Demanding ballot in the season of bullets

Former COAS Gen Beg thinks time not conducive for polls Opposition’s call is recipe for disunity when time calls for complete unity

LAHORE    -  PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal and senior PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, addressing separate news conferences during the past few days, demanded fresh elections, alleging that during its year-long rule the PTI government has failed to solve numerous problems facing the country.

Ahsan Iqbal, who is also a former interior minister, even claimed that 2020 would be the election year. Maybe he has a basis to make such a claim. But in the prevailing circumstances there is little justification for this demand. The situation is not conducive both from military as well as political points of view.

Former COAS Gen Mirza Aslam Beg said while talking to the writer that the border situation is not right for fresh polls. In his opinion the situation is heading towards a Jihad (holy war) as the “Kufr” has challenged Islam.

Jihadists from Afghanistan, he said, would control the situation in Kashmir. Also, he said, such elements are also there in Occupied Kashmir and they would deal with “Kufr”. “This is not the right time for elections. There is chaos all around. Elections can be held when the situation returns to normal,” Gen Beg concluded.

Politically speaking, fresh elections don’t suit even the PML-N and the PPP.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has already been convicted in Al-Azizia reference and serving the term at Kot Lakhpat jail. His appeal is lying with the Islamabad High Court and it is hard to say how long it would take to finally decide. In case the conviction is set aside, the government will challenge the matter in the apex court.

Maryam Nawaz, who is regarded as the real party chief although her uncle Shehbaz Sharif is titular head because of her conviction, also cannot contest election unless she is cleared of all charges by courts of law.

Her brothers Hussain and Hassan, under the law, are absconders and can’t take part in any election.

Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza are facing cases and their fate is uncertain.

PPP leaders, including former president Asif Ali Zardari, are also facing cases. Their fate is also unclear.

Do those demanding fresh elections want to keep the top leaders of the two parties out of the electoral process?

If not, then what is the other logic behind this demand?

Everyone knows that the situation on Pakistan’s Eastern border is warming up. The enemy is also trying to raise temperature on Pakistan’s Western border so that Islamabad has to keep maximum troops there.

Both Pakistan and India are prepared for a war. And since both are nuclear powers it would be wrong to assume that only conventional weapons would be used therein.

For Islamabad atrocities being committed on the people of IOK are simply intolerable. Kashmiris have been offering sacrifices for decades to get their right to self-determination. But the so-called biggest democracy of the world –India – knowing well that all Kashmiris simply hate New Delhi, is not willing to let them exercise this right.

Then, after winning a second term in power, Prime Minister Modi, better known as butcher of Gujarat, lost his mental balance and annexed the part of Kashmir which was already being governed by New Delhi. The step not only deprived the state of its special status but also laid the foundation for the change of its demography.

The move has abruptly changed the security situation in the region.

In such a situation can Pakistan afford to hold another election on the call of two opposition parties, that served out their full five-year terms one after the other before being replaced by the PTI as a result of the July 2018 general election?

Superfluous to point out that elections are divisive and rival political forces in their campaign may do or say anything to win the hearts and minds of their supporters and get their votes on the polling day.

On the other hand, war with an enemy needs complete unity in the nation’s ranks.

How will it be possible for the nation to go for fresh elections at a time when the enemy is ready for a war and can resort to any mischief any time? Maybe, the PML-N and the PPP know the answer to this question.

The kind of unity required at the time of wars cannot even be dreamed of in elections, and demanding ballots in Pakistan in the season of bullets is ill-timed, overlooking the situation.

This leads to one conclusion: The opposition parties should not demand fresh elections unless the border situation normalises. These parties would be doing a great national service by devising such a role for themselves as can help the government to teach the enemy an unforgettable lesson. Ignoring their differences with the ruling party leadership for the time being, these parties should play a role in winning maximum international support for the country.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, without waiting for a request from the government, should approach the countries his party has best relations with and ask them to support Pakistan at this crucial juncture.

Likewise, Asif Ali Zardari, behind the bars at present on account of many cases against him, should send important leaders of his party to influential foreign capitals. Being a former president and husband of a two-time former prime minister he should do this as a national duty – without any seeking quid pro quo.

Patriotism demands that the PML-N and PPP should dissuade Maulana Fazlur Rehman from his lockdown plans.

Scores with the PTI government can be settled at a later stage.