February 19, 2008
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.