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The TTP Factor in Pakistani Elections

P.K. Upadhyay was a Consultant with Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses for its Pakistan Project.
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  • May 10, 2013

    Elections and their rigging are nothing new in third-world democratic practices. Purchasing voters and their votes, luring them with interesting promises, playing up the caste and biradari sentiments, booth capturing and stuffing the ballot boxes with illegally cast ballot papers and even polling day violence are all part of the game in third world elections and take place in varying degrees at most places. However, what is happening in Pakistan is an entirely different ball game in which the entire election process has apparently been subverted by the radical Islamists of Deobandi/Wahabi /Salafi hue, owing allegiance to Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to ensure that ‘non-secular’ parties having a declared commitment to ushering in an Islamic order in the country gain a clear upper hand. What we are seeing in Pakistan is the ushering in of an anti-democratic Islamic order through the ballot box. What is more, the Pakistan Army, the only Pakistani institution which is still standing largely intact and was expected to be an honest broker in the electoral exercise, has clearly decided to also indirectly ensure that Islam is never “taken out of Pakistan”.

    Three crucial recent statements portend this scenario. The first one is a statement released by TTP Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan on April 28, 2013 from an undisclosed location that The Taliban Shura has decided to “selectively target” political parties and candidates and Pakistan Tehriq-e-Insaaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat ul-Ulema-e-Islam –Fazal-ur Rahman Group (JUI-F), and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would not be targeted. His complete statement read: Taliban Shura had decided to target those secular parties, which were part of the previous coalition involved in the operation in Swat, FATA and other areas of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa… The Taliban shura (would) decide which political parties to be targeted where and when…. We are neither in favour of the PTI, JI, JUI-F and PML-N nor against them.. We are against the secular and democratic system, which is against the ideology of Islam, but we are not expecting any good from the other parties either, who are the supporters of the same system, but why they are not targeted is our own prerogative to decide.

    Earlier, on April 20, addressing a passing out parade at Kakul, General Kayani had said: The Pakistani Army is fully committed to the cause (of protecting the nation) and as always standing with the nation. I assure you that if we remain committed to the basis for creation of Pakistan and remain steadfast as nation. Let me remind you that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Islam can never be taken out of Pakistan. Islam should always remain a unifying force…Pakistan Army will keep on doing its best towards common dream for a truly Islamic Republic of Pakistan…

    The third crucial statement having a bearing on current Pakistani electoral exercise is also by General Kayani. Speaking at the Yom-e-Shuhada (Martyrs Day) parade at Pakistani GHQ on April 30th, 2013 Kayani declared: The armed forces would utilize all resources to ensure that the polls are held in a fair and transparent manner… Like every Pakistani the Army is also doing its bit to strengthen democracy…There is no place for looting and personal gains in a democracy and only honest (people) can end the game between democracy and dictatorship…

    So what we have, notwithstanding the laboured calculations of electoral trends and prospects of various political parties by various psephologists and political pundits, is an election in Pakistan in which the TTP is going to ensure that only pro-Islamisation candidates and political parties are able to successfully contest and their so called ‘secularist’ rivals are neither allowed to conduct their election campaigns, nor their voters and supporters allowed to come out and cast their votes. The Army is not averse to such a possibility and is only interested in keeping the poll process ‘violence free’, it does not matter that this freedom from violence would be ensured by not resisting Taliban goons from pursuing their terror agenda and keeping ‘secularists’ tied down to their home and sanctuaries for their dear lives. The attack and the kidnapping of former Prime Minster Gilani’s son is the latest and most eloquent reminder of this phenomenon. Similarly, the large body of young first time voters in these elections comprises overwhelmingly of madrassa students and pass-outs, who are most likely to go along with the TTP’s Islamic agenda.

    The writing on the wall is clear. Post-election Pakistani National Assembly would be loaded overwhelmingly with pro-Deobandi Islamisation MPs having the nod from the TTP. They would resume their attempt to shariatise Pakistan from their thwarted attempt in 1998 to do so through the legislative process in the form of Fifteenth Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution to provide: The Federal Government shall be under an obligation to take steps to enforce the Shariat, to establish salat, to administer zakat, to promote amr bil ma’roof and nahi anil munkar (to prescribe what is right and to forbid what is wrong), to eradicate corruption at all levels and to provide substantial socio-economic justice, in accordance with the principles of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. The move fell through as Nawaz Sharif could not ensure the passage of this legislation in the Senate where he did not have majority. This time around a determined and effective TTP, a willing political cabal and a Pakistani Army more than willing to go along would ensure that shariatisation of Pakistan is taken up in a systemic manner and is taken to its logical conclusion. What it means for Indian and the rest of the world is the question we need to pause and ponder. Obviously we have to contend with a Pakistan in out neighbourhood, which is under radical Islamic control and wants to become a beacon for Islamic radicalism in the region.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.