WEB DESK: In the 10th general elections on 41 seats for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly, held last week, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as a winner by grabbing as many as 32 seats.
The election campaign was a protracted one and as per the traditions of Pakistan’s electoral politics, it was largely bitter and based on mudslinging rather than introduction of committed agendas for the good of people.
PPP was in the forefront in election campaign with many hyped-up public meetings. It raised a lot of ideal slogans and made promises for a better tomorrow. But, while it was doing so, the media was projecting the poor state of PPP governance in Sindh with garbage heaps lying all over the province, water shortages in its capital Karachi and many governing issues adversely affecting people. The election results have demonstrated that not many believed in PPP’s sermons.
The elections held in AJK, with the support of the Army, are reported to be largely fair and transparent. PTI Chairman Imran Khan congratulated PML-N over victory in AJK elections, stating “even though traditionally party in power in Islamabad tends to win AJK elections, I would like to congratulate PML-N on its AJK win.” It was a good gesture. Two things of the elections in AJK came out quite clearly. These constitute a strong reflection and genuine confirmation of a changing mindset of people.
The first reality is that meaningless slogan-mongering and opponent slandering in hyped-up public meetings are not having any effect on public, including the ones attending those gatherings and singing with leaders. The media has done a good job in educating public.
The second reality is that if elections are perceived to be fair, they are, by and large, well accepted by opponents. Both of these realities are positive developments in the politics of Pakistan.
In the 2013 general elections in Pakistan, a similar trend was noted. PPP, which emerged as the single largest party in 2008 elections, got wiped out in 2013 general elections at the centre as well as in all the provinces of Pakistan except rural Sindh. The performance score card of five years rule of PPP regime (2008-13) was poorly rated by the public who during this tenure suffered load-shedding, economic slowdown, worst security crises and poor governance in all segments of the regime.
The space conceded by PPP in 2013 elections was largely filled in by PML-N and to some extent by PTI providing both a chance to deliver some good to people in their 2013-18 tenure. In the interim period of 2013-16, PML-N delivered well in Punjab, PTI has shown significant improvements in KP, Balochistan is fairly stabilised while governance in Sindh continues to be poor.
The outcome of elections in AJK jolted PPP into recognising that idle sloganeering and meaningless mammoth public meetings do not sell as public no longer buys promises and stories. Immediately, thereafter, the PPP high command met to bring around a change in the governance of Sindh by replacing the Chief Minister with a younger, well-experienced and professionally qualified party leader – Syed Murad Ali Shah. With less than two years left for the national elections in 2018, the job of the new Chief Minister is extremely challenging to bring around some significant change in the performance scorecard of PPP.
PTI was also taken aback with the AJK election results. PTI Chairman Imran Khan immediately reviewed the governance level in KP and announced reforms to put in place better performance on ground.
Public mindset to judge politicians on the basis of their performance is a positive change in the politics of Pakistan. This change, if truly applied by people, will bring a change in the mindset of politicians. Up to now politicians of the land have been taking the public for granted; they have managed to swing them in their favour by arousing their emotions, invoking sympathy and false promises to public for a better tomorrow. This outdated strategy may not fly any more.
There is however no doubt that the politics of buying votes, political influence on government functionaries, election irregularities, external influences on the politics of Pakistan and similar ills in national politics will continue to constitute impediments to any fair regime change but political, media, establishment and public pressure for a fair election commission, awareness about corruption, accountability of political and public functionaries will bring around gradual improvements. The process of eliminations and additions must continue.
The next general elections are expected to be characterised by performance on ground, good governance, meaningful election campaigning and understanding of the art of election and balloting. With less than two years left for the incumbent regimes to complete their tenures, political parties are required to shape up and align themselves to the changed realities.
(The writer is former President Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI)
Source: Business Recorder