Pakistan Electorate Votes for a Government to DeliverBy Nafisa Hoodbhoy

If there is a single message to be taken in Pakistan’s democratic transitional elections of 2013, it is that the voters have spoken loud and clear in favor of change.. not a Tsunami.. but the kind of experienced leadership that would address the complex task of handling terrorism and a mutilated economy.

For years, the writing was on the wall that come election day the suffering nation would take away the mantle of leadership from the default president – Asif Ali Zardari and his Pakistan Peoples Party government. Still the heavy mandate with which the twice elected, twice dismissed prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has emerged, has taken all the talking heads by surprise.

The erosion of the PPP from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan is the kind that Benazir Bhutto attempted to avoid throughout her political life. In the 1991, when her spouse Zardari stayed in the background, I saw Benazir fret in Jacobabad, Sindh that her stay in a small town might reduce her image from a national to a provincial leader.

Given the PPP’s failure to hold rallies or even corner meetings — and its focus instead on advertisements of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto — has predictably confined the PPP into a Sindh based party. With PPP stalwarts defeated in all but its home province, the resignation of top party leaders has eroded much of the capital accumulated by the Bhuttos.

There is no disputing the fact that the Taliban militancy denied the liberal PPP, MQM and ANP a level playing field by killing their leaders and supporters ahead of elections. By sparing the Pakistan Muslim League and Tehrik-i-Insaf or even the JUI (F), Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Fazlur Rehman were allowed to hold major rallies without significant disruption.

The greatest injustice was committed against honest and brave leaders of the Awami National Party – who took the heat of the Taliban onslaught – but were still voted out of their offices from the electorate.

Ultimately, voters argued that political parties paid the price of failing to govern amid the deteriorating situation. They demonstrated less sympathy with how the secular leadership was being killed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and a greater concern that the political leadership failed to find a way out to end terrorism.

It ended up being a situation where some argue that democracy was “orchestrated” by the establishment using the TTP to serve their ends.

Whether or not this may prove to be the case, the fact is that people voted in large numbers, and despite terror threats by the TTP to elect a leadership that they believe would bring Pakistan back from the brink.

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif appears to be displaying the maturity and statesman ship that shows he is ready not only to give Imran Khan his right to form the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but also to allow representative leadership in Balochistan and Sindh.

Khan deserves the credit for giving a voice to the people… jostling complacent leaders into action… and in reaching out to the new head of government.

Bottom line. The people have spoken through their vote. It is now up to the leaders to represent all sections of society and in the best possible interest of the nation.

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