After Pakistan's general elections . . . | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2008


After Pakistan's general elections . . .

Politicians demonstrate their maturity so far

PAKISTAN'S general elections have clearly shown that its extremist elements remain on the fringes, despite the noise they have always made. An observation of the voting results from the fraught North West Frontier Province, where the presence of the Taliban and Al-Qaida has been rather pronounced, reveals that when it comes to voting for a government, Pakistan's people have by and large placed faith in moderation. That is why today it is the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N which stand poised to define the country's politics in the coming few years. That assumption is of course based on the calculation that no adventurism will upset such a possibility in the meantime.
The election results have patently demonstrated a triumph of the popular will. More significantly, they reflect the maturity of an electorate which, despite all manner of authoritarian rule in the past many years, even decades, have remained focused on what Pakistan needs to do about itself. Pakistanis have not given any single party a majority in the national assembly, which is encouraging for the simple reason that such a move will compel politicians to come together in the broader national interest. Such an attitude now appears to have been vindicated with Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari both reaching a deal on the shape of a coalition government. With the details yet to be worked out, it is quite likely that Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the respected vice president of the PPP, will head the next administration. There is, though, the risk that things could once again fall apart, given the huge divergence which have characterised the PPP and the PML-N and given too that intrigues will be on, perhaps engineered by followers of the humiliated President Pervez Musharraf, and land Pakistan into a fresh new crisis. But if the deal sticks, it will be the people of Pakistan who will stand to gain. As for the leadership of the PPP and PML-N, they will have demonstrated a degree of maturity through a move that can ensure a strong working of democracy in Pakistan.
The elections have clearly placed General Musharraf in a dilemma. Weakened as he is, he remains the man his friends in Washington would like to stay on, for now. Clearly, the new dispensation would not want to have him stay on, which intentions they have made clear. It will be prudent for the coalition, assuming it works out, to move with prudence and caution as it seeks to bring Pakistanis back into a democratic fold.

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