Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Farce Continues

The local government elections have become nonsensical to say the least.

In rural Sindh chief minister Arbab Rahim is using naked coercion to force PPP-supported candidates to ‘withdraw’ from the elections. In his native Tharparkar district recent reports (BBC Urdu World Service) indicated that 38 out of 40 union council nazim candidates have already emerged as ‘unopposed’. Other rural districts in Sindh reveal the same dynamics albeit at a lesser scale. In Kashmor district, for example, a simple majority of union council candidates have already been registered as ‘unopposed’ thereby ensuring that the Islamabad approved district nazim is elected.

In Karachi and Hyderabad a extremely violent struggle is taking place between MQM and MMA – many have died and many more will by the time polling takes place. Musharraf provided impetus to MQM with his television announcement asking the public not to vote for religious parties. It is obvious that Islamabad supports MQM, which is a pity for many Karachi-ites as Naimutullah Khan has proven to the best mayor the city has had in fifty years.

In most areas of Punjab PPP and PML-Nawaz have been ‘left out’ as Muslim League (Chumcha Group) members battle it out among themselves. Invariably one group in each district is supported by the ruling provincial government of the Gujrat Chaudhries and its opponent consists of an amalgam of Muslim Leaguers opposed to the Chaudhry hegemony over Punjab. Contrary to Election Commission imposed rules a large number of district administrations have been changed in the past few weeks by chief minister Pervez Ellahi to ensure that his loyalists remain in power.

All that the beleaguered candidates and political groupings from Sindh and elsewhere can do is appeal to the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. Thousands of faxes have already been sent to Justice Dogar, but what can the helpless man do but issue press statements warning people to obey his directives or else he will be forced to issue further, even more vociferous, press statements.

Professor Stephen Cohen, the Brookings Institute expert on South Asia and Pakistan, states that Musharraf’s local government scheme was ‘deliberately sought to further weaken provincial power’ and adds that ‘perhaps the real purpose of the exercise is to curry political favour by creating a class of notables who owe their position to Army Headquarters’. According to Cohen, corrupt Nazims are openly tolerated providing they toe the line dictated by the local military commander.

In other words only Rawalpindi rules!

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