The prophecy of “Aik baari phir Zardari” now seems to be becoming false as we are heading towards the presidential elections to be held on July 30th, and Zardari not being a candidate. His tenure would definitely be missed; I am sure that he is the only democratically chosen president who has enjoyed such level of popularity (read unpopularity) in public. His Swiss cases, yearly speeches at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, naughty toothy smile, and flying kiss at a rally would surely be remembered by Pakistanis in times to come.
Who will be the New President?
Now that PPP has harvested what it has sown in the last five years, and PML-N now heading the treasury benches in the national parliament, the matter of who is to be the next president is an interesting one. Apparently, two candidates would be contesting against each other. Mamnoon Hussain, an old Muslim Leaguer, and Justice Vajihuddin from the new comer PTI.
Nearly all major opposition parties, except PTI, have boycotted the elections on the pretext that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has preponed the elections on the plea of PML-N. An announcement on 25th July that elections would be held on 30th July definitely looks like a joke. How can parties even prepare their campaign strategies, let alone do some tangible work in mere 5 days? However, the point raised by PML-N on the election date was also valid enough; many of the legislators would not be available to cast their vote for the post of President because of the religious observances in the last ‘ashra’ of Ramadan.
ECP to Blame?
I think that the real one to blame is the Election Commission of Pakistan. Though not expecting anything sensible from it after its questionable conduct on 11th May, the way it has dealt with this presidential election poses an indirect threat to democracy. President Zardari would leave his office on 8th September, 2013, and the constitution says that the Presidential elections could be held anytime between 30 and 60 days prior to the above mentioned date. This makes 8th July to 8th August the acceptable time period. Was ECP not aware of the fact that many of the MPs would not be available during last ashra of Ramzan? It should have chosen an acceptable date after consultation with all the stakeholders, and this would have given enough time to all parties for preparations. By announcing a controversial date of 27th Ramadan which was then preponed by SC, the ECP has surely acted in favour of the PML-N candidate.
Had they be given enough time, the opposition parties might have presented a joint candidate, which would have increased the chances of an upset in results. As the Electoral College for presidential elections are the four provincial assemblies, the national Assembly and the Senate, an alliance between opposition parties could have proved to be disastrous for PML-N; PML-N has a strong position in two provincial assemblies (Punjab and Balochistan) and the national assembly, while remaining two provincial assemblies (KPK and Sindh) and the Senate are dominated by opposition parties. But to form an alliance, the parties need time, and that is what ECP denied them by creating such a mess.
No Need for MPs to Vote!
Another important point is that it is not compulsory for MPs to only vote for candidates of their own parties. As the presidential candidates of the opposition parties were more popular than that of the government, and both (Rabbani and Wajihuddin) having admirers across all parties, it could have been the case that some MPs of PML-N may have voted for opposition candidate(s). We all remember Raza Rabbani for his role in the legislation process when he headed the team who drafted the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan. His hard work was applauded across all circles, including PML-N, at that time. So if opposition was given enough time to work out, it might have been the case that PML-N even lose some of its own votes.
PPP should have Fought Back!
In spite of the picture painted above, I believe that PPP should have contested the elections. No matter how weak your position has been made, you must fight back, and this is the essence of democracy. Though there is no chance of PTI winning this election, the symbolism of real opposition shown by Imran must be appreciated. As he said ‘We do not want to leave an open goal for PML-N’. Though their goal keeper is quite weak, his presence do make a difference.
JUI-F & MQM- in Opposition or Governemnt?
JUI-F and MQM did exactly what was expected of them; always revolving like a top, never conveying clearly whether they are in opposition or government. This time, both have apparently decided to support the candidate of the ruling party.
In the end, I pray and hope that Mamnoon Hussain proves to be good for this country.