Reading today’s press, I came across a piece from the renowned journalist Amir Mir that makes for extremely difficult reading. This piece resonates emphatically with my previous accounts and analyses of how these elections are conducing to facilitate admittance of extremists into the mainstream electoral politics of the country. This is a bad omen for democracy and the country on more than one counts, as we all know.
The article in question exposes how an LeJ-related alleged terrorist has been granted a PMLN ticket to contest the election from NA-107 in Gujrat. The man in question, Abid Raza Gujjar, was given a death sentence in a case involving murder of six people during an attempt to assassinate a former Nazim of Gujrat. However, the death sentence was subsequently commuted after Abid’s family was able to ‘conclude’ an out of court settlement with the opposite party and Abid did five years in jail. Subsequent to his release, Abid has been often suspected, apprehended, and questioned for his links with renowned terrorists like Amjad Farooqi. In view of his criminal record and strong suspicions of his links with the terrorists, Abid Gujjar’s nomination papers for the current election were emphatically rejected by the Returning Officer for the said murder charge and for his connections with the banned sectarian outfits LeJ and SSP. But, as has been recurrently manifest during the current elections, the judiciary came to Abid’s salvation. Following a familiar script, Abid was cleared by the Lahore Court as free and competent to contest the democratic elections to be held on May 11, 2013. PMLN then, to most people’s surprise, granted him its ticket for NA-107 at the expense of the party’s district president, Malik Hanif Awan, who had bagged and won that seat for the party in the last two elections in the constituency.
As the country’s secular parties like MQM and ANP struggle to meet terror with defiance ahead of elections, it is appalling to stumble upon this report from Amir Mir that lays bare another evidence of a major party’s complicity with extremist sectarian outfits. This affair does show PMLN as worryingly supplicant to hatemongering sectarian outfits. What exactly is the point of Sharifs’ collaboration with the Brotherly spearheads of sectarian strife in the country? Is it about electoral expediency or is it about the ideology? Difficult to pronounce for me, but thanks to some honest investigative journalism by people like Amir Mir we do get an insight into this collusion, which Nawaz had reportedly pleaded his party to keep very low-key after many people had earlier expressed their dismay on PMLN’s toying with the idea of forging an electoral adjustment with AWSJ. Thus the implication would seem to be that Sharifs knew that this was a shameful piece of business and they would rather nobody made too much of it and it be conducted as useful and pragmatic but fragmented decisions that no one ought to boast about.
The problem with this narrative is that it is tough for ordinary people like me with an averagely developed moral sense to discern who we should fall back on to save the country from extremism and terrorism and who we should blame for the next terrorist activity. I have been mulling this over for a while and think it should probably continue to be that usual third party, the Americans, for that stench of hypocrisy now emanating from the major political parties in general and PMLN in particular. In the five years of the current spate of democracy the terrorists have murdered about 20,000 people, civilians and security forces alike, and maimed thousands of others. This campaign of terror, waged against Pakistani citizens for ten years, has gone unimpeded and not a single terrorist has been served justice by the country’s judiciary, making the extremists a brutal force that operates with total impunity. The truth is that, while blaming it on Pakistan’s enemies, our government has not found any success in appealing to our ally, that country with which we enjoy a ‘special relationship’ and which is known to bankroll certain sectarian parties. And now we have to contend with national politicians giving succour to the extremists, forcing us to cope with clean-shaven Islamists, with the similar retinue of religiously motivated cohorts and the same litany of ambitions to Islamize.
Of course, there are also JUI and JI. In a weird sort of way there they always are, lurking in the shadows whenever some political crisis unfurls in the country. Now they also have ample cyber zealots within their ranks, fecund on the internet, who believe that the world is governed by a secret clique of alien and world powers that are constantly conspiring against Pakistan as the bastion of Islam. JUI has issued a religious decree against voting for PTI and JI has advised those who call themselves liberals to enlist themselves as religious minorities. This is simple apostatization of liberals in JI’s usual deceptive manner.
So there you are. Even by the usual Pakistani standards, such behaviour is an affront to those who believe in untrammelled democracy. I suppose: for all national mainstream parties one might loathe the notion that we cede anything to the extremists in order to buy off their murderous support to grab a few additional seats in the legislature. From the perspective of a majority of voters in the country, these parties would be better off without engaging in the sort of chicanery and bartering some of them have employed with the extremists. Politically, it does not make sense at a broader level and morally, it stinks.