Pakistan elections 2013: What Does Pervaiz Musharraf’s Return Tell US About Pakistani Politics?

Elections in Pakistan are an event that are at best when they manage to take place, are shrouded with dark clouds of dubiousness, electrical waves of drama, false hopes, promises, betrayals and denial. Yes it’s a Greek drama on the wrong side of the equator!

Pervaiz Musharraf

Elections in Pakistan are an event that are at best when they manage to take place, are shrouded with dark clouds of dubiousness, electrical waves of drama, false hopes, promises, betrayals and denial. Yes it’s a Greek drama on the wrong side of the equator!  

So, this is 2013: the Year of ‘The Elections.’

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led government under President Asif Ali Zardari has successfully completed its fixed five year term in office. That is a rarity in the country in itself and has never happened in the 60+ years of the country’s independence. The completion of the term is followed by general elections are being held in May 2013.

But not much has changed. The ingredients of the Greek drama are still there. Added to them however are shades of thrill and suspense; starting from PPP’s prodigal son and ‘leader-in-training’ Bilawal Bhutto leaving the country in a huff and the return of the former commando-turned-politician, Pervaiz Musharraf.

Musharraf left Pakistan in 2009, a year after being forced to step down. Since then he has been shuttling between London and Dubai conducting worldwide lecture tours.

He came back, to the amazement of many, risking legal cases in connection with the killings of Benazir Bhutto and Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti and life threats by the Taliban, claiming, "I have taken a big risk returning home now. But tears come to my eyes seeing the state of the country now. I ask where is the Pakistan I had left five years ago."

But apparently Musharraf has planned out a trustworthy security network and feels safe enough.

Pervaiz Musharraf

Musharraf also says, Terrorists have repeatedly tried to send me to hell over the past 12 years. Unsuccessfully. And they're not going to succeed in the future either. My experience as an officer is that the most dangerous situations aren't so terrible once you're in the middle of them. One thing becomes clear: They were there only to create fear. And I know that fortune favors the brave.”

It remains unclear whether Musharraf will manage to regain influence in Pakistan, where strong contenders for the election include Nawaz Sharif, the man he ousted in a military coup, and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Pervaiz Musharraf

Two days before his arrival, his lawyers obtained pre-emptive bail from a court in Karachi, allowing him to return to Pakistan without fear of immediate arrest.

He has also been to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to perform the Umrah religious pilgrimage, but more likely to draw diplomatic support from influential Saudi officials, according to Pakistani news reports.

He may also have smoothed things over with his old rival, Mr. Sharif. Rumor has it that the two recently held a private meeting in Dubai. Many suspect, and they may not be too far off the mark that Saudi Arabia’s influence on Nawaz Sharif may also have played its part here. 

But even with all this, it is still too early to say what effect his arrival will have and how it will affect the elections coming up.

Pervaiz Musharraf and all parties

As options during the upcoming elections, the people of Pakistan have, Pakistan People’s Party, that has been in power several times already, without much betterment for the people; same goes for Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Shareef), Imran Khan promises a lot but not many know for sure if his promises expand beyond his idealism and charisma or not- his affiliations with the hardliner right wing religious fundamentalists also keep people from trusting his leadership completely- and now we have the former commando and Chief of Armed Forces added to the list. So who the people will vote for is still a big question. However, many observers sort of predict what the outcome may be based on previous experience. 

For, in any case, the political and electoral process is much different in Pakistan. Instead of casting their votes on the basis of manifesto and what they promise to deliver, do so on the basis of the personality or the political party they belong to despite their previous performance.

The contesting leaders do not have to work for their votes, hardly making more than face value visits to their own constituencies. It’s more a case of promised (by choice or force) and familial loyalties than any rational decision making.

Pakistan has had five uninterrupted years of democracy- a rarity and the lack of it a likely and gratifying excuse used by all the politicians as well as past leaders for the sad state of affairs of the country.

The elected politicians, however, failed to deliver in the last five years, and many people are actually nostalgic about Musharraf’s era. They do see him as a sort of messiah.

Pervaiz Musharraf

Pervaiz Musharraf facebook comment











Whether he will be able to succeed in gaining enough popularity and getting rid of his legal battles to actually win any power remains to be seen. Unlikely or improbable as something like this may seem, it is neither unheard of nor impossible in Pakistan.

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