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The Politics of Surveys in Pakistan


Owing much to the concept of ‘paying heed to issues that don’t need our attention’, politics of surveys is yet another trend in Pakistan. The problem is that such surveys can’t be exaggerated to an extent where they can serve the purpose of forecasting election results and they can’t be ignored completely by the parties that aim at contesting in the elections. Therefore, the findings and abstractions interpreted from the political polls/surveys should be projected according to their limitations. Each new survey becomes a topic of debate in the mainstream media. Anchor persons and analysts start gauging the people-to-politician interactivity level on the basis of these surveys. Where the results are being effectively publicized, due attention should also be given to the research methodology and sample size used by the Institutes. In addition to this, there are some general questions that are completely ignored while discussing the results.

In October 2012, a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) notified about the increase in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz‘s (PML-N) popularity while a slight decline in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf‘s support. Another startling revelation was that 91 percent of those who were included in the sample size, believed that Pakistan was heading in the wrong direction. There has been no substantial debate over this disappointment attached with the people who are likely to caste their votes in the upcoming elections as they all belong to an age group of 18 +. The sample size of the survey conducted between July and August 2012 was 600,1. The latest one was conducted from a pool of 4,997 people from November 2 to November 22, 2012. Apart from the decrease in sample size there was also a shift in the public opinion over the most pressing issues faced by the country. In the previous survey, Pakistanis considered energy crisis and inflation as the two most challenging issues in the country. In contrast, the latest survey reveals that now “terrorism” is a major problem of Pakistan and the research concluded that people aren’t in favour of new provinces.

Another thing left unnoticed is that the IRI missed Federally Administered Tribal areas and Chitral due to political turmoil and volatile security situation in those regions. This still leaves a question mark on the complete popularity graphs of various political parties on regional/provincial basis. The furore over this survey, isn’t an objective way to portray the findings. However, it does provide some ‘points to ponder’ to the national political leadership. For the masses it is among other electioneering gambits.

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Political Ticker

 

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Possible Perils for Pakistan in 2013


The coat of arms of Pakistan displays the nati...

The coat of arms of Pakistan displays the national motto, Īmān, Ittiḥād, Nazm. (Urdu Faith, Unity, Discipline). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike the predecessor ‘ruling genre’ of the country, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) staggered through a variety of challenges. The coalition set-up, led by the PPP had inherited an entangled net of problems that worsened with the passage of time. Instead of approving an idiosyncratic stance, it had to bend down in front of the Supreme Court. After being obstinate for a while, it had to offer Yousaf Raza Gillani as a sacrifice. Everyone in Pakistan was relieved when the local newspapers emboldened headlines stating that ‘the letter has finally been written!’ The government had done little, during 2012, to shield the country against extremism and to ward off sectarian strife. Inefficacy of the incumbent government will have a direct impact on any party that wants to take charge of Pakistan after the general elections of 2013.

The year 2013 heralds a democratic evolution for a nation that has long been viewing the soap opera of interchangeable civilian and authoritarian rule. However, the positive scale of this transition isn’t a lengthy one. Here are a few bullets:

  • With some important ‘chiefs’ leaving the offices during 2013, Pakistan would shift, to some extent, on the domestic and international forefront. Keeping in view the nations’ anti-Western approach in the wake of anti-Islam film and memo-gate scandal, it would support a nationalist Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in place of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani (who will leave the office in 2013). A nationalist COAS might be in favour of isolation to achieve self-reliance.

 

  • The implications of this, combined with the depleting foreign reserves and increased dependence on International Monetary Fund will complicate the process of ‘economic recovery’.

 

  • Withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan by 2014, will have to start during 2013. A predicted outcome of the withdrawal is civil war in Afghanistan. Non-state actors in Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban will be directly involved in case of any civil war in Afghanistan.

 

  • The recent statement by the Punjab- spokesman of Taliban, Asmat Muawiya depicts that Taliban will be affecting the electoral turnout for the general elections 2013.

 

 

  • A latest addition to the political saga is Tahir ul Qadri with his slogan of ‘save the nation, not the politics’. With the elections looming around, Qadri wants electoral reforms ensuring free, fair and transparent elections in the country. He wants a care taker set-up conforming with his proposal. The MQM has already declared its support for Qadri’s objective and Imran Khan has stated that it is close to PTI’s manifesto. If the MQM, PTI and Qadri alliance works well, the results of the elections can be altogether different. The latest announcement informs about a ‘long march’ by the supporters of Qadri, which he claims, will form the largest ‘Tahrir Square’ of the world on January 14, 2013.

The year ahead that won’t be easy for Pakistan, would circumvent around these six points.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Political Ticker

 

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Remembering Daughter of the East


Remembering Daughter of the East

Benazir Bhutto D o E

Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007)

One might disagree with her political ideology, but she was a visionary and seasoned politician. Following the legacy of her charismatic father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, she audaciously faced all perils. The father entered the gallows and the daughter intercepted the bullet. Historians will quote her as an example while discussing courage, valour and heroic stances adopted by firm fisted women around the world. During her last address to a public rally in Liaqat Baagh Rawalpindi, Benazir Bhutto seemed not less than a gallant warrior of democracy. Her resolve for rescuing the country from its ‘socio-political quagmire’ strengthened with each word that she delivered on December 27, 2007. Unfortunately, the nation didn’t get a chance to assess the mature political vibrancy of Benazir. The first woman premier of a Muslim country was shot dead soon after she bade farewell to her supporters at Liaqat Baagh. Pakistanis witnessed a second political assassination at the same place (first being that of Liaqat Ali Khan– first premier of Pakistan). The culprits are yet to be discovered and brought to book, for both the tragedies that befell the young nation. Her prognostication about the conditions following, in case of her assassination, turned into reality. ‘My death will serve as a catalyst for change’, said late Benazir.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the general elections of 2008. The country got rid of Musharraf regime and the judiciary was restored after a long, monotonous struggle of coalition partners that joined the lawyers’ movement. Benazir’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari hailed the party as its vice-chairman and her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, embraced chairmanship at a young age. The next general elections are round the corner. It is for the first time in the political history of Pakistan that a democratically elected government is likely to complete its constitutional five-year tenure. As per prophecy, her assassination did mark a significant wave of democratic transition. Undoubtedly, Pakistan was enmeshed in innumerable problems like power crisis, faltering economy and the country’s steepening position into the abyss of extremism. The past five years weren’t easy for the subjects and the constituents. Governments’ clash with the judiciary, a chequered relation with the opposition factions and disgruntled allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) accounted for a fragile democratic stature. What baffled the most was the considerable deviance of the incumbent government from Benazir Bhutto’s political conviction.

In her first political speech that she has narrated in her book, ‘Daughter of the East’, Benazir argued with Professor Michael Walzer on Pakistan’s inability to provide Bengalis with the right of self-determination. With her quivering lips, young Benazir, silenced an audience of 201 students (1 herself) as she opposed the Professor by stating that the right of self-determination was granted to Bengalis in 1947. It’s a lamentable fact that Pakistan People’s Party under President Zardari didn’t follow the vocal audacity of Benazir to improve Pakistan’s place on the international horizon. I doubt if Shaheed-e-Jamhooriyat (martyr of democracy- the title PPP ascribes with Benazir) would have sent an op-ed to Washington Post in the wake of Abbotabad raid by the US Navy SEALs. From the Movement to Restore Democracy (MRD) to her last publicly signed document, Charter of Democracy (CoD), her dissent for oppression, favour towards political liberty and commitment to democratic values was obvious. She was a confident leader who resisted subjugation and enslavement till her last breath. Another thing that goes to her credit is the way she reassembled the barracks of PPP to ensure that it remains a cohesive political force after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death.

The recent fragmentation of PPP with the exclusion of someone as important as Shah Mehmood Quraishi and thwarting echoes of members like Zulfiqar Mirza, depicts the inefficacy of today’s PPP to contain separatist divergence. A leadership which cannot serve as a unifier has a tendency to misgovern the country.
Although the post-Benazir PPP attempted to revive concepts of ‘political reconciliation’ and national integration through coalitions and National Finance Commission Award, respectively. It takes performance and administrative efficiency to reside in the hearts of the masses. Benazir Bhutto wasn’t an adept administrator as well, but a visionary leader who possessed political acumen. The ideological liberalism of the PPP requires a projection through governance strategies, articulation of public sentiments and clear political orientations. The nation poured in sympathy votes the last time as a token of homage to brave Benazir. Upcoming elections will conclude in accordance with the performance of Zardari-led PPP. The essential Bhuttoism isn’t that pure now as late Benazir mentions in Daughter of the East:

“My father’s imprint on me, however, keeps me going.
Endurance. Honour. Principle.
In the stories my father used to tell us as children, the Bhuttos always
won a moral fight.”

Benazir the lady

Benazir the lady (Photo credit: liber(the poet);)

This blog post has also been published as ‘Tribute to Benazir Bhutto’ in The News International Blog http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/12/tribute-to-benazir-bhutto/

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Random Scape

 

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Why the General Elections of 2013 in Pakistan will be Unique?


This audio identifies the factors that make the general elections of Pakistan in 2013, unique and historic.

(Click the play button above to listen)

Editorial Content of the Audio

Pakistan’s road towards democracy has been full of hurdles. The incumbent ruling coalition of the Pakistan People’s Party ( also known as the PPP) is the first democratically elected government in the history of Pakistan to complete its five-year term. However, the nation paid a heavy price for this. PPP’s leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after addressing a public rally in Liaqat Baagh Rawalpindi just when the elections of 2008 under General Musharraf were around the corner.

The dictator was ousted by the lawyers’ movement that supported the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Pakistan People’s Party marked an important democratic transition under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari (widower of late Benazir Bhutto). Despite heavy criticism from the opposition for PPP’s bad governance, ill-management of energy crisis and record levels of corruption, the party is moving towards the end of its complete term.

The general elections of 2013 will be unique for a number of reasons.

To name a major few;

  • it is for the first time that political parties got a time span of 5 years to engage with the local population.
  • Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician has attracted a sizeable number of youth that constitutes more than half of the total population of Pakistan. Ascribing the word Tsunami with it, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf under the leadership of Imran Khan presents itself as a symbol for change in Pakistan.
  • It is for the first time that politicians are using social media, information networks like Twitter to reach the masses.
  • Public rallies were in full swing during the years 2011 and 2012. Including the historic public address of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Chief Imran Khan.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is constantly working to ensure that the elections in 2013 should be free and fair by all means.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan made some unprecedented verdicts on the socio-political issues of the country including reforms in the electoral process.
  • The upcoming general elections will be the most expensive ones in the history of Pakistan. The ECP has estimated that Rs 5.90 billion in expenses will be incurred during the election compared to Rs 1.45 billion spent in 2008. Moreover, the 180 million ballot papers printed for the election will be watermarked!
  • Last but not the least, ‘political songs’ echoed the most in rallies of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Pop singer Abrar ul Haq sided with Imran Khan and Fakhir Mehmood, another singer of Pakistan, joined Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.pakistan_elections

 What is left to be seen is that how these factors will mould voting behaviour in Pakistan where most of the voters are ’emotionally-charged’ and literacy rate isn’t satisfactory.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Audio

 

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Islamophobia Intensifying into Islamorealism


As images of the twin tower collapsing flashed on the television screens, Al Qaeda was alleged for carrying them out. The world was segregated into ‘evil’ and ‘bad’ by the president of a hegemonic state. Muslims forcibly had to wear the tag of ‘terrorist’. The ‘war on terror’ was against all those who were with Al Qaeda and its leader, world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden.

This war has covered a time period of 11 years and after a decade of blood shed Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a secretive operation by the US NAVY SEALs. If this is what the US wanted then the world must have been converted into a peaceful abode. The terrorist groups must have been eliminated by now and Muslims all around the world wouldn’t have been suffering from such discriminatory tortures. Every bearded man or a Pakistani wouldn’t have been stigmatized for his adherence to the injunctions of Islam. The ‘war on terror’ has inflamed the world by using ‘hate speech’, ‘psychological manipulation’ and ‘unethical stereotyping’. It’s not just the Muslims now, one of the world’s most tolerant states was literally shaken when at least 87 were shot dead by an eccentric Christian at Oslo, back in 2011. Anders Behring Breivik underwent a psychological check up and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Cemil Çiçek told a session on intercultural dialogue as part of the Third Consultation Meeting of the Parliamentary Speakers of the G20 Countries in Riyadh that:

“As people in North Africa and Middle East risk their lives to fight an honorable struggle that highlights the joint values of humanity; in Europe racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia are on the rise with the economic crisis. It is of great concern that political parties portraying migrants as a source of security concern, unemployment, crime, poverty and other social problems are increasing their support.”

This year we saw outrageous demonstrations against an anti-Islam film by Muslims all around the world. Things have gone beyond the poor and unjust notion of ‘Islamophobia’- which doesn’t imply a good picture of the world at all.

Rick Jacobs in his op-ed contribution for The New York Times discusses ‘The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam’ on September 25, 2012. According to him:

“The American Freedom Defense Initiative is the group spearheading this provocative anti-Islam campaign. In July, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of the group in a freedom of speech case, forcing New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to place an ad that denigrates Islam in subway stations, and now, time may have run out for further appeals. It reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Those ads went up Monday.
What is the message of this ad, directed at the multitude of subway riders of countless faiths and ethnicities?
By using the term “jihad” in the context of a war against savages, the ad paints Islam as inherently violent, evil and bent on overthrowing the Western democracies and their key ally in the Middle East, Israel — even though, for the vast majority of Muslims, “jihad” refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.
Yes, these ads are lawful. But they are wrong and repugnant”.

It’s an alarming incident. The dichotomy of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is getting more distinct. Where evil is being used as a synonym for the Muslims. Flawed and irrational concept of Islamophobia is burgeoning up as Islamorealism. It is just another well organized attempt to sling mud at the world’s fastest spreading religion. While the Arab world is engulfed with Syrian massacre and calls for self-determination, if Muslims won’t properly react to this strengthening ‘propaganda’ against them, then more anti-Islam films will be released soon.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Research Hub

 

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Obama’s Re-election: Paving Way for Female Politicians


The psychological development debate of ‘nature versus nurture’ seeps into the arena of international politics when we pick up the lens of ‘gender’ to assess the foreign policies of countries. The feminist view point maintains that men are more inclined towards war and consider absence of war as a state of harmony. While elucidating the feminine dimension, feminists argue that women are less inclined towards war and the absence of war is considered ‘negative peace’ by them. For the ‘genetically different fragility’, social and economic justice maintain ‘positive peace’ in the society. Most of the polls conducted in the past clearly show the divergence in male and female opinion regarding America’s engagement in wars around the world. Another school of thought believes that genetic variations have little involvement in the international political discourses. Socialization of the individuals and policy matters are more dominant in the international sphere. History gives credit to iron ladies like Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Indira Gandhi of India for their firm-fist diplomatic strategies. ‘Women and politics’ has remained under discussion for reasons that have precipitated more conspicuously during 2012.

The billows of Arab Spring had already signalled a greater say of women in the public sphere. We saw a Saudi woman, wearing head scarf, who was the last one to cross the finishing line in Olympics 2012, but received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Sarah Attar at London Olympics

The pace of women on the running-track of world affairs also escalated. The global economic recession has pushed women to transform into bread winners-cum- home makers. With their increased share in the world’s wealth, socio-political mobility of women is justified. Even Afghanistan along with its complex stance on ‘women’s rights’ brought Malalai Joya (Afghan politician and human rights activist) to international headlines. Blogging, journalism and reporting were also swayed by the female pendulum. The US Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton stood to her critics and Hina Rabbani Khar became the first female foreign minister of Pakistan, the youngest one as well.
Malalai Joya

Angela Merkel the first female chancellor of Germany will receive the Heinz Galinski Award in Berlin by the end of 2012. She is ranked as the world’s fourth most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine followed by Sonia Gandhi who is at the 11th place.

Interpol also got its’ first female president as French police commissioner Mireille Balestrazzi took the top place at world’s greatest association of crime fighters.

2012, reverberated the slogans of ‘women empowerment’ and presented the fruit that they bore. The US presidential chase resulted in the triumph of Obama along with a record number of women entering in the US Senate and House. One fifth of the Senate will now be filled by women and the House will host 76 women – 56 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Patty Murray, a seasoned Democratic senator acknowledged the increase in the female political muscle. For the female voters, Obama-care or the health reforms introduced by Obama were an additional reason to vote for him apart from the economic policy. What is left to be seen is the impact of this ‘female influx’ on US foreign policy. If feminists are correct in their claims about men leaning towards aggression and war- a larger number of female politicians should at least advocate deweaponisation and cuts on defense budget.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in International Affairs

 

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Will the fumes of ‘Islamic awakening’ reach Pakistan?


Finally, Egyptians saw that day which they had been eagerly waiting for. Cairo‘s Tahrir square was once again jam-packed, but this time with jubilant supporters of Muslim Brotherhood. To claim that their president is a democratically elected one instead of a dictatorial, self-imposed stalwart is not a trivial pleasure for lips that were muted for almost the past 30 years. The democratically elected president took 51.73% of the votes cast, some 13.23 million votes in total. Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq pulled 12.35 million votes. Mohammed Mursi Eissa al-Ayat couldn’t have given a better Presidential speech. His first message to his country encompassed around the formation of a democratic constitution and restoration of the parliament that had been once mutilated by the Egyptian military. The U.S educated engineering professor rose through the ranks of Muslim Brotherhood and has ultimately constructed an unforgettable history for Egypt to remember.

From Cairo to Washington, Mursi was being congratulated with zeal. Washington was happy at the aversion of turmoil in Egypt, but concerned about a government of staunch Islamic nature. The claim of the democratically elected government to ameliorate its relations with Tehran is a matter of concern for the allies of Cairo. The Asian countries have hailed the triumph of Mursi with ecstasy and at a high note. Russia, China and Iran have expressed their desire to strengthen diplomatic ties with Egypt. The situation in Pakistan was no different, but the landmark elections of Egypt were downplayed by the Pakistani media. However, among the most jubilant ones’ Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) stood ahead in Pakistan. The JI leaders in their speeches said that the victory was a source of inspiration for the Islamic movements across the world. They expressed their optimism for a similar victory of the religious forces in Pakistan. It is interesting to analyse that how compatible is the Pakistani political cauldron with the Islamic political approach.

Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has remained a vital actor at the political stage of Egypt since 1928. With the passage of time it morphed into an irrefutable mouthpiece for those in favour of reviving Islamic values. However, this wasn’t the only purpose which allowed it to penetrate its roots in the masses. It provided services to the people, such as education for boys and girls, inexpensive medical care, financial assistance and vocational training centres. The contribution of Muslim Brotherhood towards developmental projects made it the center of attraction for a large number of Egyptians. This helped it to communicate its vision for Egypt along with the portrayal of Brotherhood’s ability to deliver on social and economic promises to the Egyptian population. The decade of 1930 to 1940, which brought along with it ‘socio-economic crisis’ for Egypt gave Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to add weight to its popularity. In addition to this, Hasnul Banna (the founder of MB) practised what he preached which made his personality magnetic and charismatic for his supporters. His efforts commenced as propellants for moral reform and spiritual uplift which were later converted into aspirants of political change based on Islamic concepts of polity. The great extent to which MB resided in the hearts of the civil society saved it from political extinction several times. This is the reason behind its win in the elections of 2012 even by a narrow margin of 800,000 votes. MB’s victory is being hailed by some as the starting point for ‘Islamic awakening’.

On the other hand, Islamic forces in Pakistan are continuing their abjured ambition of aligning politics with religion. Maulana Maududi the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami called for the establishment of Allah’s Kingdom considered Muslim League to be an anti-Islamic party. His aim remained to transform Pakistan into dar al-Islam (the land of Islam) although he was initially one of the opponents of the creation of Pakistan. Jamaat was disintegrated after the creation of Pakistan with some of its parts in India and others in Bangladesh after 1971. Since then the self-appointed custodian of Islam has badly lost all the elections it had jumped in. It has been locked into a rivalry with another major Islamic party of Pakistan (Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam). This exhibits their poor political seasoning along with their inability to win the support of the masses. The alliance of religious parties (Muttahid-e-Majlis-e-Amal) managed to get majority in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwaan in 2002. However, the alliance didn’t oust General Pervaiz Musharraf, it also had to join the bandwagon of ‘lawyers’ movement’ in order to achieve this motive. JI’s social welfare projects are large in number, but less efficient. It’s not pliant towards minorities to an extent that it can appoint a Christain Naib Ameer for its party (like MB’s Vice president, Rafiq Habib who is a Christian by faith). Popularity at grass root levels is ensured by coercion. It is a pity that how Jamaat-e-Islami has been involved in politicizing one of the oldest universities at Pakistan, University of the Punjab.

Even if Islamic democracies progress around the world, Islamic political forces will have to take radical measures to sync up with them in Pakistan. Preaching Islam is not sufficient, it requires a well-orchestrated example in a heterogeneous society like Pakistan to spread religious awareness. A major part of the population is youth which won’t be inspired by a political party that politicizes educational institutes. People are already distraught with faltering economy and uncomfortable living conditions. Engendering Islamic principles in a country that is already facing innumerable challenges isn’t an easy task. Fumes of ‘Islamic awakening’ will reach Pakistan only if someone will be available to imbibe them and that isn’t possible until and unless internal Islamic forces win the heart of the masses.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in the August issue of Jahangir’s World Times
http://www.jworldtimes.com/Article/82012_Will_The_Fumes_of_Islamic_Awakening_Reach_Pakistan

 
 

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