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Political Play
Zulfiqar Shah
Electoral politics, chemistry of fragmentation and future of Pakistan - Part II 05 April, 2013
The situation has plenty of opportunities, challenges, outcomes and concerns. If this moment is utilized appropriately to resolve highly volatile old and new issues of Pakistan society as well as statecraft based on any new social contract in the form of legislation and practices, the history may start documenting a new Pakistan.

If the old cronies of establishment started manipulating this fragmentation and divide (which in other terms is a diversity as well) in their favor, these elections may lead Pakistan to the worst debacle than that of 1971 break-up.

Measuring the trends

Pakistan is rapidly moving towards the political fragmentation since its social fragmentation has started transforming into inter as well as intra-society disintegration. Therefore, it seems that vote trend in Pakistan is swiftly getting divided on the lines of federating-province based on nationalism, ethnic-racism, religious, and sectarianism, mafia-interests, political fiefdoms of urban and rural lords, and politically motivated warlordism. In such a situation, there can be two possible scenarios during upcoming elections (if elections are held in time):

- If free, fair and non-violent elections are held in the country (this does not include elections free of establishment’s social-engineering interference, as it is impossible in today’s Pakistan), the scenario would possibly give an entirely different outlook of the Pakistan’s electoral history. It is speculated in Pakistan that PPP may still contain its stronghold in South Punjab followed by PML – N, PTI and traditional seats of PML – F.

Similarly, PML – N is expected to do well in the central Punjab followed by PML – Q and PPP. In Pakhtunkhwa, ANP will possibly loose a little, followed by PPP, PPP Sherpau groups, PML – N and JUI-F. In Balochistan, nationalists will mostly win the Baloch votes followed by independent tribal lords as well as PPP and PML – N associates. PkMP, JUI and ANP would also gain mainly among the Pashtuns of the province. Sindh would be the fierce battlefield of the province.

The trends there show that PPP and MQM will lose in the province compared to the last elections. PPP is expected to face decline in rural Sindh due to its highly unpopular and publicly rejected decision of Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA). If the constituencies of Karachi and Hyderabad are re-drawn undoing the electoral engineering of General Musharraf, MQM would come into its genuine electoral size. Even if the manipulation of Musharraf government is not corrected, MQM is bound to decline if the elections are fair and violence-free in Karachi and Hyderabad cities.

Election commission authorities found thousands of forged entries in the voter lists during early 2013 mostly in MQM winning areas of Karachi. Last week, two gunny bags of Pakistani ID cards were found from MQM office raided by law-enforcing agencies following a tip.

If elections are tactically rigged by both the dominating civil and military establishment and / or held amid extensive violence, they will no doubt harbor entirely different results. One possible scene may emerge in which PPP, MQM and PML – N become major victors, thus the government similar to the previous one may come into existence.

If the opponents of the status quo play well, which consists of left wing and secular nationalists from Sindh and Baluchistan and liberal PML –F in Sindh, they will be victors in Baluchistan and may gain more in Sindh compared to their earlier wins. In this case, PPP will lose most in Sindh and some status quo parties in Baluchistan.   

If any visible or invisible engineering by the pro-right elements is done or right wing unexpectedly exploits the emerging anarchy in the country, then no doubt they will gain better position in Punjab in the form of Center liberal right PML – N, far-right JUI in Pakhtunkhuwa, FATA, and some parts of Baluchistan, JI may gain relatively more seats in Karachi, FATA and parts of Punjab. It is also possible that new center right PTI may do a bit more than the last elections, which means two or a little more seats in the national assembly.

It is for the first time in Pakistan’s history that leftist parties are running a relatively organized election campaign; however, the margin of their success is highly low.

It is also for the first time in Pakistan’s history that Sindhi nationalists have decided to contest elections seriously, meanwhile pro-Sindh rights PML – F is running a relatively well-organized election campaign. It is expected that a few representatives of Sindhi nationalists, relatively more seats of PML – F and some independent candidates may make cushion in mostly Provincial Assembly and leave a little impact on the National Assembly results from Sindh as well. In that case, the future’s Sindh Assembly will not form an absolute majority of any political party.

PPP, for the first time, will lose its historical dominance in Sindh Assembly; however, it may still contain a thin majority. If constituencies are justly re-structured according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and elections in Karachi are influenced neither through violence nor by the Khakis, MQM will shirk to its real size in the Sindh Assembly. In this scenario, there are possibilities that upcoming Sindh Government may be a coalition one. At least major benefit would be that no single political party would be containing required majority for the legislation.

In Baluchistan, Baloch nationalists, JUI, PML – N and independent tribal leadership will be the major victors. In that, nationalists would be having choice to form coalition governments.

Ethnic and sectarian divide amid non-representative voters turn out

Pakistan stands lowest in voter turnout in the democratic world. The lowest most vote-cast ratio in the last decade was observed in Baluchistan followed by Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa. This is mainly due to two reasons: i) people of Baluchistan and Sindh do not repose their trust in Pakistan due to half a century long history of exploitation, tyranny and oppression combined by the military operations and target killing of the leadership hailing from both of the province; ii. Majority of people from Pakhtunkhuwa and Siraiki areas have extreme dissatisfaction with the political system and governance of the country.

Since the civil-military bureaucracy in the lifetime period of the country is dominated by the ethnic-Punjabi-Urdu speaker community, which particularly have a religious background of extremist version of Sunni-Hanafia, Deoband and Salafi school of thought, therefore politics of Pakistan today has reached at the climax of fragmentation on the ethnic and in some areas on the religious and sectarian lines.

One basic issue is at the root cause  of some apparent conflicts in Pakistan – Ethnic conflict, which keeps at least two connotations: a) Punjabi-Urdu ethnic monopoly, which wants to further strengthening its interests at the cost of Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Siraki people. Meanwhile, the later oppressed nations representing federating states attempt to protect their promised federating sovereignty (which they are not entertaining after 1947), economic, geographical, and political interests, as well as cultural survival. b) the conflict between extremist religious mind-set (of Punjabi-Urdu monopoly); and liberal, secular and victim of Talbanization in Pakistan (which includes, Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtuns and Siraiki people.)

An example of such ethnicization of Pakistan politics in general and elections of 2013 in particular is the legislation over controversial and highly unpopular Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) in mid 2012. The act was legislated against the popular will of the absolute majority in Sindh as it was bound to divide Sindh administratively. After de-legislating the SLGA due to public outrage, PPP key ally MQM’s election manifesto promises the Urdu speaking minority of Sindh and its capital Karachi that it would resist the settlement from rural areas to urban hubs. It ultimately means that if MQM wins and comes to power, it would resist the urbanization of indigenous Sindhi overwhelmed majority so that recently migrated Urdu-speaking refugees of Indian partition may contain hold of the cities even being a minority. Running an election on such a fascistic manifesto is against the constitution and international legal framework.

Pre and Post Elections 2013 Pakistan

The fragmentation of Pakistan has social and federal connotations. At social level, it has manifestations of ethnic, religious, sectarian, and cultural. In the context of federalism, it is between center and federating provinces (states); Punjab and rest of the provinces; and finally within state-hierarchy particularly between dominant ethnic Punjabi-Urdu group and the rest. Besides, it is also  between extremist Sunni, Salafi and Deoband schools of thought and liberal and Sufi Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadiya, Ismaili, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs; and finally between civil and military components of the statehood. The reasons of this fragmentation lay within the monopoly of ethnic and sectarian groups and militarization of civil spaces and institutions.

In such chaotic situation, the upcoming general elections, their management, and results will decide the future of Pakistan. If the elections are free, fair and non-violent to the optimum level, Pakistan will see a first kind of elected houses with a versatile representation of various ethnic groups, religious and sectarian folds as well as various schools of thought.

The situation has plenty of opportunities, challenges, outcomes and concerns. If this moment is utilized appropriately to resolve highly volatile old and new issues of Pakistan society as well as statecraft based on any new social contract in the form of legislation and practices, the history may start documenting a new Pakistan. If the old cronies of establishment started manipulating this fragmentation and divide (which in other terms is a diversity as well) in their favor, these elections may lead Pakistan to the worst debacle than that of 1971 break-up. If this does not happen, an unending anarchy will be waiting to make entry in the country, which eventually will pave ways for Islamic extremists in Pakistan eyeing Islamabad since decades. The key of Pakistan’s future is hidden in the upcoming elections, their transparent, free, fair, and non-violent management, and governance vision during post election period.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Zulfiqar Shah is a stateless activist, analyst, and researcher. Although he is a refugee, and living a life in exile, he is a born Sindhi and South Asian. Currently he lives in India.
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