Surveys, predictions, analysis, estimates. It is election season and television anchors, newspaper columnists, market research firms, twitterati and the general public are becoming increasingly caught up in the frenzy. Everyone is trying to assess which political party may be able to gain a majority in parliament and form the next government.
Rallies, policies, manifestos, alliances and electables are all being evaluated and discussed. But, behind the scenes, the calculations are of a different, altogether more “practical” nature. In the corridors of power, those who matter are relying on traditional support bases and “pre-poll rigging” in the form of showpiece mega development projects, permanent jobs for those on contractual positions, increases in salaries and income support payouts handed out like candy. They are banking on a split mandate because they know that, if that happens, at the end of the day, what it will boil down to is the thirty or forty national assembly seats that are held by independents and MNA’s from FATA. And who they decide to support will only depend on one thing. Money.
In this auction of our futures, the highest bidder wins. This is how the fate of our country is decided.
Do you see how easy it is to laugh, shrug our shoulders and talk about the “reality of the system”? Do you see how accepting we are of this tragic situation? When horse-trading is portrayed as clever political tactics and those who plan and execute it to usurp our mandate are put forward as shrewd, practical politicians, corruption gains strength. When analysts say that politics in Pakistan is about electables, alliances, street power, militant wings and money, they ridicule those who talk about issues, policies and programs, and glorify corruption.
For PML-N, with one mega-project (at the expense of more than half of the entire development budget of the province) for showing the public, it is all about collecting electables, regardless of their past political affiliations, credibility, performance, criminal records or principles. That is what is going to win them the election, not performance or policy. And this is considered clever politics in Pakistan.
For the PPP (or should I say PPPP?) it is about compromise, give & take and buying alliances. Put that together with the Bhutto legacy and mileage from the Benazir Income Support Program, add a budget of Rs 1.5 billion for post-election “purchases” of independent and FATA members of parliament, and that’s their winning formula. Who cares about the economic and security meltdown of the last five years? And this is glorified on prime-time TV.
For MQM, it is about blackmail and holding the administration hostage. Loyalty to Bhai and their ability to bring Pakistan’s largest city, its economic hub, to a standstill within literally 30 minutes are their bargaining chips as they plan to “win” the election by resisting redrawn constituencies and voter verification and having volunteers at each polling booth to “help” people cast their votes. And this is accepted as a reality of our system.
As for supporters, instead of being ashamed of these corrupt strategies, they are proud of their slippery and politically “clever” leaders. Instead of holding them accountable for the misery they have piled upon the nation in the last five years, they defend them and find excuses.
On the other hand, the only party that is trying to frame issues-based discussions, moving ahead bravely with internal democracy, presenting detailed policies and a national program, is portrayed as naive and amateur. And the top traders in this dirty power bazaar of buyers and sellers, in which loyalties and souls are for sale, are hailed as heroes.
This politics of electables, criminal mafias, alliances, “development” projects and money may be the reality of practical politics in Pakistan, but it is not what I want from my leaders.