Right Wing Engineer Pakistan Election win

by Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza

In Pakistan’s General Election on May 11, the notorious right-wing political elite engineered a comeback. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (leader of the Pakistan Muslim League) won 124 seats in the National Assembly, enabling him to form a majority Government. The outgoing Pakistan People’s Party Government on the other hand, led by Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, were the main losers and have been reduced from a parliamentary majority of 84 to a mere 34 seats in total.

The major media attraction of the election campaign was Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (Justice Movement, or PTI) leader, the former national cricket captain, Imran Khan. However, contrary to his forecast of coming to power on the crest of an electoral ‘tsunami’, his PTI failed to achieve their target and lagged behind, in third position, with only 21 seats in the National Assembly.  The centre-right pro-business, secular party, Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), based among the Urdu-speaking community who migrated to the urban centres of Sindh province after the partition of India, bagged 18 National Assembly seats.

But the biggest losses of all were suffered by the anti-Taliban, Pashtun, secular Awami National Party who were virtually wiped out in both the National Assembly, where it could only manage to win one seat, and in the Provincial Assembly in its heartland of Pakhtunwala where it held only six seats. Here the PTI, on 34 seats, won an overall majority.

Nawaz Sharif’s PML(N) has agreed form a provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa with Khan’s PTI. And Imran Khan has also announced he will join in a coalition Government there with the extreme right-wing Jamat e Islami, which adheres to the Wahhabi/Salafist/Islamist sect of Sunni Islam followed by Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. Jamat e Islami has been given the key portfolios of Finance and Education. This is the equivalent of handing over the bank accounts of everyone in the Province to God’s version of Enron. During the 1980s the CIA and Jamat e Islami (backed by the Pakistan military) cooperated on the writing of Jihadist textbooks for the children of Pakistan.

The Riviera nightclub heart-throb, Imran Khan, has also now got into bed with the mullahs.

Meanwhile the results in Sindh province have seen the Pakistan People’s Party [PPP] bounce back to victory in this its heartland, with 66 seats. However, the elections in Karachi and Hyderabad have been declared invalid by the Election Commission after allegations of ballot rigging. Contests have therefore been rescheduled in some constituencies of Karachi for May 21 despite civil administration and security personel fears about the lack of law and order.

Meanwhile Baluchistan, which is also rife with social and political discontent against the law and order situation, finds itself in a proxy war between America and China for control of the areas rich resources as well as the deep-sea port of Gwadar. Here the PML(N) managed to secure just 9 out of 50 seats.

In the province of Punjab, its home base, the PML(N) won a landslide with 224 seats. The PTI won 21 and the PPP just six. It is claimed voter turnout here was around 63% but thousands of votes are being challenged since more votes were cast than actual voters registered. Social media has been flooded with footage of irregularities in the voting process all captured on mobile phones. There have been large sit-ins by PTI, PPP and MQM against the alleged ballot-rigging and the demands for re-run in several constituencies are becoming ever stronger. PTI members claimed that Nawaz Sharif managed to plant his cronies at all major administrative posts during the election with the help of his younger brother, Shabaz Sharif who was the Chief Minister of Punjab for five years. Both the Sharif brothers were proteges of notorious military dictator of the 1980s, General Zia ul Haq. 

The new Pakistan government is expected to be sworn-in on May 30. Nawaz Sharif met with Imran Khan in hospital where the PTI leader is recovering from injuries he suffered after he fell from an impromptu ‘stage’ during an election rally in Lahore which left him with minor fractures to his spine. Khan has already announced he is willing to cooperate on matters of “national interest”, whatever that means. And Nawaz Sharif has issued a statement expressing his willingness to co-operate with the USA on matters of “mutual interest”. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, will be the first foreign dignitary to visit Pakistan’s new Government. Moreover Sharif has assured the IMF that commitments to cut to public spending and serious restructuring of the economy are to be honoured.

This will bring the new government into direct conflict with the impoverished masses of Pakistan. The trade unions are unfortunately not likely to mount an effective opposition as they have previously collaborated with successive governments in the privatisation of the economy and job cuts. They will unfortunately offer no meaningful resistance to the Sharif government in my opinion.

Out of a total population of nearly 190 million, only 80 million of Pakistanis are registered to vote. A 63% turnout therefore means only 45 million people voted. If we deduct the 45 million children under the age of 15 this leaves us with 100 million people (mostly working class and female) who did not participate in this election. There are also reports from the northern parts of Pakistan that women were barred from voting in at least four constituencies by the mutual consent of all major political parties. The Pakistan Tehreek Taliban had announced that they would attack the PPP, ANP and MQM while guaranteeing the conservative right a safe election campaign. Both Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and the Jamat e Islami held massive election rallies in all major cities of Pakistan without a single casualty inflicted upon them by the Pakistani Taliban. On the other hand, more than 140 people, including at least two parliamentary candidates, lost their lives due to attacks on the election rallies of the PPP, ANP and MQM. The PPP could not manage to hold a single major election rally anywhere and the ANP candidates were restricted to holding small corner meetings. In other words, with the help of jackboot tactics, the right-wing conservative political elite has engineered an electoral comeback in Pakistan. The future of Pakistani working people now depends on their willingness to challenge the status quo on a class basis.