Nine predictions till next election — by Kumail Ahmed

1. Pakistani Rupee (PKR) will further devalue

The rupee will further decline against dollar due to two reasons. The first is Hajj, and the second is elections.

In the Hajj season many pilgrims carry US$ instead of Pak rupee. An excessive purchase of US$ will decrease its supply in the open market creating a shortage of dollar. This will automatically increase the price tag for the US$, hence futher devaluing Pakistani rupee.

Election rallies are going to start from November 2012. Political parties in power (in centre and in Punjab) will illegally waste the treasury money on their political procession. The government will need a massive amount of money to fulfil such a task. This massive amount of money will come from printing out new notes, hence increasing inflation. This increase in inflation will increase the amount of PKR in the market, further devaluing the currency.

2. Election will not take place this year.

Elections will take place in the first half of 2013. Two basic reasons are Army’s mood and the electoral rolls.

The army is in no mood to bring in a martial law in Pakistan. It is fighting a massive war in Waziristan area against terrorism. Its involvement in national politics will bring it bad name, and the will to fight a war will wane.

Dismantling the democratic setup will open a Pandora’s Box in Pakistan. Relationship with United State are at a historic low, the economic growth rate is embarrassing, and terrorism is out of control and sporadic. A martial law would be the last ingredient in this soup of instability.

The electoral roll is the second reason for elections to take place on 2013. These rolls will be completed till the end of October 2012. The process of jotting done all legal voters is difficult and tardy, especially in the flood affected areas of Sindh, and war affected areas of FATA. This makes the process extremely difficult to accomplish. Without a proper electoral count, elections 2013 will be of a theatre show with the same characters.

3. No major change expected in Sindhi constituencies.

Urban and rural Sindh will not face any major constituency change. MQM will remain in power in Karachi, Hyderabad, and parts of Sukkur, while PPP will win in it’s traditional bastions of power.

The only spectre haunting PPP is the untied front of all nationalists party combined with PML(N). This spectre might hurt PPP in the banks of Dadu, Nashero Feroz, Khangarh, Khairpur, Thatta and Sangher. An analyst writes:

“The Jatois have a sizable political support and vote bank in Dadu and Naushehro Feroze districts. The Mahars of Khangarh, one of upper Sindh’s most powerful families and considered close to the military establishment, are going to be either in the PML-N or any anti-PPP alliance in Sindh. On the other side of river Indus, Khairpur and Sanghar districts have been witness to a resurgence of Pir Pagaro’s Functional Muslim League. Most analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised to see anti-PPP candidates making big gains in these districts. Thatta district is being ruled by the Shirazis for quite some time now. It is safe to believe that they will be more than happy to be part of any anti-PPP coalition in the province.”

This alliance will be a force to reckon with. PPP has to buy in all feudal lords for any political gain. Secondly, PPP must play its traditional ‘Sindh card’, and win the hearts of the common nationalist Sindhis. One such card can be the abrogation of the Zulfikarabad project — a new city which president Zardari envisaged between Karachi and Hyderabad.

Apart from this, The Benazir Income Support Program (BINP) will create an additional vote bank for the ruling party. BINP requires every women, who is a part of this program, to have a national identity card (NIC). A NIC allows her to be a part of the electoral list. This new voter will only vote for PPP, as the Benazir welfare fund is her only lifeline for economic survival.

Meanwhile, MQM won’t face any big political challenge in urban centres. MQM’s classic rival ANP (a nationalist Pakhtoon party) will balance out the affects of PTI (Imran’s party) as both of them attract the 35 million Pakhtoon vote bank in Karachi. Furthermore, the moderate and extremist right-winger also attracts MQM’s vote bank in Hyderabad and Sukkur will be a fine ethnic balance with PPP. The JUI(Fazal) might try to attract voters on the name of God, but there are many other parties which will do the same, hence diluting the right-winger vote banks.

4. All PMLs will combine to give a tough fight to PPP.

It is easy to buy and sell allegiances in Pakistan. People sell themselves for a pity amount of money or ministerial posts. This is because we are an ideologically bankrupt society. A nationalist (like Mumtaz Bhutto) merges his party into PML(N) (a party which believes in Pakistan). People from PML(F) go to PPP, while socialists jump into right-wing parties and vice versa.

Considering this, a merger of all Pakistani Muslim Leagues (Functional , Nawaz ,Quid-e-Azam, Awami, Like minded, Zia, All Pakistan) is not out of question. They will join together to counter the merging threat of PTI in Northern Punjab and PPP’s threat in south Punjab.

Most of these PMLs are centre to right parties. They don’t explicitly denounce Taliban and other Islamic extremists groups. A combined PML will be the undefeated champion of central Punjab which is the bastion of extremism in Pakistan.

A combined PML will effectively mobilize in KPK province. It is easier to get a vote in a non-Punjabi area if the Pashtoon himself is supporting a federal party. If PML(N) goes into KPK on its own, it might face defeat due to two reasons. Firstly, it failed to satisfy the people of Hazara at the time when N.W.F.P was being renamed to Kyber Pakhtoon Khaw (KPK). This is a major political loophole that the rival parties will exploit to its maximum in the upcoming elections. Secondly, a lonely PML(N) has an implict Punjabi character which makes it similar to the ruling establishment. Merging all PMLs will help in diminishing this opinion.

5. Balochistan will remain out of control

No major progress will be made on the Balochistan issue. The rising anti-Pakistan middle class will forcefully demand secession from Pakistan. The state has failed to comply with the needs of the common Baloch.

From 1970 till now, the Balochistan national assembly has moved 704 resolutions on different topic pertaining to the federation. Unfortunately, the federation hasn’t paid heed to a single resolution whatsoever.

Historically speaking, the region of Kharan, Makran, Lasbella, Averaan, Jhala vaan, and Sara vaan were controlled by the Khan of Kalaat. Jinnah asked him to be a part of Pakistan, which he accepted on the condition that defence, foreign policy, currency, and postal service will remain in the hands of the Khans. Jinnah accepted his proposal of power distribution. Unfortunately, due to the so-called ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ it was considered treachery to give such power to the province. Henceforth, the agreement between the Khan of Kalat and Jinnah was ruthlessly abolished. Thereafter, the Baloch people have resisted the idea of any singular nation-state, in which the single largest province controls everything. The killing of Akhbar Bughti was the last thing required to agitate to the common Balochis. The military establishment and Punjab laden federation is equally responsible for this mess.

The killing of common Balochis will not halt, neither the ethnic killing of Punjabis and Hazarras. The situation is expected to deteriorate if the Western world harkens

to the Baloch freedom call. At a time when PAK-US relationship is at a historic ebb, the situation needs an excellent control strategy.

6. Pakistan United States relationship will remain in abeyance

The chances for improvement in Pakistan and United States relationship are low.

The NATO supply route hasn’t opened yet. This is a severe economic detriment for the United State, as it is causing trouble in the mobilization of army back and forth into Afghanistan.

The trust deficit will take a long time to fill up. OBL’s presence in the heartland of Abbotabad is incomprehensibly by the United States. Such a high-value target was hiding in Pakistan, while the world was busy searching him.

Clues from US tell that even other high-value targets are also hiding in Pakistan. US defence minister remarked:

“Washington is running out of patience with Pakistan over alleged safe havens for Taliban militants…. It is very important for Pakistan to take steps. It is an increasing concern, the issue of safe haven… we have every responsibility to defend ourselves and… we’ve got to put pressure on Pakistan to take them on as well.”

Pakistan’s foreign office rejects the aforementioned statement, again showing the trust-deficit between the two partners. Pakistan’s alleged support to terrorists will only deteriorate the conditions. There are no signs for an immediate recovery.

7. Extremism and terrorism will remain a major problem

The biggest ideological battle going on today is between the moderates and the extremists. Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war in 1980s and in the first decade of 2000 created a plethora of extremist ideological schools. These schools attracted thousands of youngsters and teenagers in the name of fighting an holy war. The primary thesis which these extremists use is to equate moderations with modernism and then equate modernism as a western concept which finally leads to infidelity. Their poignant speeches and nauseas overwhelm the acumen of a common uneducated teenager.

Furthermore, it should be noted that it’s not poverty which drives a common Pakistani towards extremist ideologies. In fact, it is the strength of their self-created myths which actuates the commoners. The presumption that poverty leads to extremism is a fallacy. Anti-extremists forces must analysis their fundamental theories in order to effectively tackle this problem.

Unfortunately, the moderate schools in Pakistan are cowered by the extremist’s rhetoric. Most of them leave the country, stop speaking and writing, or just become silent. We can count outspoken moderates on our fingertips, e.g. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr. Mubarrak Ali, and Asma Jahngeer. A shrinking school of moderate ideology allows the extremists to fill up the gap.

The media also doesn’t project this moderate school of thought in their programs. They project Taliban as the winning force in Afghanistan. A winning Taliban in Afghanistan boosts the moral of the Taliban in Pakistan, allowing wide spread terrorism activity in the country. Intellectuals such as Ahmed Rasid and Tariq Ali are totally excommunicated by the mainstream media. Anti-Americanism envenoms the electronic landscape, propagandising against any measure the Unites States takes in relation to Pakistan. Self-tagged intellectual such as Haroon-ur-rasheed, Irfan Siddiqui and Ansar Abbasi completely distort facts and figures to proves their respective point of views. The media anchors also need education and improvement in their intellectual capacity.

The growing influence of Taliban and Al-Qeada in Pakistan, and the Bin Laden’s existence in Pakistan clearly shows that Pakistan is fighting a losing war in which the moderates are gradually waning out. The future looks dark for the moderate forces in Pakistan.

8. Islamists will assert more power

Although it is true that right-wingers have never won a majority (except MMA’s government in NWFP during Gen. Mussarraf rule), Dr. Mubarak Ali rightly says, that most of the centrist and leftist parties in Pakistan essentially have an Islamic bent in their manifestos. for example, PTI speaks for an Islamic welfare state; PPP slogan says “Islam is our religion, Socialism is are government”; PML(N) calls the nuclear bombs as a victory not just for Pakistan, but for the Islamic world. Such rhetoric are no more different from right-wing rhetoric. All of them use religion for their personal political gains.

In the next elections, political parties will try to attract the growing Islamised population of Pakistan into their political camps. Whether MMA (or any of its derivatives) wins or PML(N) wins, people from the rows of political Islam will assert more power in the parliament.

In KPK province, ANP will face a fiasco. The rising Islamic fronts will completely overwhelm the mindset of the common Pashtoons. Moreover, the secular ideology of ANP wasn’t able to improve the standard of living in the province. Changing the name of a province is meaningless without economic benefits for the commoners. The Islamic front will promise a better life in both worlds, which is a more viable option for the unemployed middle-class.

The Hazara community in KPK is agonised by PML(N) support for renaming N.W.F.P to KPK. They will definitely look for alternatives such as PTI or any other party that provide them identity within KPK.

All in all, the Islamist “golden age” will come in KPK.

9. ‘PTI’s tsunami’ will come to a halt in many parts of the country

PTI’s tsunami is more of a media sponsored drama than a real mass movement. The drama is about to end for sure. As PTI is a social media driven party, considering the google trends graph for PTI proofs this:

Analysing the part of the graph in the black box shows two phenomena. Firstly, the search volume index met its spike at the end of December 2011. After this, we observe a steady decline in PTI’s search volume. This shows that that teenagers, and other fans are losing hope in PTI’s popular rhetoric. Secondly, the news references volume has remain static along this period showing that media tried its best to project PTI and Imran Khan. With all this media deception, the search results for this internet party have fallen down.

PTI also fails to interpret the 18th amendment in its true light. The party pays no heed to the nationalist tendencies in Balochistan and Sindh. They tried to exhibit Pakistan’s flag in Quetta, but failed to do so. Only a few Pakistani flags were visible in the PTI’s Quetta rally. PTI fails to understand the trouble the common Balochis have with the idea of Pakistan as a federation. The party fails to understand that the 18th amendment has altered the federal character of the state.

Likewise in Sindh, PTI ridicules MQM and PPP. They fail to understand the mindset of the urdu-speaking middle-class and Sindhi nationalist. They go on with their ‘Utopian rhetoric’, in which Imran Khan is depicted as a figure between Jinnah and Iqbal.

The ludic PTI will find its adobe in the lands of Northern and Central Punjab and KPK. Their uproar will find no support in Sindh or Balochistan.

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