By Abdullahil Ahsan
The writer is professor of comparative civilization at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul Sehir University. He has written extensively on the relationship between Islamic and Western civilizations.
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has claimed victory in the general elections held last Wednesday (July 25) and he is now trying to form the next government in Pakistan. Although PTI does not have majority seats in the new parliament, Khan is expected to win over necessary members of the parliament from independent or smaller parties. The opposition parties on the other hand have alleged irregularities and vote rigging; some are even threatening street demonstration against the election results. However, overall there is nothing new in such allegations. What seems to be new this time however, is that Khan has offered transparent examination of vote rigging allegations. In 2013, Khan had alleged vote rigging but the then administration refused to conduct any investigation. Will this approach lead to Khan’s claim of a Naya (Urdu for new) Pakistan?
Yes, new Pakistan is perhaps the dream of every Pakistani, particularly of those who are below 30; majority of the Pakistanis now are said to be of that age. But this new Pakistan idea reminds me of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who almost 50 years ago came up with the slogan. At that time, the country had been split into two, resulting in Bangladesh's independence. Bhutto was accused of being responsible for the break up of the country. Following the election in 1970, he told his East Pakistani counterpart, who had won majority seats in the parliament, “that part is yours, this part mine”. (Bhutto was later hanged during the era of Gen. Zia-ul-Haque's regime.) I hope Khan is not contemplating any such “new Pakistan”. Of course, he is not: his statements and actions are not any closer to those of Bhutto’s. Therefore, one could be moderately optimistic about Khan’s claim for a new Pakistan.
Role of the military
Before one moves to examine the potential for Khan’s new Pakistan, one needs to address the question of fairness in conducting the election -- a question that the opposition, some segment in the national and international media and most importantly neighboring India has raised. Pakistan’s armed forces have been accused of engineering the election results. A European Union observer group in its statement, however, did not point out any direct rigging made by the armed forces, which had been tasked with ensuring security for the process. Everyone familiar with Pakistan’s history knows, however, that the armed forces have intervened in Pakistani politics many times. But to be fair with the armed forces as an institution, one must note that intervention in the political process by non-political elements in Pakistan did not originate with the armed forces.
It was Malik Ghulam Muhammad (1895-1956), a bureaucrat turned governor general, who had removed the then prime minister because he thought the premier was incapable of heading the administration. Then the judiciary came to justify the bureaucratic action: Justice Muhammad Munir (1895-1979) introduced the “doctrine of necessity” and Pakistan’s constitutional and political process was interrupted. This was followed by the action of another bureaucrat, Iskander Mirza (1899-1970) who became the first president of Pakistan under the new constitution, proclaimed martial law in 1958 and appointed a number of generals in his Cabinet. Soon, however, the generals decided to take power by exiling Iskander Mirza from the country. This is how intervention of armed forces entered into Pakistani politics. Why then should one be surprised this time even if the armed forces have intervened? If Imran Khan is able to ensure all parties follow the constitution, he will make a huge contribution to Pakistan. Khan only needs to ensure good governance in the country.
The politics of 'electable'
Khan has made many promises during his campaign and good governance is number one in the list. He has again underlined the importance of good governance while addressing the nation in his July 26 victory speech and reiterated his promise of eradicating corruption. However, although Khan himself has an image of being an uncorrupt leader, his policy of recruiting the so called electable in his party ranks make one nervous. Don’t the electable represent corrupt politicians of the past? Khan has claimed that he would attract overseas Pakistanis to invest in Pakistan. This reminds me of Nawaz Sharif’s promise to overseas Pakistanis in 1997 when he became prime minister with a huge mandate. Sharif attracted only $200 million as opposed to expectation of billions. Also, when the country was hit by an international financial crisis in 1997, he was also accused of withdrawing money from Pakistani banks in local media reports. Will Imran Khan be able to control the “electable” members of his party? In my view, this will be the most difficult challenge to Khan’s perception of good governance.
Hope and younger generation
The hope for a better future is essential for every human being, but it is more important for the young in Pakistan. They have been deprived of opportunities by previous governments. The lack of opportunity has led many to seek assistance from undesirable sources and Pakistan’s enemies have taken full advantage of this situation. Out of sheer frustration, some seem to have accepted very minimum incentive for seditious activities against the state. As a result, many counter terrorism “experts” see Pakistan as a failed state. Pakistan is not a failed state: Pakistan possesses enormous resources for becoming a model state as was perceived by Iqbal and Jinnah almost a century ago. Khan claims that Pakistan’s founding fathers have motivated him. Pakistan’s founding fathers rightly understood that modern civilization could be saved only by following Quran's guidance through prophetic teachings. Unfortunately in Pakistan today certain reactionary elements have hijacked the understanding of the prophetic model. Pakistan today is extremely polarized in the name of this model. In my view, this model simply demands accountability, transparency, rule of law that is participatory, responsive, equitable, inclusive, efficient and effective. Khan will have to be careful about what comes in the name of religion as well.
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