New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 July 2018
Time for Introspection
By Abbas Nasir
Will Democracy Follow?
By Aisha Sarwari
After The Victory Speech...
By Dr Imran Khalid
Does Imran Have A Plan?
By Yousuf Nazar
How to Heal a Nation
By Farrukh Khan Pitafi
The Challenges of Election Day
By Ahmed Bilal Mehboob
This Is Just the Calm before the
By Dr Ikramul Haq
Education beyond Elections
By Faisal Bari
Credit Goes To the ‘Voters’
By M Ziauddin
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
July 28, 2018
AS Imran Khan’s PTI starts work on
government formation after its general election victory, parties on the losing
side which are blaming their loss on rigging, may consider adopting a
two-pronged approach as they move forward.
The first would obviously be to test the
PTI leader’s offer of cooperation in investigating possible irregularities on
election day in constituencies where they may have reason to believe the result
did not represent the popular will on the day.
A deliberate distinction is being made here
in the use of ‘on the day’ issues, as some in the media and Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan have already raised concerns, while listing factors
likely to have had an impact on the outcome of the elections ahead of polling
As the PTI found out most recently after
the 2013 election, and before that the PPP in the 1990s, allegations of rigging
are not easy to prove whether they are being made with or without
The insipid manner in which any advantage accruing
to the PML-N was squandered by Shahbaz Sharif was reminiscent of the stuff
political obituaries are made of.
Adopting this path takes resilience and
painstaking effort as polling agents have to be deposed, legal challenges
mounted, resources deployed for the recount and reverification of fingerprints
on the ballot papers among a host of other similar tasks.
Perhaps the best way to move on this is
that each party with a grievance or complaint about the conduct of the exercise
on polling day should pick up a few constituencies where they believe the most
outrageous of irregularities have taken place and seek a forensic audit.
This has to be done for two reasons: to
establish the legitimacy of the allegations and equally to ensure that any
loopholes in the process that can subvert popular will be plugged in future
— on the day at least.
My thoughts are also being shaped by a
sense that the current leadership of the major parties, which are attributing
their loss to rigging and interference by quarters most of them are reluctant
to name, lack the appetite for street agitation.
Perhaps this lack of appetite is informed
by their experience that unless they have powerful backers among state
institutions, coupled with committed and motivated cadres, it would be
difficult to change anything via street protests.
Hence, the second prong of the strategy
involves introspection. Multiple talking heads created a racket trying to speak
over each other on TV rather than analyse the situation on results night. Ergo,
it was difficult to make sense of what they were saying.
But even then the idiot box vigil was worth
it. After all, the ‘analysts’ had drifted off the screens, possibly exhausted
after rather competitive and prolonged stints on air, at some point, there
appeared a pollster on one of the channels.
I am not trying to deny it credit, but I
sincerely don’t remember the channel, not even the name of the pollster.
Red-eyed and suffering from an overdose of ‘analyses’, I sat up as this man
started to make a few points.
The first was that his organisation was
correctly able to call the direction events would take on polling day as their
surveys showed that the PTI’s consistent messages that Imran Khan took the lead
in voicing resonated with many voters.
You and I may have found words such as
‘chor, daaku, patwari (thief, robber, land record official — the latter in
rural areas is usually seen as corrupt) distasteful but somehow these were
making a connection in Punjab in particular and nullifying Shahbaz Sharif’s development
He conceded that most of his surveys were
carried out before the arrival and imprisonment of the PML-N leader and ousted
prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on July 13, a mere 12 days before
Asked to explain the extraordinary support
for the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he attributed it to the police reforms which
had the most impact; as did some improvements in healthcare and education. Most
of the blame for failures was deflected to an unfriendly centre.
Having heard the pollster, I reflected on
the 2013 campaign and the election result. The two themes that the PML-N talked
about endlessly in Punjab (and PTI in KP as elsewhere) were corruption and
These resonated with the electorate,
decimating the PPP in Punjab and ANP-PPP in KP. Post Panama Papers, the PPP may
have lacked the credibility to attack the PML-N in Punjab on ‘corruption’ but
the PTI had no such handicap.
Had all other factors in the lead-up to the
election been equal, even then I suspect that the PML-N would not have repeated
its past performance at the polls simply because Shahbaz Sharif’s message was
failing to gain traction on the ground and the PTI’s was.
The only effective counter to that was
Nawaz Sharif-Maryam Nawaz ‘vote ko izzat do’ (honour the vote) campaign, with
all its connotations, as it seemed to draw in and charge massive crowds at
rallies before the father and daughter had to fly abroad.
And they had no control over the timing of
the deterioration in Ms Kulsum Nawaz’s health, forcing them to extend their
stay till their sentencing by the court. This meant they were not able to
campaign during a critical period.
There was only one direction that the
self-declared ‘sullah pasand (conciliatory)’ Shahbaz Sharif could have taken
the PML-N and he did. Was he in denial that the forces he was trying to appease
had already found a better horse to lay their final bet on as well?
The insipid manner in which any advantage
accruing to the PML-N from the defiant duo’s return on July 13 was squandered
by Shahbaz Sharif was reminiscent of the stuff political obituaries are made
As the governing party now will have to
bear the bulk of the burden of scrutiny, away from the limelight opposition
could do well to reflect on factors other than ‘rigging’ that may also have
affected its electoral performance.
Admittedly, Shahbaz was an able deputy to
his elder brother and an effective Punjab administrator but could not morph
into a leader. The PPP also needs to put its best foot forward in delivery and
leadership to revive its fortunes outside Sindh and to remain relevant in its
July 26, 2018
On July 24, I returned from a polling
station in the G-8 sector of Islamabad. It seems as though Imran Khan is set to
become the prime minister of Pakistan. This line sounds like an alarm bell; a
shrieking of a car right before a bang; nails on a chalkboard and also sounds
eerily familiar. Pakistan has had military rule for almost as much time as it
has had democratic governments, so if Imran Khan is in power, how democratic
will it be? As democratic as a cat guarding the milk, if you look at how
vehemently he has supported the excessive defence budget of Pakistan.
If democracy is democracy, three things
must take place: open flow of information so voters can be educated on context;
an environment without fear and harassment and lastly, an inclusion of all
minority groups. Majoritarianism is not democracy. Yet you see that this
election was based on three specific facts: a revolting media ban with
controlled information flow. We saw that TV anchors were given a list of
allowed words and forbidden words. Opinion editorials were taken off.
Journalists’ homes were ransacked. To proliferate a culture of fear, many
activists were temporarily abducted and returned without a story to tell.
Others have not returned so far.
Women and minorities have a story to tell
though. The gender gap in registered voters went up, not down, since 2013, so
women surely were left out deliberately on technical grounds like the need for
a national ID card. The fact is that democracy pre-dates ID cards. Also, if you
are considered non-Muslim while you disagree, you will have your right to
disagree taken away. An entire community is not voting because separate voting
lists have been made for them in a clear violation of the UN human rights
charter which the country is signatory to.
So three things as prerequisites to
democracy are the exact three things that did not take place pre-election. So
on Election Day we do these three things: We grieve; we accept that democracy,
though flawed, is better than blatant military coups and a three-time
democratic transition is better than only a two-time transition and lastly we
wake up tomorrow, pull up our moth-eaten socks and get to work.
There is much work to be done. We need to
report on how free and fair the elections were and expose irregularities. There
was a polling booth reported by a TV channel that was not functional even after
voters showed up. When investigated, it turned out that election officials had
been directed to delay preparatory work.
We must also hold Imran Khan accountable if
PM-select becomes PM-elect. We must ask him why he voted to block a pro-woman
amendment to the Hudood Ordinance in 2006; his stance on blasphemy laws; why he
said real mothers stay home to raise kids and turn down empowering formal work
and most importantly, why he cannot differentiate between corrupt people
allegedly funding his campaign from the corruption he based his entire campaign
The one thing that gives me solace is that
Imran Khan will come into power, or his party will, at a time when #MeToo is
gaining ground in Pakistan. In politics, women have always been told it doesn’t
matter what a man does in his private life; who he hurt; who he abandoned; who
he impregnated outside the law and who he battered. We are told to “separate
the man from the greatness he pretends to have.”
#MeToo has unseparated it. It has asked,
via a social media court, for men in power to stop hiding under the garb of
popularity and to stop violating women and getting away with it.
Imran Khan can court the religious right;
marry a woman of Purdah and ask that minority groups are punished. All he
wants, everyone will still pay heed to the fact that he is untrustworthy to
those he makes promises to. The private is now political because private lives
of leaders are public domain and therefore cannot be hypocritical anymore.
Private lives that reek of mistrust and exploitation and double lives are going
to reflect a doublespeak in government. It will reflect intellectual
corruption. The economic cost is huge.
In an interview to DW, Imran Khan said the
problem of minority persecution is a “small issue”. He said the real issue is
malnutrition and economy. It made for a good sound-bite to the media but it
made for a terrible philosophy in a leader. No citizen of Pakistan, once
persecuted by the state, is to be diminished. Not women, not transgender, not
religious minorities and not the poor.
Someone I respect as a political
opinion-maker said this to me: “Imran Khan is a tribe of trolls. He will be
prime minister, but he will never be respected.”
On July 26, 2018, I hope, for the sake of
Pakistan, that this statement proves wrong and that Imran Khan gains the
respect of the weak marginalised classes of Pakistan. We are only as strong as
our weakest link.
As expected, the victory speech of Imran
Khan has generated immense positive response from all the quarters — still
there are some old critics who are despising it as the “routine stuff” from any
new incumbent — and it has suddenly changed the whole mood of the post-election
scenario. It has brought soberness and calmness to the highly-ecstatic and
charged festivities of the PTI besides making its rivals to switch to a little
low-profile mode. He seems to be in a reconciliatory mood at the moment.
Obviously two years of confrontational politics has also exhausted him
physically and mentally, and he eagerly wants to start his innings without much
distraction. He deserves an easy run at the start of his long-awaited stint,
but he must not forget that his revengeful opponents will try to keep alive and
replicate his confrontational politics as long as he stays at the helm of
affairs. He must not expect any mercy from the rival camp. Now, after thrashing
the MQM and the PPP in Karachi, from Lyari to Malir, he has suddenly beefed up
his rival camp that was until now confined to the PML-N only. The charges of
“rigged and engineered” election are whirling at full speed in the air and the
Shehbaz-Fazlur Rahman duo is looking for all the possibilities to create
disruption by using the platform of an All Parties Conference.
The reservations being expressed by all the
major political parties about the election process, particularly about the vote
counting procedures, need independent inquiry at all levels. Imran Khan, in his
victory speech, has wisely and generously offered transparent investigations
into all the complaints regarding electoral irregularities. This is a right
approach. But the fact is that the opposition parties do not have enough
stamina and grit to launch an agitation at the moment to cause any palpable
disturbance in the transfer of power to the PTI. After two years of constant
agitation and wrangling in the political theatre, a kind of fatigue has enveloped
the public mind and any call for protest is not likely to gather a positive
response — even the die-hard supporters of the PML-N and other parties will
refrain from making too much noise at this stage when the establishment and the
judiciary are not in a mood to allow any disturbance. The Pakistan Peoples
Party (PPP) seems to be content with its current tally of seats and it is more
concerned about retaining its government in Sindh, therefore, it will also not
go along with the MMA and the PML-N “too far” in this protest against the
election rigging. Ironically, the public in general is divided into two broad
groups — the first group consists of Imran Khan’s supporters who are in a state
of ecstasy over his electoral success, and the second group belongs to
anti-Imran Khan elements who have apparently accepted his victory as a bitter
reality and they are mentally ready to give him a “chance” now. So, there is a
general consensus among the majority of the Pakistanis that “let’s give a
chance to Imran this time”. Against this backdrop, the politics of agitation is
not expected to gain any momentum in the coming days.
Indubitably, Pakistan witnessed one of the
muddiest and most horrid election campaign in the recent history. Foul language
and despicable exchange of personal taunts was the most aching feature of the
election campaign and even Imran Khan could not restrain himself from involving
himself in many such below-the-belt scoffs against his rivals. However, Bilawal
Bhutto was the only exception who did not indulge in any kind of blame game and
personal attacks. Instead, his main focus remained on promoting his party
manifesto — a sign of his political maturity. Bilawal Bhutto, who probably ran
the most mature and sober election campaign, will also avoid the
confrontational politics for quite some time. Imran Khan, although
unintentionally, has injected toxic elements in the culture of his PTI and this
has been exhibited blatantly during his election campaign. This bitterness and
disrespect to the opponents has seeped into the culture of the PTI and Imran
Khan will have to work consciously to expunge this factor gradually from his
Now the biggest challenge for Imran Khan is
how to live up to the high expectations of his supporters who have voted him to
power in the hope to see the emergence of a “Naya Pakistan” — a progressive
Pakistan free from corruption and injustice. From the very first day in
politics, Imran Khan has been campaigning for his one-point agenda —
eradication of corruption from the country. He has single-handedly worked on
this campaign against the widespread corruption in society, particularly in
politics. He has been very consistent and resolute on his anti-corruption
campaign throughout his political career. Factually speaking, the voters have
responded to him primarily on the basis of his sincere anti-corruption slogans.
The level of expectations is very high and Imran Khan will have to execute his
anti-corruption drive diligently and with utmost impartiality. There are many people
within his close circle who have dubious reputation with regard to their
involvement in corruption, and there will be immense pressure on Imran Khan to
cleanse his party from such elements that have the potential to damage him in
the coming days. A plethora of internal and external challenges — including a
debilitating economy, cross-border terrorism, souring relations with
neighbouring countries, social development at the grassroots level, a chronic
energy crisis and sluggish industrial growth — is hovering around Imran Khan’s
ascension to power and he will have to tread very carefully while executing his
ambitious party manifesto. Unlike his predecessors, Imran Khan will be
appraised very minutely by his detractors — as well as his supporters — and his
each move will be scrutinised at micro level.
JULY 28, 2018
Imran Khan has claimed victory amid
accusations of vote manipulation by the main opposition parties in an election
that was predicted to be the “the dirtiest, most micromanaged and most
intensively participated polls in the country’s history” by the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The jury is out on whether this is actually the
Imran Khan’s maiden speech as ‘incoming
prime minister’ holds a promise that he can make the transition to a statesman
from a polarising and controversial politician. He hit on some right notes in a
refreshingly humble and conciliatory tone. He began by addressing the state of
the weakest and most underprivileged citizens in Pakistan, citing well-known
statistics, moving on to widespread dissatisfaction with governance and the
weak state of the economy. His declaration that he would not use the palatial
prime minister’s house and put the mansions occupied provincial governors to
use for public purposes will strike a strike a chord with the people who, he
rightly pointed out, are averse to paying taxes because government finances are
abused by the ruling elites.
Initial reactions to Imran’s speech have
been positive, but his first 100 days as prime minister will be closely
watched. He has raised great expectations among large segments of the
population. Is he ready to deliver?
Imran apparently sees no contradiction
between describing the caliphate from the early days of Islam as his model of a
welfare state and sending a team to China to learn how China lifted hundreds of
millions out of poverty in a few decades. This betrays a crucial weakness. If after
a 22-year journey in politics, he feels the need to send a team to China to
learn about their development strategy, it is hardly impressive. A popular TV
channel today ran a news item drawing parallels with late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
and his populistic politics. However, this is where the comparisons stretch.
Bhutto had a very clear reforms agenda, no matter how controversial or
otherwise, which he implemented within his first 100 days in the office. Imran
seems to still be searching for one.
Imran apparently sees no contradiction
between describing the caliphate from the early days of Islam as his model of a
welfare state and sending a team to China to learn how the People’s Republic
lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty
Pakistan faces daunting economic challenges
and the new government will have to get on with the job as the foreign exchange
reserves drop and growth stalls. One international paper recently commented,
“If Khan’s thoughts on extremism and
militancy are dangerous, his solutions for Pakistan’s economic problems are
childish: elect better leaders (i.e, Khan), put corrupt politicians in prison
and recover their “looted” wealth.’ Imran made no mention of looted wealth in
his speech and instead promised not to carry out political victimization and
start accountability with himself and the cabinet.”
Imran’s government will need to move
quickly beyond rhetoric and populist prescriptions discussed in the drawing
rooms of the urban middle class forms his core support base. Here are some
The state bank has just $9.1 billion worth
of reserves, insufficient to cover two months’ worth of imports. Pakistan has
few options but to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet another
bailout. The IMF will ask the government to curb spending and cut the budget
deficit. The new government will have to cut development spending, which will
leave little room for any increase in welfare spending.
Expanding the tax base is easier said than
done. Contrary to the popular perception that people don’t pay taxes, it is the
actually the richest who avoid paying taxes. According to the Pakistan Economic
Survey 2017-18, tax exemptions to various affluent businesses amounted to Rs541
billion. If the PTI government withdraws these exemptions granted by the
“corrupt” Nawaz Sharif, it will face a backlash from the powerful businesses in
Punjab and Karachi.
Given the ground realities, the policy
options are difficult and demand a full reappraisal of the fundamental issues
and formulation of a comprehensive reforms programme. While there is a broad
consensus that we need to cut fiscal and current account deficits, and increase
investments, the challenge is to come up with a comprehensive response because
the time for piecemeal solutions is up. Although there is no choice except to
borrow from the IMF to finance the current deficits, this is not a sustainable strategy.
It is an established fact that a
democratically elected government’s best time to introduce difficult economic
reforms is around the beginning of its tenure, especially during a crisis
period. It takes time to formulate and implement a programme. Does Imran Khan
have one beyond sending a team to China to learn about its growth miracle?
July 27, 2018
The people have spoken. Imran Khan is
slated to be the next prime minister of Pakistan. He has already delivered his
victory speech in which he came out with a magnanimous message best suited for
a victor. How much can he deliver on these promises is still to be seen. Let us
wish him well. But there is no gainsaying that this country is deeply and
excruciatingly polarised. This piece is meant to address the societal fracture
we have endured for years and how to get rid of it.
One great gift of democracy is its ability
to heal. However, that is not what we have seen in Pakistan in the past ten
years. In this decade, intolerance seems to have grown and society appears to
have been divided into two irreconcilable wholes. Many explanations can be
given. Sign of times? Global phenomenon? Well, maybe. But it goes way back.
What you are witnessing right now has fermented for ten years. The first
assessment was the anger that stemmed from Musharraf’s holdovers
disenfranchised by his removal from power. However, a close examination
disproves this notion.
Two factors stand out when you care to
look. The first is this incredible pain which refuses to go away. A nation that
has lost over 70,000 citizens to terrorism, with literally countless injured
and permanently disabled, does not know how to handle this pain. War fatigue
and battle bruises when mistreated lead to anger and paranoia. Add to it the
sense of betrayal. The saga of Musharraf’s rule needed a closure. In this space
and elsewhere, I implored politicians to come up with the needed narrative and
a remedy. In hindsight, for you he might have abrogated the Constitution twice
but there is no dearth of people who still look up to him. Sadly, politicians
proved they were out of their depth here. No closure. It kept festering like a
And the second factor complicates the
matter further. The baggage, the stubbornness and the ineptness of the
political governments. The People’s Party’s government could not handle the
economy. It went south. And then its harebrained antics, for instance, attempt to
bring an external intelligence agency under the interior ministry did not win
it any laurels. Finally came the worst blow, the tale of the memo, where it was
learnt that the government was trying to lobby a foreign government’s power
circles to manage the domestic civil-military imbalance. You have seen how it
played out in the media and the court. Now conduct a thought experiment.
Imagine how it must have played out among those who were tasked to combat
Now, about the PML-N. Electing Nawaz Sharif
as prime minister was a leap of faith. A humungous one. Nawaz Sharif was
removed from power by Musharraf’s coup and there was no way to dismiss chances
of vendetta. But in some cases, this daring, bold endeavour paid off. The PM
grudgingly owned the war on terror. Consequently, we have managed to
marginalise the terrorists. Likewise, the economy seemed to be moving in the
right direction. For a heartbeat. But most economists kept protesting the
cruder aspects of what is now known as the Darnomics. Macroeconomic
stabilisation came but at a chaotic and troubling cost. And then in the end it
vanished with the departure of Ishaq Dar. But what got them in the end was an
attempt to politicise a case of assets-beyond-means which they failed to defend
legally. Mian Sahib had no serious issues with the dynamics of civil-military
relations, at least not visibly so, until Panama Papers case surfaced and
became too hard to handle. The system kept throwing him lifelines. He
repeatedly dropped the ball. Inquiry. TORs. Superior court’s dismissal of the
petition. But Mian Sahib did not agree to a political solution. When it went to
the court, he was again offered opportunities. The bench was reconstituted
owing to the retirement of a chief justice. There was ample time for the former
premier to find a political solution. Yet again, no luck. You realise how much
of it was sheer ineptness and good old lethargy? But hey, how about doing
nothing and blaming it on the soldiers? And thus, came the civil-military
narrative. The Dawn leaks. Domestic acrimony grew. The international media
bought it. But here in Pakistan it proved futile on the Election Day.
Not everyone has the patience to offer the
political class endless opportunities. A whole host of such friends sit in the
media and tell you how a majority of politicians is nothing more than a gang of
petty thugs. It is exaggeration of course. But for the fainthearted and the
inept it creates an unending list of impediments. When ignorance converts into
hubris, it can have devastating effects. And it did.
Please do not misconstrue for a second that
I mean to trivialise the reaction from the other side. Nor that there were no
mistakes from the other side. I am just looking at a fracture and pointing how
the people we elected could have done better. In a royal rumble, not all blows
are fair. The point is all of this was unnecessary and could have easily been
avoided. We all live in the same country. We all have similar aspirations for
the country. A more resourceful person could do much more to bridge the gap. A
careful but intelligent dialogue could unite the nation. But that did not
In the tug of war that we have seen in the
past 10 years, our injured, our tired and our poor are the most neglected. The
soldiers, the cops and even civilians who sacrificed their lives or their body
parts were not properly celebrated as heroes by politicians. There were
rituals. But without a soul.
The new government is in luck. It is
trusted by many of our estranged brothers and sisters. When it comes to power,
they feel empowered. But the new government can do few important things to
repair the fracture. Reach out to the opposition. Be truly magnanimous because
most of the vindictiveness stems from the second floor of power not the top floor
where Imran will sit. Upgrade its narrative on the fight against terror and
embrace our heroes. Uphold the same standards of justice for its own so that no
space for misplaced victimhood remains. And then work on the agenda of better
governance that it has promised.
If the new government can rise up to this
challenge, we may soon bury this polarisation for good. Godspeed.
ONE must confess that, despite all the hard
work of the Election Commission, a dark cloud of suspicion did hang over
polling day on July 25. There seems to be near-consensus among a number of
political parties, civil society organisations, local and international media
commentators that the pre-election environment in Pakistan was not fair. The EU
Election Observation Mission also acknowledged complaints regarding the
pre-election phase in its preliminary statement issued after the election.
Despite the importance of the pre- and
post-election phases in Pakistan, polling day, too, is critical in many ways.
One can divide the day into five distinct stages. The first stage is the
casting of votes which continues uninterrupted for nine hours. This time the duration
was increased to 10 hours. Snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes used to be
the most popular mode of election rigging in developing countries before the
advent of the electronic media.
Despite negative perceptions about the
pre-election phase, the process of polling went exceptionally smooth on July
25, with very few major violations of the law or rules reported. The movement
of voters and the conduct of polling staff and polling agents was quite
disciplined and orderly, and at least partly the credit can go to the presence
of armed forces personnel both inside and outside the polling stations. Polling
staff and security personnel — both police and military — were generally polite
and helpful to the elderly and handicapped persons. Many polling stations
witnessed long queues even before polling time which indicated the public’s
zest to exercise their right to vote. Towards closing time, again queues formed
and it appeared that many of these voters might not be able to vote before 6
pm. Both PML-N and PPP leaders demanded a one-hour extension in polling time
which the ECP declined. However, it sent instructions to the presiding officers
(POs) to not turn away the voters present even outside the polling station
premises. Generally, this instruction seems to have been followed.
The complaints of the political parties
need to be seriously investigated.
Despite the presence of military personnel
inside and outside the polling stations, the occasional visit of their officers
to polling stations and filming and photographing by the ISPR crew, apparently,
there was no incident where military personnel gave any unlawful instruction to
the polling staff.
The extreme hot and humid weather made it
very difficult for the polling staff to perform their duties comfortably. The
rooms where polling activity was conducted became extremely stuffy and warm.
Voters staying there for even 10 to 15 minutes would felt extremely exhausted.
It is highly commendable that the polling staff, both men and women, and
security staff in their thick uniforms spent more than 12 hours in such
conditions. There were media reports of some polling staff fainting, even
dying, of suffocation and hot weather.
Counting of the votes is the second,
critical stage of polling day activities and the law requires that it should be
carried out in the presence of candidates or their agents. At the end of
counting, the presiding officer completes Form 45-Result of the Count and Form
46-Ballot Paper Account, affixes his and a senior assistant presiding officer’s
signatures and thumb impressions and asks candidates present or their agents to
sign the forms. A copy of the completed, signed and stamped Forms 45 and 46 is
required to be given to each candidate or his agent and another copy is to be
affixed at a prominent place in the polling station for public knowledge. Many
political parties and their candidates have complained that their polling
agents were turned out at the time of counting and that they were not given a
copy of Forms 45 and 46. The ECP has contradicted these allegations and has
asked political parties and candidates to provide it with evidence so that
appropriate action may be taken. Since almost all political parties have voiced
these complaints, these need to be seriously investigated.
The next stage is the transmission of
election results from each polling station to the respective returning
officers. It is here that all hell seems to have broken loose. Some problems
have even been acknowledged by the ECP. The smartphone-based new Result
Transmission System, reportedly prepared by Nadra for ECP, apparently collapsed
soon after it was put to use. It seems that the system had not been adequately
tested. The problem was not just limited to the breakdown of the RTS;
reportedly, many presiding officers inexplicably turned up very late at the
ROs’ offices to submit the original Forms 45 and 46 leading to suspicion that
they were being pressured to change the result count. Only a thorough
investigation and forensic audit of Forms 45 can determine the exact issues.
The fourth stage relates to the
consolidation of results of each constituency by the respective ROs on the
basis of the Forms 45 received from the POs. Each RO was provided a laptop, two
IT personnel and a computer-based application for processing the results
through a Result Management System (which was developed in-house by the ECP).
Reportedly, the RMS worked fine but since Form 45 came in late, the
consolidation of results through RMS was slow. The RMS was supposed to generate
Form 47-Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of the Count and Form
48-Consolidated Statement of the Results of the Count furnished by the POs.
The last stage of the polling day was the
transmission of results from the ROs to the ECP. Since ECP has taken almost 48
hours to declaring about 99 per cent of the results, it is not clear exactly
which stage of the election day proceedings suffered from problems. As stated
earlier, only a thorough investigation can identify the actual problem, fix
responsibility and, above all, allay the suspicions of political parties,
candidates and the public in general.
This Is Just the Calm before the Storm
Although July 25 was marked with public
enthusiasm and excitement, it was also marred by allegations of rigging from
the losing parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) usual
inefficiency and incidents of violence. Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) victory upset
many, especially a section of media that started blaming the ECP for delays in
announcing the results. The failure in compilation of results through computer
software was portrayed as a “big fraud and massive rigging” by many who failed
to realise that the physical records of each and every polling booth could have
been examined to detect any gerrymandering. ECP should be blamed for its
incompetence, but dubbing the entire electoral process as ‘doubtful’ or
manoeuvred amounts to insulting the people’s mandate.
It seems our politicians have not yet
learnt to respect the people’s mandate and demonstrate willingness to work for
the country and its people after losing or winning. It is high time that they
learn how to rise above political differences and join hands to establish
sustainable democracy with social justice for all. Winning or losing is part of
democratic dispensation — the real challenge comes in the post-election period.
We are still facing threats from miscreants against the state. Wanton attacks
taking away precious lives during the election campaigns by various parties
testified to this. The second challenge is rapidly deteriorating economic
conditions having serious ramifications.
The obscurantist forces at war with the
state are blatantly committing treason by maintaining private armies prohibited
under Article 256 of the Constitution. They are openly demonstrating disloyalty
towards the state, violating Article 5 which says: “Loyalty to the State is the
basic duty of every citizen and obedience to the Constitution and law is the
inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other
person for the time being within Pakistan.” The violent attacks cannot just be
called acts of terrorism — these are much more than that. In fact, these constitute
an open war against the state that needs to be tackled with an iron hand by the
new elected government as a first priority.
PTI will have to enforce strict fiscal
discipline, proper collection of taxes, judicious use of public money and above
all rapid infrastructure development and economic growth
The new government with consensus of all
political parties should establish special war tribunals to punish miscreants
guilty of violating Articles 4 and 256 with impunity. Article 256 clearly says
that “no private organization capable of functioning as a military organization
shall be formed, and any such organization shall be illegal.” Flagrant
violation of Article 256 and that of Article 5 needs to be punished without any
further delay. Chapter VI of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 mentions inter alia,
conspiracies against the state, collection of arms for the purpose of waging
war (s. 122), concealing knowledge about such designs (s. 123) condemnation of
the creation of the country, (s. 123A) defiling the national flag (s. 123B),
assaulting president or the governors with the intention of creating hurdles in
the lawful exercise of their powers (s. 124), sedition (s. 124A) and
depredation on territories (s. 126)—need to be applied wherever required, adopting
due process of law provided in Article 10A of Constitution.
The second most critical challenge is
economy. The PTI will have to deal with pressing economic issues like
inadequate revenue, perpetual fiscal deficit, public debt of 72 percent of GDP
that is Rs. 24.5 trillion as on June 30, 2018 (domestic debt of Rs. 16.5
trillion and external debt of Rs. 8 trillion), record fiscal deficit of Rs. 2.5
trillion, trade deficit of $ 37.7 billion and circular debt of Rs. 850 billion
— just to mention a few.
PTI will have to enforce strict fiscal
discipline, proper collection of taxes, judicious use of public money and above
all rapid infrastructure development and economic growth. The new government
will have to take curative measures and tough decisions in the first 90 days
along with overall structural reforms. The policy of appeasement towards tax
evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth, if not
discontinued, will push the country to complete disaster. The shameless
indulgence of rulers and bureaucrats in wasteful expenditure has pushed the
country towards a position where half of the population of the country is
facing malnutrition and one third is living below the poverty line.
The new government will have a formidable
challenge on the fiscal front. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is not
collecting taxes according to real potential that is not less than Rs 8
trillion. Measures that are necessary to make a tax system functional and
effective relate to (i) devising and running an efficient and truly independent
tax justice system; (ii) expert legal advice for drafting simple tax laws in
local languages; (iii) designing tax forms and procedures; (iv) innovations in
tax management; (v) broad-based personnel policy; (vi) effective intelligence,
especially under-cover operations; (vii) taxpayers’ education; (viii)
development of work ethics; (ix) healthy working conditions; and (x) efficient
redressal of problems faced by taxpayers.
If we want to improve tax collection and
win the confidence of taxpayers, it is imperative to replace FBR with National
Tax Agency (NTA). This would facilitate people to deal with a single revenue
authority rather than multiple agencies at national, provincial and local
levels. The mode and working of NTA can be discussed and finalised under
Council of Common Interests [Article 153] and its control can be placed under
National Economic Council [Article 156].
We must introduce a 10 percent flat rate
tax on the net incomes of individuals with alternate minimum tax of 2.5 percent
on net wealth. Corporate tax rates should be reduced to 20 percent. This kind
of simple taxation would induce voluntary compliance provided all the citizens
are aware of the fact that competent and effective tax machinery exists having
a tax intelligence system that can easily detect tax avoidance. Nowhere in the
world is proper collection of taxes possible without a strong enforcement
apparatus. However, the apparatus should be friendly and firm—friendly, to the
extent of educating and guiding the people for fulfilment of their tax
obligations, and firm to the extent of punishing wilful defaulters.
The new government can easily collect taxes
of Rs. 8 trillion without levying any new taxes and further destroying the
ailing economy. There is no need to be dejected. We have tremendous potential.
All we need is good governance, effective and modern tax administration and
prudent use of public money. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure
redistribution of income and wealth through progressive taxation—taxing the
rich for the benefit of the poor. At present, we are taxing the poor for the
benefit of the rich.
The new elected government of PTI can end
debt-enslavement, which is the main cause of our subjugation provided that as a
first step, the President, Prime Minister, ministers, parliamentarians, heads
of political parties and high-ranking government officials, start living
modestly, pay and collect taxes wherever due and by their behaviour, mobilise
the masses for discharging their obligations diligently.
But a few things should be clear. First,
though a lot of reforms can be pointed to and a lot of changes on the input
side can be highlighted, it is hard to show significant changes on the output
or outcome side: enrolment and learning gains, two of the major outcome
objectives for both provinces, do not show up as strongly as both parties have
claimed. And trends, in enrolment and learning outcomes, are even harder to
Second, we cannot differentiate between the
performance of the provinces to clearly say that one did better than the other.
Our macro numbers are not good enough to do that and any claims of better
performance, if they are any, have been made on the basis of very shaky
Third, though the two parties will find it
hard to acknowledge this and might not like it either, it is a fact that most
of the reforms that have been implemented in the two provinces, in the area of
education, have been quite similar to each other. It could be that the same
sort of ‘best practices’ had been shared with the two governments. They might
have copied or followed each other’s ‘successful’ reforms, or it might have
been that the same donors were involved in advising on education reforms and
even financing some of the reforms (DFID, World Bank, etc).
We cannot differentiate between the
performance of the provinces to clearly say that one did better than the other.
I am going to restrict this discussion to
the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the PML-N in Punjab, and not talk of Sindh
and the PPP as the education reforms in Sindh, though similar in nature, were,
generally speaking, less effectively implemented than in the other provinces. I
am taking the front runners, so to speak. But most of the argument applies to
the PPP-led reforms in education in Sindh as well.
Teacher recruitment process has been
changed to make it more ‘objective’ and less prone to corruption, teacher
numbers, salaries and grades have been improved, and teacher training has been
changed. This has happened in both provinces and almost in parallel.
Monitoring and evaluation systems have been
introduced at teacher and school level. The monitors collect data on student
and teacher attendance, provision of infrastructure and some variables for
in-class performance as well. There are some differences in how this data is
aggregated and utilised across the two provinces, but again, both provinces
have put in place similar monitoring and evaluation systems.
Infrastructure provision has been a major
part of ‘reforms’ in education in both provinces in the form of room
construction, bathroom construction, provision of water and electricity, and
making of boundary walls.
Even the ‘smaller’ reform efforts have had
a substantial overlap. There have been efforts to ‘fix’ the examination systems
across the two provinces. Both provinces have been providing textbooks to all
students in the public sector, both have been running scholarship and stipend
programmes, especially for girls, and both have been focusing attention on
districts that had been lagging behind in educational performance.
There were some differences too. The chief
minister in Punjab had a road map and a stock-taking process that raised the
profile of education issues to the highest level. This process was not followed
in KP. Daanish schools were opened up in Punjab but not in KP. Punjab also
introduced the Punjab Examination Commission to conduct province-wide
examinations in Grade 5 and 8. KP is still exploring this area. But these
differences, compared to the similarities, are not significant.
As we move past the elections, parties will
be working on their policies for the coming years. The questions to think about
are: why did the policies of the last five years show limited results on the
side of outcomes? Why are millions of children, especially at the level of
middle and high school, still out of schools? Why are learning outcomes not
showing stronger trends? These questions are much more important than asking
whether the PML-N did better than the PTI or vice versa. The people are
interested in the outcomes and not relative performance.
Both governments claimed that they spent
billions on education, that they raised education budgets substantially (though
the real, as opposed to nominal, increases are actually quite modest). So then
why are outcomes sluggish? And what will these parties do differently if they
get the chance to govern again? Will it be more of similar policies or will
they be working through the reasons as to why earlier policies might not have
been as successful as they had hoped for?
Party manifestos tend to be summary
statements with overall objectives and only headline news about intended policy
actions. Many are even written in bullet-point form. Party manifestos from this
time were no different. Even after reading the manifestos it is not clear how
are these parties thinking of the future. But it is clear that, when in a
position of power, they will continue a lot of the policies they have been
implementing as they think they did quite well in their respective provinces.
So, one should not expect a lot of soul-searching in the next term. This will
be a sad outcome. The problems of access, quality, relevance and equity in
education are non-trivial and are impacting millions of children: those who are
not in schools and even the majority of those who are in school. If the main
parties are not able or willing to introspect and think through why their
efforts over the last five years did not yield the results they had hoped for,
how are we going to change policies for the future and bring in fresh thinking
and fresh ideas?
Pakistani ‘voters’ never bring back the
incumbents. That is a tradition that ‘they’ have religiously maintained all
through the last 10 general elections held in this country since 1970 except
the one held in 1977. That ‘they’ have once again rejected the incumbents in
the just-concluded general election should not, therefore, surprise anybody —
not even those who brought in the incumbents in 2013 with their votes.
This time also, the results were very different
from what the media had been predicting. A hung parliament is not in the offing
but a coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the single
largest party in the house, is very much on the cards.
The third general elections held since the
one in 1970 was conducted on non-party basis simply to keep the ‘voters’ from
bringing back the last elected incumbent — the PPP — which had formed a very
short-lived government following the second general elections of 1977. The
fourth general elections saw the ‘voters’ rejecting the Pakistan Muslim League
that had been created out of the non-party house.
At the end of the 11-year-long military
rule of General Zia, the kitty was found to be completely empty and Pakistan in
the grip of massive load-shedding. The 70 billion dollars or so unencumbered
assistance that the entire so-called free world led by the US and China had
doled out to Pakistan for serving as the frontline state in the 10-year-long
war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan seemed to have disappeared without
leaving any trace on the ground. Then interim finance minister the late
Mehbubul Haq rushed to the IMF for a quick bailout package. But the Fund was
understandably too reluctant to even talk to an interim finance minister.
Believing that the novelty of a young,
highly-educated and modern woman having striking looks in the office of the PM
in a Muslim country would surely invoke the right kind of responsiveness in the
rich world and the dole would restart coming at the same old pace, the ‘voters’
brought the PPP to power but understandably kept it out of Punjab and
restricted its political manoeuvrability in its political base Sindh by pitting
it against the MQM.
In the fifth general election, the
incumbents as usual were rejected by the ‘voters’ as by that time the national
coffers had been replenished and the load-shedding had been brought under
control to an extent. In the sixth general elections, the incumbents were
rejected by the ‘voters’ to punish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for rebelling
against his mentor, president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Interestingly, Benazir Bhutto
was once again brought in because the ‘voters’ knew that with her in the PM
Office, President Clinton would not sign on the file declaring Pakistan a
terrorist state which was left unsigned on the presidential desk by the
outgoing president, the Bush senior.
In the seventh general elections, the
‘voters’ rejected the incumbents as by that time the threat of being declared a
terrorist state had completely receded. And when the eighth general elections
were held, the ‘voters’ rejected the last government elected in 1997 and
replaced it with the PML-Q. In the ninth general elections, the incumbents were
rejected by the ‘voters’ in favour of Zardari’s PPP. In the 10th general
elections, incumbents were rejected by the ‘voters’ and in came the Nawaz-led
PML-N. And finally in the 11th general elections, the ‘voters’ once again
rejected the incumbents and brought in the Imran Khan-led PTI.
The ‘voters’ seem to be needing Imran Khan
very badly because once again as in 1988 the coffers are empty and the economy
in a shambles. Hoping that Imran — being a person well known all over the world
as one to be trusted with money and known for his charitable work proven both
in health in education sectors — would be able to bring in the required
resources to bail out the country from its current economic plight and put it
on the path to socio-economic recovery. The ‘voters’ came out in big numbers on
July 25th to pave his way to the PM Office.