The Surprise Everyone Wanted

  • People are in a daze. They have got what they wanted but never expected --- a free and fair election. The President had promised this. International observers were observing. Civil society groups were watching. Concerned citizens were analyzing arrangements and pointing out loopholes. The Election Commission was shouting itself hoarse that it would ensure fair play. The major political parties had threatened agitation if there was manipulation. The media had geared up for continuous and in-depth coverage of the election process. In spite of all this, people expected rigging. What they got was an absence of rigging. They are still getting over the shock of this surprise.

    What happened? The incumbent government was complacent. They were relying on the ‘establishment’ to ensure their survival as they had been for the last five years. They thought this was a given because of the judicial crisis, civil society pressure and various steps that had been taken and now needed parliamentary endorsement. The ‘establishment’ however had its eyes and ears on the international focus on the elections and the expectations of the people. Perhaps the ‘establishment’ was tired of going it alone against the forces of extremism and now wanted liberal moderate forces to be supportive of the fight being waged.

    The ‘establishment’ therefore sat back and let the people speak through their vote. This courageous response needs to be understood and commended. This is no time for victory parades and petty vendettas. The credit must be given where it is due.

    What do the election results portend? The PPP emerges as a truly national party with a good showing in all the provinces. The significance of this must not be lost sight of because therein lie the seeds of strengthening the federation. The alliances with PML (N), the ANP and the MQM can give us badly needed political stability. The ‘establishment’ has a major role to play in the final act in our transition to democracy. This means recognizing the reality and rising above all personal considerations by everyone. When Pakistan wins we all win.

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