November issue 2002

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 21 years ago

The unprecedented victory of the MMA in the October 2002 elections has set off alarm bells in cross sections of Pakistani society. A telling indicator is the deluge of letters in a daily newspaper from readers who are scouring the internet to find favourable destinations to migrate to.

Why is the prospect of an MMA government so frightening? The MMA vociferously proclaim they are not extremists and that they have no intention of Talibanising the country. And yet some of the statements emanating from this quarter are indicative of a Taliban mindset. (“A woman has no right to become a Prime minister or President… All dance and music shows will be banned from television… Co-education is resulting in the birth of illegitimate children…”).

The MMA leaders have made public their plans to disallow co-education, impose segregation in workplaces, ban dance and music shows and discontinue cable television. In fact, certain co-educational institutions in the NWFP have been ordered to introduce segregated classes. Cinema posters have been pulled down and cable wires cut in some areas.

Why this disdain for all forms of entertainment ? And why the magnificent obsession with women ?

The danger is that , in a bid to keep the MMA from flexing their muscles on major issues, Musharraf’s men will follow a policy of appeasement. The biggest victims will be the most vulnerable: women, minorities, the arts.

Given the manner in which Musharraf’s lieutenants have been willing to dance with the devil to deliver their general’s dream team, anything is possible. Politics is known to make for strange bedfellows. And even long after the people’s representatives have been selected, Musharraf’s manoeuvrings have not ended. The elections have come and gone but the presidential ordinances continue. Earlier there was a Benazir-specific law designed to keep her from becoming PM a third time. Now there is a Jamali-specific amendment that clears the way for a twice elected CM or PM from holding the office for a third time. So Jamali is in as the chosen one. Another amendment to the Legal Framework Order allowed independents to join parties within three days of winning the elections. Predictably, 18 out of the 21 independents entered the King’s fold. Yet another law disallows unsuccessful candidates of the elections to the assemblies from contesting for Senate seats. This effectively blocks some “trouble-makers” from making it to the upper house

At last count, moves were afoot to strike down the anti-floor crossing law, a move apparently designed to allow politicians from the opposition to cross over and swell the ranks of the King’s party.

Will the King’s party secure the right numbers to form a stable (read pliant) government? Or will the mullah factor upset the apple cart?

The efforts continue…

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