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Election season

By Saad Hafiz:

This year’s parliamentary
elections in Pakistan will be the second ‘legitimate’ democratic elections for the first time since the country was founded in 1947. The upcoming elections are expected to be fought on the primary issues of the struggling economy, poor governance, the weak rule of law and the inability of the government to deliver basic services. Other important issues such as sectarianism and terrorism, institutional wrangling and foreign policy are expected to take a back seat in the election.

The politics of smoke and mirrors can thrive in a country where policy-making processes are weak, political society is not pluralistic, and checks and balances are poor. Political parties run on slogans and on short-term thinking, not on longer-term policy-based platforms. These factors skew political incentives away from promoting the public good that favours society at large. More substantive democracy requires mutual, active engagement from political actors, state agencies and groups of citizens in the daily functioning of the state between elections — in making policies address public needs, in providing services to the public in an effective way, in giving feedback for adequate reforms, and giving account to citizens and their representatives for the way public affairs are dealt with. In this environment, the role of the independent media to objectively examine the track record of political parties and candidates is crucial.

Most political systems are built on perceptions. And the victors are those who are better able to manage those perceptions. The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognise the best political candidates. It has been said that people are not smart enough for democracy and that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. If an electorate is ill informed and easily manipulated, most citizens vote through impulsive trust and the emotional tug without knowing all of the issues at stake. Winners are chosen on the basis of perception and optics with substance taking a backseat. Political parties run slick election campaigns and manage to fool an awful lot of people. While voters want political parties and their candidates to be honest and truthful, they are often told what they want to hear. The people are used to having smoke blown in their faces by candidates running for public office.

Ambitious politicians are increasingly associated with corruption, institutional wrangling and ‘truth-challenging’ rhetoric. There are a few cautious politicians around who hate big statements and under-promise and over-deliver. Most are ruthless in assailing and denigrating their potential political opponents. Self-respect and human dignity are extremely rare qualities. Vacillating and inconsistency are actually becoming the new norm. And personal success comes more from slick makeovers than from any candidate’s particular honesty or personal integrity. The best comment about the group of candidates that comes to mind is a paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s comment about the Labour Party leader Clement Attlee: “They are a modest group, which has much to be modest about.”

The current focus of all parties is on the upcoming elections and on delivering its vote banks. The tough decisions required to start moving towards addressing Pakistan’s internal problems are therefore unlikely to be taken — in the immediate term at least. The deteriorating economy, high inflation leading to high cost of living, insecurity and the ever rising unemployment levels have eroded the hopes of the citizens and confidence in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition government. In this backdrop, the present government can mostly point to its success in bringing about a new culture of political tolerance in the country as democratic processes and institutions are beginning to come of age. A positive trend in recent times has been a general consensus among leaders from all major political parties in Pakistan to support the country’s nascent democratic system against ‘extra-constitutional’ challenges. The historical legacy of suspended parliaments and controlled judiciaries seems to be receding. The role played by parliament in resolving conflicts, easing tensions and enacting some important legislation is encouraging.

Whether in fact the resilience shown by democratic institutions will be lasting and enduring is for the moment quite unclear. Some are of the view that the critical attention to poverty alleviation and addressing the wealth gap is lost in the ongoing democratic tug-of-war. Democracies become consolidated only when both significant elites and an overwhelming proportion of ordinary citizens see democracy as ‘the only game in town’. The consolidation of democracy requires ‘broad and deep legitimisation, such that all significant political actors, at both the elite and mass levels, believe that the democratic regime is the most right and appropriate for their society, better than any other realistic alternative they can imagine’. Democracy and democratisation have an unclear causal relationship with economic growth. More certain is that democracy will require some economic and social development to survive. In other words, popular support for democracy will depend to a great extent on its ability to ‘deliver the goods’.

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29 Responses to "Election season"

  1. Romain United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Saad sb,

    do a find/replace of “Pakistan” with “India” and your article would still be spot on.

  2. saad Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thanks Romain sb: It is interesting that while India has enjoyed near uninterrupted democracy (Mrs. Gandhi’s emergency perhaps the only period where democracy was held in abeyance) compared to long periods of undemocratic rule in Pakistan we find both countries in almost the same situation of looking for effective democratic leaders to deliver.

  3. Gora Bandar United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Mr. Hafiz opines, “In other words, popular support for democracy will depend to a great extent on its ability to ‘deliver the goods’.”{

    Whereas Pakistan’s “Democracy” goes back some 60 years give or take a few military dictatorships, the US started much earlier in 1776. So have the “Goods” been “Delivered,” as enumerated by Mr. Hafiz? NO !!!

    We have a president as lazy and shiftless as the people who elected him, that has torn up the constitution, is bypassing a democratically elected Congress at every turn with countless “Executive Orders.” With unemployment reaching depression levels and the currency being degraded to toilet paper by running up a $16 TRILLION unpayable debt, Americans are fearful and rightly so for their future.

    There is little REAL difference between US and Pakistan in the way so-called “Democratic” government works. Both have a majority of the population dumbed down, poor, given to vulgar amusements and ruled by hidebound corrupt criminal elites. Pakistan has the Bhutto family, US has the Kennedy clan (among others). Political campaigns consist of empty rhetoric (lying), resulting in absolutely NO change except that of decline and further ruin.

    Regarding cultural matters, Pakistan wants to control the madrassas. Two laws were passed: one to create state-controlled madrassas (model: Dini Madaris, 2001); the other to register and control them (2002). The US wants to control guns. Neither will be successful in their endeavors.The players are playing out their parts….all are waiting for Godot.

  4. Thomas United States Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    WELL…!!! I came here to post the article in Antiwar(DOT)com about Brennan……. “Pakistani Disapproval of US Highest Ever, Contra Brennan Fantasy That Drones Are ‘Welcomed”"…. But look at the poll.. APPROVAL OF USA IN PAKISTAN IS 4%– DISAPPROVAL 92% .. IT TELLS A STORY!

    What IS the story behind the the ups and downs shown in the graph..?? WHY for example did the approve and disapprove lines draw so close together in early mid 2011.. and the summer of 2007…??? Why did these latest numbers turn SO DECISSIVELY against the USA…??? Maybe you there on the (killing) ground know the answers.. and can tell us here in America that perpetrate the policies and actions so unpopular there.

    Also, when I came here to post the article at I find the above piece by Gora Bandar in which he makes slurs and accusations. I guess I believe most of what he says about America. I don’t really know enough about ["So have the “Goods” been “Delivered,” as enumerated by Mr. Hafiz?"] to have a specific, or even a general opinion… But I agree with him when he posits “Political campaigns consist of empty rhetoric (lying), resulting in absolutely NO change except that of decline and further ruin.” Yess! It’s mostly or completely true here in the USA.. However.. WHAT ABOUT IK..?? Does Gora Bandar really believe that what IK’s “[campaigns] consist of empty rhetoric (lying)” or does he just disagree with the bad tasting medicine IK prescribes?

    I am struggling to understand the Crazy politics in Pakistan, just as you there are struggling to understand the madness here in the USA…
    I accept all advise and recommendations with mostly good cheer…

  5. Romain United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Gora Bandar Mian I take it you are a republican.

  6. Romain United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Saad Sb,

    Yes, family rule in the garb of democracy is still a dictatorship. In the Indian context, the problem lies more with the polity.

    The reason why democracy works in the western world is because of the electorate. Yes people do get the government they deserve. So the fault really is not in those who govern us but in us who elect them.

  7. saad Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Romain sb: Agreed, although I guess that applies to all democracies in that the electorate often has little influence on the policies pursued by the elected leadership reflected in the frustration expressed by Bander (US Dem vs Rep and vice versa). Bander would probably be fine with an enlightened despot but that would only work if the despot remained “enlightened” otherwise as we know it would be tough to remove him! which we agree is why a “flawed” democracy is better as the electorate at least has a chance to throw the government out via the ballot within a finite term.

  8. Romain United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Saad sb,

    Quite true.

  9. Kamath Canada Google Chrome Windows says:


    I have been reading your column elsewhere with great interest and I applaud honesty and courage to write these things about good old Pakistan. I am also amazed how after a hard day’s work, you could find time to write a hard hitting articles to meet the submission dead-line, week after week!

    That said, Have you wondered your laments for a better Pakistan may be just cries in the wilderness and life may go on just as usual ? Let us hope your wish will be fulfilled.

    In the mean time, may I suggest you -for a break- change the genre of political writings and bring in new topics such as fashions, gossips, rebellion of the youth against religion ( if at all it exists), secret sex in the high society of clerics and politicians? You name it.

    I personally would be thrilled to read about Dr. Quadri who has gone back to Pakistan to set the house in order. As you are a resident of the same province where he lives in , you must have known about his philosophy, agenda and its impact on politics of Pakistan. What would you say?



  10. shimr choudhary United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Karachi: Pakistani construction tycoon Malik Riaz has signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Abu Dhabi group to build the world’s tallest building in the country overtaking Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

    The project is likely to come up on an island some 3 to 4 kilometres off the coast of Karachi and into the Arabian sea.

    Riaz is confident that the project will generate around 2.5 million jobs and promote investment opportunities for different industries.

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    0:30 Tom Cruise’s death-defying stunt Riaz signed the USD 45 billion deal on Friday with the Abu Dhabi group which also successfully runs the Al-Falah bank chain in Pakistan.

    According to the agreement, USD 45 billion would be invested on different construction projects in Pakistan.

    Out of the total amount, about USD 35 billion worth of investments will be made in Sindh while USD 10 billion will be invested in Islamabad and Lahore, media reports said.

    “We have selected the site for our mega project which will be spread over 16,000 acres of land and also house 125,000 houses,” Riaz said on Saturday.

    “Besides the world’s tallest building the project will include a media city, a sports city, an international complex, a medical and educational complex, restaurants, shopping centres, multiplex halls,” Riaz said.

    Though Riaz did not name the site where the project would be constructed but sources aware of the developments told sources that the site for the project would most likely be an island some 3 to 4 kilometres off the coast of Karachi and into the Arabian sea.

    “It is most likely going to be the ‘Kutta Island’ which gets its name because stray dogs which are killed are dumped on it,” a source said.

    The source said the island was also given to another big construction magnate Emmar properties of the UAE but the project was scrapped.

    Riaz said the Emmar project was scrapped and they lost millions of dollars because of the global recession and because there was no direct and strong local presence in the

    Riaz rose to prominence with his ‘Bahria’ town residential projects throughout Pakistan and also after the Supreme Court took up the hearing of the case in which the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was accused of taking money and favours from him allegedly in return of settling cases.

    Riaz said the tallest building in Karachi would beat the Burj Khalifa of Dubai.

    “This construction project will bring in staggering investment into Pakistan and it will benefit industries and people. My dream is to create a new Pakistan and new Karachi,” he said

  11. Asoka India Safari iPad says:

    Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt

  12. kaalchakra United States Safari  Android 4.0.4 LG-MS770 Build/IMM76I says:

    Shomir Chatterjee, that seems amazing. Great news for Pakistan’s development.

  13. Asoka India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JZO54K) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19 says:

    Is is great news for Pakistan. It will really bump up the gdp from 200bn. And this is just one JV. This should send investments soaring.

  14. ashok bajpai United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    मोदी पर काटजू और भाजपा आमने-सामने
    रविवार, 17 फ़रवरी, 2013 को 16:33 IST तक के समाचार
    Facebook Twitter शेयर करेंमित्र को भेजें प्रिंट करें .
    जस्टिस मार्कंडेय काटजू अपने विवादास्पद बयानों के कारण अक्सर सुर्ख़ियों में रहते हैं
    प्रमुख विपक्षी दल भारतीय जनता पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेता और राज्य सभा में नेता प्रतिपक्ष अरूण जेटली ने प्रेस काउंसिल ऑफ़ इंडिया के अध्यक्ष जस्टिस मार्कंडेय काटजू पर हमला करते हुए उनसे अपना पद छोड़ने की मांग की है.

    जस्टिस काटजू ने कुछ दिनों पहले अंग्रेज़ी दैनिक ‘द हिंदू’ में एक लेख लिखा था जिसमें उन्होंने गुजरात के मुख्यमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी पर जमकर हमला किया था.

    संबंधित समाचार’गिलानी की नज़रबंदी हिटलरशाही की हरकत’काटजू की नज़र में पाकिस्तान ‘फ़र्ज़ी’ देशभारतीयों को बेवकूफ़ बतानेवाले काटजू को कानूनी नोटिसटॉपिकभारतउसी लेख से नाराज़ भाजपा ने अब मांग की है कि या तो जस्टिस काटजू प्रेस काउंसिल ऑफ इंडिया के अध्यक्ष पद से ख़ुद इस्तीफ़ा दें या उन्हें हटा दिया जाए.

    भाजपा की ओर से पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेता और राज्य सभा में नेता प्रतिपक्ष अरूण जेटली ने एक पत्र लिखकर कहा है कि जस्टिस काटजू का लेख पूरी तरह से राजनीतिक और पूर्वाग्रह से ग्रसित है.

    काटजू ने अपने लेख में मोदी की आलोचना करते हुए देश के लोगों से अपील की थी कि वे सोच-समझकर प्रधानमंत्री चुनें.

    ‘राजनीतिक टिप्पणी’”जिस तरह से जस्टिस काटजू ने बिहार,पश्चिम बंगाल और गुजरात जैसे ग़ैर-कांग्रेसी राज्यों पर टिप्पणी की है क्या उन्होंने कभी कांग्रेस के घोर भ्रष्टाचार पर टिप्पणी की है.”

    रविशंकर प्रसाद, भाजपा प्रवक्ता
    जेटली के पत्र का ज़िक्र करते हुए भाजपा प्रवक्ता रविशंकर प्रसाद ने सवाल उठाया कि, ”जिस तरह से जस्टिस काटजू ने बिहार,पश्चिम बंगाल और गुजरात जैसे ग़ैर-कांग्रेसी राज्यों पर टिप्पणी की है क्या उन्होंने कभी कांग्रेस के घोर भ्रष्टाचार पर टिप्पणी की है.”

    लेकिन जेटली के लिखे पत्र पर जवाब देते हुए जस्टिस काटजू ने कहा कि अरूण जेटली को राजनीति से इस्तीफ़ा दे देना चाहिए. काटजू ने कहा कि उन्होंने फ़ेसबुक पर कुछ लिखने के लिए महाराष्ट्र में दो लड़कियों की गिरफ़्तारी पर महाराष्ट्र सरकार की कड़ी आलोचना की थी जो कि कांग्रेस शासित राज्य है.

    काटजू ने कहा कि अफ़ज़ल गुरू की फांसी के बाद दिल्ली के पत्रकार इफ़्तिख़ार गिलानी के साथ पुलिस के दुर्व्यवहार पर भी उन्होंने फ़ौरन कार्रवाई करते हुए इसके लिए ज़िम्मेदार पुलिस वाल के ख़िलाफ़ सख़्त कार्रवाई करने की मांग की थी.

    ‘जनता को सोचना चाहिए’”अरूण जेटली को राजनीति से इस्तीफ़ा दे देना चाहिए. मैंने फ़ेसबुक पर कुछ लिखने के लिए महाराष्ट्र में दो लड़की की गिरफ़्तारी पर महाराष्ट्र सरकार की कड़ी आलोचना की थी जो कि कांग्रेस शासित राज्य है. ”

    जस्टिस काटजू, प्रेस काउंसिल ऑफ़ इंडिया के अध्यक्ष
    काटजू ने अपने लेख में कहा था कि गोधरा में दर असल क्या हुआ था, अभी भी ये एक रहस्य बना हुआ है.

    गोधरा कांड के बाद मुसलमानों को निशाना बनाने और हज़ारों लोगों को जान से मारने और उनके घर लूटने की कार्रवाई की हिटलर के नाज़ी जर्मनी से तुलना करते हुए जस्टिस काटजू ने लिखा था कि गुजरात दंगा पूर्व नियोजित था.

    उन्होने ये भी लिखा था कि वे इस बात को मानने के लिए तैयार नहीं कि 2002 के गुजरात दंगों में मुख्यमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी का कोई हाथ नहीं था.

    उन्होंने मोदी के विकास के दावों को भी ख़ारिज करते हुए लिखा था कि गुजरात में 48 फ़ीसदी बच्चे कुपोषित हैं और शिशु मृत्यु दर बहुत अधिक है.

    उन्होंन अंत में भारतीयों से अपील की थी कि वो अपने वोट डालते समय इस चीज़ों का ख़्याल रखें नहीं तो वे भी वहीं ग़लती करेंगे जो 1933 के चुनाव में जर्मनी की जनता ने की थी.

    उनका इशारा हिटलक के चुने जाने की तरफ़ था

  15. ashok bajpai United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    last letter of afzal guru to his wife,

    Respected family and all the believers.

    Asalam u alikum (peace up on you)

    I thank almighty, that he has chosen me for this stature. From my side, I want to congratulate all the believers. We all should stay with truth and righteousness, and our end must also come on the path of truth and righteousness. My request to my family is that instead of grieving over my end, they should respect the stature I have achieved.

    Almighty God is your greatest protector and greatest help.

    I leave you in Allah’s protection.”

  16. tambola United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Tajender/ Shimr Choudhury/ Ashok Bajpai

    Next koi Christian ya Buddhist ya Jain naam rakho, Duniya me saare rehte hain

  17. kaalchakra United States Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    tambola, that is silly. There is no restriction that a Muslim should confine himself or herself to one kind of name or one land. Shomir Chatterjee seems best to me since it also has the smell of Bengal that my friend likes (and that thankfully, likes my friend).

    But yes, even if that investment seems small to some bigoted Hindus, at least it is a great start that will only grow bigger. I say, go, Pakistan.

  18. tambola United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Kaal miyan

    yeh video dekhiyay, Hajj may bhi logon ko discriminate kartay hain. Chamday ka rang aor awaam pay.

    Gour farmaiyega american lady or south african aadmi ka jis may usay apna tent badalna padta hay.”

    My apologies to this post as this is very irrelevant

  19. tambola United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    bas 33 minute 30 seconds say 35 minute 30 seconds

    2 minute dekh lijiyay

  20. yazid United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Kaal please reply
    Just wanted to know ( please reply)
    What is Ashraf/Ajlaf and Arzal among Muslims?

  21. rothmans United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    The Ganges is a monumental aqua-guard which has been cleansing Varna souls ever since the advent of their civilisation. A few Varna apologists describe the senseless Ganga dip as an act of “self-criticism”, where devotees officially confirm they have committed a sin. Those who do not participate in this bizarre event each year, compensate for it by joining the Maha Kumbh madness. In that sense, every Varna individual is a communist, known for his ritual practice of “self-criticism”.

    Questions have often been asked of us. For instance: “Tell me Mr Prasad, how do you propose to eradicate caste divisions?” Upon saying, “Read Ambedkar,” they insist, “No, please don’t be evasive. Tell me now.” Then we say, “Gandhiji had a historic opportunity. Had he spoken in the voice Dr Ambedkar used, half of India’s problem would have been solved in his lifetime itself, and the rest by now. Or if EMS Namboodripad had decided to declare Charu Majumdar as being India’s Mao and worked under his leadership, India would have been a different story today.

  22. tambola United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thanks Tajender/ Shomir/ Ashok/ ROthmans (you took my suggestion)

    next Buddhist, Shikh, Jain, Jorastrian,

    More importantly take a Jewish name..

    :) :) :)

  23. saad Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:


    Thanks for reading and for your feedback. The topics that you suggest I write about are interesting. I will probably branch out to them in due course.

    But I do receive good feedback on my political writeups which encourage me to also continue writing them.

    Dr. Qadri and his return has garnered a lot of interest so he may be worth researching and writing about. All the best, Saad

  24. Moin Ramiz Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    i think N League will win from little lead.

  25. Romain United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Saad Sb,

    keep writing whatever you like and we will keep enjoying it!

  26. Ahsan Raza Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    my predictions for elections.

    N League 110 seats.
    Imran 30 seats.
    PPP 90 seats.

  27. saad Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    Thanks will do Romain sb!

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