciprocated in his distinguished style as a humanist on the issue of Kashmir. Unfortunately, Musharraf sabotaged the process and punished not only the people of Pakistan but equally disturbed the Kashmiri narrative. A new start has to be made to save the people from becoming proxies and casualties between the two countries. Nawaz Sharif of a Kashmiri origin and Imran Khan as a sportsman, have more to revisit and contribute.

Kashmiri Leadership

Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has its set up in PaK. However, the Kashmiri leadership from the Valley shall have to summon extra-ordinary moral courage for turning their backs on Nawaz Sharif during his difficult days and for singing hymns in praise of Musharraf. In fact Kashmiri leadership erred to serve the interests of establishment and did immense wrong at the cost of Kashmiri narrative to keep Musharraf in good humour. Times have proved them wrong and they are faced with a difficult situation. The only hope would be the intervention of the mediaries in the establishment in Islamabad. But the new political dispensation would not be prepared to go along with the ‘yellow pages’ of who is who on Kashmir prepared by the establishment.

Kashmir Elections 2014

The Clerics in Pakistan have declared casting vote a ‘religious duty’ and United Nations has described it as performing a ‘civic duty’. It would be very difficult for Kashmiri leaders to oppose the participation in Kashmir Elections in 2014. Elections in Pakistan have set a new example, that the youth and the women have a special role in any change in the society. Unfortunately Kashmiri leadership does not regard or encourage the role of women at all. Their participation is symbolic and unimpressive.

As far as Kashmiri youth is concerned, a generation was lead to the grave. A large number is disabled. Some have been tagged as renegades, some surrendered militants, some are stranded in AJK or in Pakistan trying to settle down and others are trying hard to return and benefit from the rehabilitation policy of the State government.

We have a large number of educated unemployed employable youth, a large number of educated unemployed unemployable youth, a large number of un-educated unemployed employable youth and a large number of un-educated unemployed unemployable youth without a future. They have reached a dead end in their life. It is ironic that many of our youth who were encouraged to take on the world’s third largest army as rag a tag soldiers, are trying hard to be recruited in State police, BSF, CRPF and other visible and invisible forces. Some fortunate find their way into Indian Administrative services.

Unfortunately, the manner of politics of our leaders has made Kashmiri youth less attractive as a proxy for Pakistan and a suspect in various parts of India. He is seen limping between devil and the deep sea.

Kashmiri, Imran Khan and Kashmiri Nawaz Sharif

There is a need to turn the page in Kashmir as well. Our youth and our women have to surge to force a change. We need the likes of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, who can address all ages, all faiths and all interest groups alike and assure them that it is now or never, for a change. The status quo in Hurriyat and in Main Stream politics has to be challenged. They should remember what Imran Khan said from his bed in the Hospital, “How long would you allow PPP to sell you in the name of Bhutto?” And if you don’t come out on May 11, 2013 to change Pakistan, you will be lumbered with the same regime for another five years.

Ideas move the world and Pakistani common citizen of all faiths, all ages and in particular women and youth came out to sack an old system. That is what we need to import as a good example for Kashmir.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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