Only a democratic dispensation that enjoys people’s mandate will be able to handle the disastrous energy crisis, the spillover of Nato’s exit from Afghanistan and the security and foreign policies
Pakistan’s first rule-based democratic transition is underway. The last time a civilian government oversaw the election process was in 1977 when charges of rigging led to a popular movement, ouster of the civilian government and ultimately a coup. Otherwise it has been one military or quasi-military regime managing the process of elections.
Three institutions are managing this process: Firstly, the Election Commission of Pakistan; secondly, the Judiciary and thirdly the interim governments in centre and the provinces. The role of the president is minimal other than his own party affairs and the military seems to be in the background and largely focusing on the security issues. This is a situation, which ought to be celebrated as we have the basic preconditions in order.
But state incapacity and ideological biases overshadow the ongoing transition. In the past few weeks, the returning offices — senior district judicial officers — have been scrutinizing the candidates in a most ad hoc manner. In their zeal to abide by the constitutional clauses inserted by Gen Zia’s regime — which place a premium on the faith of the candidate and his/her loyalty to an undefined ‘ideology of Pakistan’ — a circus was witnessed.
An unprofessional line of questioning adopted by the ROs marred the initial electoral proceedings. The ECP perhaps did not issue the right standard guidelines and, therefore, left the subordinate judges to exercise their will and the results were not too pleasing. Women were asked how would they manage their children if they became a legislator and others were asked to recite Quranic verses with the right intonations and accent! Ideological shifts of the past three decades were at work here.