The Islamic Republic of Pakistan/Islami Jamhuriya e Pakistan is going to elections. The painting above I made some years ago and it is supposed to depict the four Khalifs after Mohammed, Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali, but the Shi’ites only recognize Ali of these above, and who also was Mohammed’s cousin. I chose that picture to illustrate the schism among Sunni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims. In Pakistan today the Sunni majority persecutes and kills Shi’ites simply for being believers in a slightly different way. It could be compared with the hateful struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants, or the Catholics and the Orthodox Churches in the West during the 1500’s and 1600’s, or the fight between Protestants and Catholics today in Northern Ireland. There are also other conflicts. There are for example Jews, Mandeans and Christians who are persecuted in Pakistan. Pakistan also has a power struggle with its neighbour India in the east and south-east. Pakistan and India still fight about the province of Kashmir. It’s a bit like the struggle between Denmark and Sweden 300 – 350 years ago when they fought about the province Scania/Skåne. Another conflict is the one between the secular political parties and secular Muslims who want to separate the faith from the state visavi the militant islamists, the Taleban and Al-Qaeda. The Taleban kill the seculars. Also the conflict between the military and those who want a peaceful development. Include also social problems, corruption, and wide gaps between the really wealthy élite and the poor masses.
Pakistan is going to election on May 11th. Yesterday I saw a short report on Swedish TV news about a Pakistani election meeting with the politician Imran Khan from the secular Justice Party. The reporter Samir Abu Eid interviewed Imran Khan who gathered the masses, and also a Henna Makhdoum was interviewed. A couple of days ago a Pakistani friend of mine asked me to write about the Pakistani election to show my readers around the world both the problems in the area, but also pinpoint the good forces in the chaos. Since I also have blog readers in Pakistan and Pakistani followers on Twitter this is an obvious choice since I want them all to survive and thrive.
Since 2008 Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari from the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) is President of the country, and Prime Minister since March this year is Mir Hazar Khan Khoso. Zardari is one strong candidate in the elections. Another strong candidate is Benazir Bhutto’s closest advisor Makhdoom Amin Fahim. Apart from the PPP other participating parties are the Muslim League Nawaz, Muslim League Quad-i-Azam, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the secular parties the Justice Party and Awami National Party. Yesterday the ruling PPP gathered in Bhutto’s home town Naudero in the province of Sindh and her will was read. They now try to gather strength after the assasination attempt recently on the politician Raj Mohamed who was seriously injured by a bomb.
The former President Pervez Musharraf who ruled from 1999/2001 until 2008 and did so with a strict and harsh rule wanted to participate in the elections with his party All Pakistan Muslim League. They however cancel all their election campaigns. Tariq Azim, former Deputy Minister of Information says: “We have cancelled our election campaign because of the prevailing situation”. All Pakistan Muslim League was an important power until November 2012 when a state of emergency was proclaimed. A court put Pervez Musharraf under house arrest for having discharged judges when he was the President of the country, but he is also accused of participating in the assassination on Benazir Bhutto in 2007. He is now forbidden to participate in the elections.
The election campaign is full of violence. Voters, party active people are threatened and beaten, election cabins destroyed, ordinary people intimidated, while politicians, journalists and lawyers are being murdered. Especially the Taleban kill politicians and people who want a secular Pakistan. But people in general have no big trust in the ordinary politicians either. The President Asif Ali Zardari is often called Mr Ten Percent for his bribery and corrupt ways. Pervez Musharraf was seen as better and not corrupt, or at least less corrupt than the rest. Musharraf is however accused of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but also her husband Zardari is suspected for wanting to get rid of her and grasp the power for himself.
Anyway people are getting killed in the elections. In January a Taleban patroll made an attack near the city of Shawal, and in April Taleban murdered the politician Mukarram Shah from the secular Awami National Party with a bomb in the Swat Valley. The northern province of Khyber and the city of Peshawar is the biggest Taleban stronghold in the country. Afrasiab Khattak, president in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area for the Awami National Party says: “We are not scared by the threats, but the government has an obligation to protect us.” Three days ago, this last Friday the prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfikar was assassinated.
The power-struggle is immense, and many people are fed up with the political élite, but also of wars and murders. Several Pakistanis have told me this these last few months. Many just want to live an ordinary life in dignity. They protest against the killings, they protest against the religious fanatics, are tired of the Taleban terror, but also of American attacks on Western Pakistan when drones bomb the area in order to kill Taleban. The problem is that lots of innocent people are killed too. That does not make us Westerners or the USA more loved in the region. The Pakistanis just want to live a peaceful life, to build up their country and keep a dignified life. I once more plead to the leaders and the Taleban. Don’t attack the voters like a pack of wolves. Show them some respect and try to be fair.
Anders Moberg, May the 6th 2013
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