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Elections Do Not Augur Well For President Zardari

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By Abdus Sattar Ghazali *

Many surprises sprung by May 11 elections in Pakistan will have grave repercussions for the political spectrum with the Pakistan People's Party confined to Sindh, the Awami National Party facing a split and President Asif Ali Zardari denied a second term in office, says Shaheen Sehbani of The News.

The PML-N sweeps across Punjab (the most populated province of Pakistan), has ensured that Mian Nawaz Sharif will not need any coalition partners, except for the sake of keeping a federal face by including some PML-Functional, Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F men in his cabinet.

According to Sehbai, the elections results have also washed away all chances of President Zardari getting a second term in office. "Mian Nawaz Sharif has been reported as saying in private meetings that he would like to see a president from a smaller province and Sindh is out of the running."

Zardari was elected President in September 2008 for a five-year term.

President Zardari has not yet congratulated Nawaz Sharif over his party's success. Sources close to the president said he would wait till final results are announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Only then he would invite the PML-N to form the government, according to Dawn.

The PPP was routed in the elections with around 32 seats in the National Assembly while also Pakistan Tehereek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan captured 32 seats and PML-N got about 127 out of 272 seats.

Now that the PPP has lost its political clout, it would also be interesting to see how President Zardari is treated by the judiciary and various organizations which carry out accountability, specially National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigating Agency and others.

Once the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Istaqlal leader Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid are in parliament, Mian Nawaz Sharif will be under a lot of pressure to complete the task of accountability that was left in abeyance because of the position President Zardari enjoyed. That situation changed on May 11.

As unofficial returns, a day after the election, state TV estimates put Sharif close to the majority in the national assembly needed to govern outright for the next five years. Even if he falls short of that threshold, independent candidates almost certain to swing in Sharif's favor would give his Pakistan Muslim League-N party a ruling majority.

The former ruling party, PPP, was soundly beaten in Saturday's election. The PPP was ahead in contests for 32 national assembly seats, a significant drop from the 91 seats the party won in the 2008 election.

Under President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, over the last five years, the PPP — traditionally perceived as the party of the working classes — has succeeded in what the ruling elite and the two military dictatorships, General Ziaul Haq and General Parvez Musharraf failed to do. It has alienated itself from the working masses. This was reflected in the election results.

Mian Nawaz Sharif somewhat more nationalistic

Mian Nawaz Sharif is expected to be somewhat more nationalistic and protective of state sovereignty when it comes to relations with the U.S. than the outgoing government, the Associated Press pointed out. "He defied U.S. opposition to Pakistan's nuclear test in 1998 and has criticized unpopular American drone attacks targeting 'militants' in the country. But that doesn't mean the relationship will radically change, especially since the army often plays a dominant role in foreign policy issues."

"At the end of the day, Sharif is a businessman, and he looks at these things through a kind of pragmatic analysis," according to Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. "I don't see any reason for him to want ties with U.S. to be poor, tense or troublesome."

Meanwhile, Special Correspondent of a leading Pakistani newspaper The Nation reported from Washington:

The American print and electronic media is highlighting the election-related developments in Pakistan, with major newspapers pointing out that the two main contenders for power — PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif and cricket legend Imran Khan — had pledged to limit US influence in the South Asian country.

New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh, wrote from Lahore, “Unlike previous elections, in which the military’s Inter Services-Intelligence Directorate (ISI) had been widely accused of vote manipulation and intimidation, there was little evidence of involvement in this campaign by the military, which has ruled Pakistan directly for more than half its 66-year history.”

The Washington Post said in a lead editorial that the outcome of historic polls could cause complications for US. “For all that, there’s not much reason for optimism that the multiple problems that bedevil US-Pakistani relations will get any easier. In fact, some may get worse.”

In this context, the Post said both front-runners were “softer on the Pakistani Taliban and tougher on the United States than is either the military or the current civilian government."

Sharif has promised to negotiate with the jihadists, while Khan says he will end ‘America’s war’ against them and shoot down US drones,” the Post said.

The New York Times said that both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan had promised to “rein in” US influence in Pakistan.

The nation newspaper said Washington is watching the election as it relies heavily on cooperation by the nuclear-armed South Asian country in fighting militants and negotiating an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan. "Pakistan also provides key routes for transportation of supplies Afghanistan-based international security assistance forces as well as pullout of military equipment from its landlocked western neighbor."

President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistan Sunday on its parliamentary elections and said Washington was ready to work “as equal partners” with the government that emerges. “My administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan,” Obama said in a statement.

Pakistan's historic election could bring change to military ties with US?

According to David Piper of the Fox News, Pakistan’s historic election could have immense consequences for the region and the so-called war on terror.

It will be the first time in Pakistan’s 65-year history that a civilian government has completed a full term and passed along power in democratic elections. Previously, the military has got involved either through coups or influencing presidents to dissolve parliaments.

The generals still hold great power in Pakistan, but at the moment they are prepared to stay in the background as politicians squabble over who has the right policies to benefit a country which, some have called, a failed state because of its poor economic performance, political instability and ongoing violence.

The election campaign has raised concerns for the international community as some world leaders have questioned Pakistan’s role in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Piper said adding: Opposition leader and leading candidate to be the next prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has warned he will stop Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror. Asked whether he would stop military cooperation with the United States in the war, in an interview with the BBC he said, “Yes, we have to.” His argument is that it is necessary to stop the fighting in Pakistan and bring peace there.

Sharif believes the present government’s policy of not stopping the U.S. from conducting operations against 'terrorists' on its territory is only encouraging more radicalism in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Manmohan Singh invites Nawaz Sharif to India

Congratulating Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaqz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, who is poised to become Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday expressed India’s desire to work with the new government. He also invited Sharif to visit India.

“PM extends his congratulations to Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his party for their emphatic victory in Pakistan’s elections,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted as it congratulated the people and the political parties of Pakistan for “braving the threats of violence and voting in large numbers.”

“PM expressed India’s desire to work with the new government of Pakistan in charting a new course for the relationship between the two countries,” said another tweet.
The Indian prime minister, in another post invited Sharif “to visit India at a mutually convenient time”.

Sharif has served as the country’s prime minister for two non-consecutive terms from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 to October 1999. However, his governments were dismissed before completing their constitutional term.

* Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality and chief editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net

[Source: Countercurrents.org]

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