Post-Poll Pakistan

On February 18 2008, a new government was elected in Pakistan. Led by Pakistan Peoples Party, it has support of the majority of the parliament of 342 members. There was a massive anti-Musharraf vote for the first time since his bloodless military coup in 1999.

Pakistan is in the throes of a massive economic crisis and a collapse of the industrial and social infrastructure. The load-shedding is such that electricity is available for 10 to 12 hours a day in most parts of the country. The countryside was worst hit by this shortage. There was no commercial gas available to industries for two weeks, thus closing down hundreds of factories. Thousands of workers were laid off from the factories; they were asked to wait until electricity and gas is fully restored. This situation intensified the anti-Musharraf feeling, and the Pakistan Muslim League Q (PMLQ), which had been sharing power with Musharraf since 2002, became the target of this feeling.

PPP got nearly 36 percent of the votes while the government-supported PMLQ got nearly 23 percent and PMLN got 19 percent. The religious fundamentalists were the real losers. They came down from 15 percent, their votes in 2002 general election, to 4 percent in 2008. The religious fundamentalist alliance MMA split on the question of boycott of elections. Labour Party Pakistan and other Left parties boycotted the general elections and became part of All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM).

Before the announcement of the general election, 60 top judges were put under house arrest on 3 November 2007 when martial law was imposed in the name of emergency. In particular, the dismissal and arrest of Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan Iftikhar Ahmed Choudhry sparked off a massive movement. Naturally the demand of restoration of the top judges was very popular, especially in the Punjab, where the pro-democracy movement led by the judges had been strong. Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN which articulated this demand reaped a huge harvest of support in Punjab.

The Pakistan People’s Party hesitated on this question and ultimately decided not to support the demand of restoration of judges. It paid the price in Punjab where despite the entire sympathy wave after Benazir’s killing, the PPP was unable to capitalize fully the anti-Musharraf vote.

The main demands at present are the restoration of the deposed top judges and resignation of General Musharraf. But after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan Peoples Party took the oath of office administered by Musharraf on 25 March he spoke about “the need for cooperation of the president.”

Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered the release of the judges in his first speech. But in that speech, Prime Minister Gilani did not say a single word about General Musharraf. He did please the Bhutto family by demanding a probe of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder.

Another unfortunate fact is the PPP leadership is seeking collaboration from General Musharaf’s allies, the MQM, a party based on linguistic trends and has a mass base in Karachi and other cities in Sind Province. The PPP leadership wants to establish a government of reconciliation, which will be a government of the rich by the rich and for the rich, but in the name of the poor.

The people reeling under power cuts and price rise in Pakistan are not likely to find relief under the new regime. The PPP head, Asif Ali Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, confirmed in a recent interview with an American news channel that he wants to move ahead with privatization.

Eager to demonstrate the PPP’s willingness to implement imperialist diktats, its leadership welcomed the visit of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher to Pakistan.

It seems that Musharraf is on his last legs. There can be no justification for allowing Musharraf to remain. Now the leaders of PPP and PMLN ought to demand an immediate resignation of Musharaf, restore the judges immediately, and must change the IMF-WB-dictated economic priorities of the Musharraf era that have landed the masses in such acute distress. 

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