NA-55, Democracy’s last chortle – by Qudrat Ulla

The recently concluded NA-55 by-elections in the heart of Rawalpindi were highly capricious in many ways- it was the finale political Armageddon of the shrewd Sheikh of Potohar in which he tried to play all his tricks but to no avail, Punjab government wanted to win it at every cost, as victory was important for the ruling PMLN to redo its political morale after losing the Haripur National Assembly seat, and the Patriarch of the House of Sharifs – Muhammad Nawaz Sharif wanted to win it too, but for personal reasons.

By-elections had a special importance for him and he wanted to see the antediluvian progenitor of AKA Sheikh Rashid Ahmad get defeated for his past sins of betrayal, disloyalty and dishonoring of voters confidence by siding with the dictator Musharraf. The fact that this is the third consecutive victory of PML-N candidates from NA-55, since the general elections of 2008, shows that its strong vote-bank is still intact.

The victory has another dimension as well- the victor is an ordinary political worker who has defeated a lethal political giant. On the whole, administrative steps for the smooth holding of by-elections were satisfactory except the firing incident.

The election results proved immediate magnum opus for the Punjab government vis-à-vis the federal government. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while terming opponent Sheikh Rashid as a Zardari candidate, thanked Rawalpindiites. PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif said after the results that the victory of N-League candidate Shakil Awan would usher in a new era of development and it would harbinger change in the country. He added that he would bring about a revolution of change through his team.

NA-55 results show that federal government is also not a loser, rather it can claim some stakes in the victory as PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Zardari has taken revenge from once arch political rival who used to utter foul ranting against late Benazir Bhutto in 80s and 90s.

Zardari also succeeded in unnerving the Punjab government, for its candidate’s defeat would be a major point scoring by the Q-League chief Ch. Pervaiz Elahi. Only the loud mouth Sheikh from the North is a sure loser as he has proved himself to be a bad player of the game in which he is involved since the 1970s.

After the announcement of unofficial results, the PMLN workers came
out to the streets to rejoice their victory against their once defamatory kingpin in the national assembly. They chanted slogans in the support of their candidate. On the other hand, chief of his own naiveté Awami Muslim League, Sheikh Rashid moaned of rigging but failed to present any conspicuous example. Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami candidate Dr. Kamal expressed his satisfaction on the election process and advised Mr. Rashid to come forward with the proof of the alleged rigging, if there is any. The Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif went to Rawalpindi constituency to congratulate the winning candidate Malik Shakil Awan.

The election results have intuited a number of factors which will continue to affect the national political scene in the days to come. Results show that voters prefer principled politics over personalities and past of parliamentarians can pay them in either way. Now, the politics of parliament is different from the local government level as Sheikh Rashid has a definite edge over his rival. He has famous for his development work in the constituency and around the city, where he is active since 1985. Had developmental work alone or the mega advertising campaigns work then why it did not benefited to the Q-League in 2008 elections?

Now, voters are influenced by many other factors like party position on issues like Pak-USA relations, war against terror, corruption, Talibanization, Balochistan imbroglio, water problem, inter-provincial relations and service delivery to the masses are some of the issues that affect the public mind. Pakistan’s nascent electronic channels have come a long way to definitely mould public opinion and this is what happened in NA-55. Rawalpindi media and TV channels have played their role in deciding the election results. However, raconteur Sheikh of Lal Haveli failed to judge the public mood in wake of Lal Masjid fiasco shows Mush remnants’ disrespect of public mood. Had the Lal Haveli Sheikh won the election, PML (N) would have been in an embarrassing situation vis-à-vis the Q-League. For that reason, it has also weakened the bargaining position of Ch. Pervaiz Elahi.

The PML (N) has succeeded in rejuvenating its energies and this victory has given necessary strengths to its leaders to yet again challenge rival Zardari and the PPP policies. The 0.334 million voters proved that past dictator’s lanky minions can no longer befool the masses and now the democratic forces should also learn that the voters cannot be influenced by hollow political jargons. Therefore, they should also be able to deliver well to the people as democracy means equal distribution for all.

Political observers claim that Punjab government set up is the best ending of the 2008’s elections where Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is single-handedly trying hard to deliver. He can boast of maintaining corruption-free government machinery and the mantra of good governance is loud and clear to the satisfaction of the ordinary people. He has set up many examples of merit, transparency and rule of law in the province. This is what we were waiting for in the past. However, he
should hire highly professional and dedicated team of experts in different fields like health, agriculture, education, C&W, industry, commerce and I.T etc to deliver at people’s doorsteps. Constitution of a well-disciplined public service delivery system would be his biggest contribution to democracy and the people of Pakistan.