Several factors make the 2013 elections historic – the first ever transfer of power from one civilian government to another, an independent election commission, the massive popularity of new political powers such as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the youth factor, the crucial role of traditional and social media – to name a few. As the election campaign gains momentum however, several contextual dynamics at play seem to have undermined these positive factors.
In recent days certain political parties, including the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), who together constituted the previous government, have been targeted by a spree of terrorist attacks. Hundreds of political workers, leaders and some election candidates have been brutally killed. Apart from the tragic loss itself, these events are posing some serious questions on the credibility of the elections as a whole. If the violence continues, the targeted parties would certainly not be competing on a level playing field. While gusto and political antagonism is part of the election campaigning process, a line must be drawn between enmity and opposition. Whether for tactical reasons or for the alleged sympathy factor, the TTP (who have claimed responsibility for these attacks) are not targeting other parties.
Thus the forthcoming government will not only have to face questions of credibility but will also have to tackle the plague of militancy in Pakistan. The current silence of those who should be speaking up at this time will not only be a hindrance towards tackling Talibanization but will also be recorded in history as a dark stain for the present political leaders.
The essence of the democratic process lies in bridging ideological gaps and conflicts of interest instead of emboldening them. All the political parties, their supporters and concerned citizens must take this into account. While some issues are legitimately divisive, others must stand as unifying forces, and terrorism is one of them. In the longer run, the success of the upcoming elections and the incoming government would be taken as a success of the political process, not just of any one political leader or party.
(Published in The Laaltain – April 2013 Issue)
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