Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom,
I have felt a lot of happiness after seeing update Peace and Freedom blog. Thanks God you are alright.
Pakistan is going to election tomorrow, but situation in tribal areas and other parts of the country is still tense.
Pakistan man rides his bicycle decorated with electoral posters in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008. Pakistani’s will go to the polls in parliamentary elections on Monday Feb. 18.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
I want to present thank and gratitude to you for your kindness with the people of tribal areas. It is due to your positive approach that now government of Pakistan has changed its attitude about terrorists to some extents. The people of tribal areas fully recognize your role in war against terrorism.
The time is not far away when the terrorists will be flush out of the tribal areas. You will be invited to Bajaur Agency, tribal areas for presenting you “Award from the Poor”. A lot of thanks.
Situation in Pakistan is still fluid. Pakistani media has been expressing apprehension about the elections. Daily Times, owner of which is the federal minister, in its editorial stated that shadows keep falling on the elections even in the last hours before the polling begins.
Pakistan’s Election Commission staff sit in a van as they carry election material for the upcoming parliamentary elections, in Peshawar February 17, 2008. Pakistan’s parliamentary elections will be held on February 18.
REUTERS/Mian Khursheed (PAKISTAN)
The attorney general is allegedly caught on tape telling someone that the government is going to rig the elections.
Ten terrorists linked to the Taliban are caught in Karachi ready to blow up several polling stations with massive amounts of explosive material.
A thousand people, all Afghans, are arrested in Peshawar and accused of “trouble-making”. Eighty thousand troops are deployed to protect the polling stations, one-third of which have been declared dangerous.
This is going to be a very different election from past ones. It is happening mostly on TV. It is mired in rumours of dhaandli or rigging whose evidence keeps popping up here and there.
The political parties, scared of being short-changed, are threatening rejection of polls and violent agitation, but with a clear subtext that it might hurt their interests.
Every party is claiming exaggerated gains at the polls since any modest assessment might make the voters turn away. The incumbent PMLQ began by claiming 150 seats in the National Assembly together with its allies, to come down to 110 on the eve of polls, till some unnamed PMLQ leaders are being quoted in the press as ready to accept the PPP and the PMLN government after the polls.
The real threat to the 2008 elections remains a low voters’ turnout.
The PPP has a sympathy wave welling up for it. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that it will sweep in rural Sindh, thus sharing the province with urban MQM. It is estimated to win 35-40 out of 61 National Assembly seats in Sindh. One analyst says it will also win 40-50 out of the 148 seats in Punjab, 10-15 of NWFP’s 35, 3 of Balochistan’s 19, to make up a total of 100-108. This is possible because the PPP is the only national party with votes in all the four provinces. With this kind of total it will certainly be the front-runner for putting together the government at the centre.
Significantly, the party’s mood is suitably conciliatory and it threatens no one, not even President Pervez Musharraf.
The PMLN is the comeback party in Punjab. If the PMLQ suffers it will do so because of the ability of the PMLN to bounce back, although to write off the incumbent PMLQ would be unwise since it is fielding some very strong candidates despite defections and its own policy to undercut some of its candidates — after giving them tickets — through independents.
The 53 seats in South Punjab are under threat from the PMLN which is also set to win handsomely in Lahore and Faisalabad, the second and third largest cities in the country. One feels that Mr Nawaz Sharif is reconciled to letting the PPP rule in Islamabad and handle President Musharraf while he gets Punjab on the basis of all the tools he will have handy in the National Assembly to play the kingmaker.
The rise of the ANP in the NWFP is bound to fill the vacuum left behind by a bickering MMA.
Out of all the parties, it is the ANP which is campaigning bravely after being fatally targeted twice by the terrorists. If the voters come out the party is sure to increase its presence in the provincial assembly as well as have enough numbers in the National Assembly to form meaningful alliances.
The PPP doesn’t have a good past record with the ANP, but the new orientation in both parties is to disembarrass themselves of their old identity markers and seek reconciliation.
Just as the PPP began making overtures to the MQM in Sindh right after the arrival of Ms Bhutto from exile, the big party is bound to ride together with the ANP and allow it to form the government in the NWFP.
The PPP was in the process of discussing power-sharing with the PMLN on Friday. Mr Nawaz Sharif has stiffened his rhetoric on the presumed basis of negotiations, but this could be mere electoral pyrotechnics to win votes.
He wants President Musharraf ousted and he wants the dismissed judges restored. (His wife has promised a gathering that her party would replace President Musharraf with Dr AQ Khan.)
No doubt the parties will have to develop the requisite measure of flexibility after the elections to work in double harness at the centre and in Punjab. There is evidence that they don’t want to revert to the cloak-and-dagger days of the 1988 assemblies when Punjab spies called Midnight Jackals had tried to topple the PPP at the centre.
At no time in the past have local and foreign observers been forced to keep their fingers crossed as now. There are far too many elements for comfort today who would wish to see the elections go wrong. Nor is the world too reassured of Pakistan’s real intentions after it returns to democracy.
It is ironic to note that women in the tribal areas have been barred from casting their votes. A report said that about 424,332 of the 1,524,284 registered women voters from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and frontier regions will be deprived of their right to vote following direct threats from local Taliban.
Local Taliban had also distributed pamphlets some weeks ago in the FR and Bajuar, Kurram and Mohmand agencies warning the tribesmen of bombing or “severe punishment” if they did not keep their women away from poling stations.
On Thursday, Lashkar-e-Islami chief Mangal Bagh said women would not be allowed to vote in two constituencies of Khyber Agency – NA-45 in Jamrud subdivision and NA-46 in Bara subdivision. Women’s participation in voting was against the tribal traditions, he said, and the families and tribes whose women would vote would be punished “in line with tribal traditions”.
Dear Sir, please remember that you are the hero of millions of tribesmen as you have done a lot for them. You have played a very positive role in liberating them from terrorists.
Again thank you very much,
Khar, Bajaur Agency,
Tribal Areas Pakistan
What Next Pakistan?