Voters Dilemma Website
It says much about the moral bankruptcy of Pakistan’s insurgents that yesterday one of their fanatical bigots sought to blow up a minibus containing children on their way to school, Five innocent children were wounded in the depraved attack in which only the suicide bomber died,On Sunday two more children were among six slain in a suicide attack on a checkpoint in Swat. Terrorists who believe that killing children can advance their cause have nothing whatsoever to offer the human race. These twisted and demented attacks come at a time when Pakistani politics is itself in flux as political leaders jostle for position. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif threatened last week to boycott the Jan. 8 poll but Benazir’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) later changed its mind. Sharif, who as a convicted criminal is barred from running for office, was insisting until Sunday that his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) would boycott the elections but then performed an about face. Clearly others in his party feared that they would be ceding their political ground to the rival PML-Q party, which broke away after Pervez Musharraf toppled the Sharif government in 1999. The interim administration appointed by President Musharraf in the run up to the election is largely made up of PML-Q politicians who Sharif and his people fear will use their strong political position to bolster their support among voters. The boycott option, however, would have left the PML-N in the political wilderness. More importantly, it would have left the way open for the PPP either to win power in January or form the parliamentary opposition. In the final analysis Sharif’s strong dislike of Benazir is greater than his equally strong dislike of Musharraf. From Musharraf’s point of view, events are shaping up nicely. On Oct. 6 he won a landslide, in part because the PPP and PML-N chose to boycott the election. Now he has stepped back and watching others play out the drama. The Muslim League is divided and as their short-lived deal to boycott the elections proved, so too are Sharif and Benazir. The fourth party, Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice, has marginal support and poses no threat. There is a fanatical hard core of PPP and PML-N supporters who will back their leaders regardless of their current policies or the dubious past records of the two terms of government that each has enjoyed. However, leaving these aside, ordinary voters will be looking with some despair at the political options. If they are opposed to Musharraf, their choice is between two politicians whose push for power and visceral rivalry appears to push the fundamental interests of Pakistan into the background. Whatever the demerits of Musharraf, he at least represents a degree of stability and continuity and will continue to do so as long as he maintains the confidence of the army he used to lead. With fanatics now murdering children to further their cause, can Pakistan afford a return to the venal old political knock-about?