Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pakistan 2008, India 1977

The similarities are too glaring to be missed. In 1977, Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency, and announced general elections to the surprise of the entire world. What made her announce elections then, when none expected her to do so? It was suggested that she was hurt by the Western criticism of absence of democracy in India, and her own growing unpopularity among the comity of nations. Hence, in order to regain her lost prestige, she announced elections, even though her party was decimated in the entire North India. Would she have done so, if she had an inkling about the rout of the Congress at the hustings in 1977?

Although President Musharaff could have delayed the elections in Pakistan further, he stuck to the schedule more or less in the aftermath of the Benazir assassination. Like Indira Gandhi, he appears to have opted for elections - free and fair - primarily because of the pressure from the West. Look at the extraordinary steps he took to invite the international media and poll observers to cover the run-up to the elections, and ensure that the dance of democracy in Pakistan secured international publicity, irrespective of the low voting percentage and threat from extremists.

Again, in 1977 Indira Gandhi was a victim of the politics of vendetta from the constituents of the newly-formed Janata Party. The Nawaz Sharif-Zardari post-poll alliance - despite the uncertainties ahead - appears determined to reverse some of the key decisions which Mushraff had undertaken during the last few years in his office, though it is by no means clear yet whether Mushraff would also become a victim of vendetta politics, as he has not resigned from office.

The Janata Party had sought to undo the draconian 42nd amendment to the Constitution carried out by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and restore the independence of Judiciary. The victors in Pakistan elections, at least those owing allegiance to the party led by Nawaz Sharif, want to reinstate the ousted Supreme Court Judges, and restore the 1973 Constitution.

The victorious celebration in Pakistan hailing the return of democracy is reminiscent of similar euphoria across India in 1977.

One only hopes that today's victors in Pakistan don't squander the mandate as early as the Janata Party did in 1980.

1 comment:

Dilip said...

The difference perhaps is that we do not know whether Musharraf will continue in office or not and how much power he will enjoy if he chooses to remain. He may still be able to exert some power by remaining the head of the NSC, a body filled with other military top brass who owe their positions to him.

Also, as far as I know, Zardari has never categorically stated that he is for reinstatement of Iftikar Chaudhary. Only Nawaz Sharif has stated that he is in favor of it. Even if there is a PPP-PML(N) coalition government, with Musharraf remaining President and opposing it, it is quite possible that it will not come to pass.