August issue 2002

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 20 years ago

The frenetic manner in which the Musharraf government has been adding to, and subtracting from, its two constitutional packages plus several orders and ordinances has given rise to increasing suspicion, scepticism and speculation about the fairness of the entire electoral exercise.

Political parties have been lambasting the government for introducing clause upon clause to ensure the disqualification of certain political heavyweights from the arena, in order to leave the field wide open to candidates of their choice.

And the government, it seems, is working overtime to secure the virtual ‘selection’ of their chosen candidates. The state machinery has swung into action, full speed ahead, to secure ‘positive’ results: four new ministers have been appointed in Sindh with the express purpose of tipping the scales in what could be a difficult province for the government to manoeuvre; a number of bureaucrats have also been shuffled around to prepare a fertile plain for manipulating results.

Following complaints from certain political parties, the Chief Election Commissioner ordered a ban on the transfers of civil servants, but the CEC’s orders seem to have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, only recently, the nazim of Larkana complained that at least 44 people from his constituency, including the police chief, have been transferred; the Jacobabad nazim has a similar complaint. So much so for the writ of the CEC.

In addition, political parties allege that the “invisible force” (read: intelligence agencies) have jumped into the arena to work the kind of miracle they wrought in the referendum, since the King’s party that they crafted so painstakingly is not going anywhere, except to pieces over who should be King

With eight weeks to go before the elections, the constitutional package was still being reworked. And a number of questions continued to remain clouded in mystery including the critical one of whether all the constitutional amendments would be subject to ratification by the elected assemblies or not.

The general has been silent on the subject thus far. The voters are also waiting to hear the final word on the fate of Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. Will they be allowed to return and contest the elections?

While Musharraf grapples with the meddlesome question of the constitutional package, there is another critical issue that needs his urgent attention. Reportedly all 30 people, who were involved in stoning to death a mentally unstable man accused of blasphemy, have been released on bail. This includes the chief instigator, the peshimamwho ordered the stoning. The defence produced a pardon affidavit signed by the deceased’s heirs — under pressure from the panchayat.

Tomorrow the defence team in Meerwala may produce a pardon affidavit signed by Mukhtaran Mai stating that she has forgiven the men who gang-raped her.

If this is the system of justice in Pakistan, no Mukhtaran will dare to raise her voice again.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.