Chitral’s troubled Elections
Election process in Chitral is over. The polls have laid bare the fault lines in Chitrali society and these do not seem likely to be corrected in the near future.
Democracy, honest politics, morality and public interest have suffered grievously in the process. Pakistan People’s Party was eminently placed to address these fault lines but incorrect choice of candidates poll after poll and dubious leaders incapacitated the party to do the needful.
Party insiders hold Begum Suleman responsible for the sorry state of affairs within the PPP. Since her joining the PPP in 1970 she has been using the party to protect and promote her personal and family interest. She did nothing to enforce land reforms and 1975 notification in Chitral. She only comes to Chitral when she or her protégés get PPP ticket.
This year she managed to get PPP ticket for her son despite opposition from party workers, who rebelled against the party and fielded an old party loyalist Sardar Mohammad against the official party nominee for the National Assembly. They secured support of Jamat-e-Islami for their nominee. Although he lost the polls due to his failure to convert public mobilization into vote power but made the point that with correct choice of candidate, the PPP can sweep polls in Chitral.
PML candidate Shahzada Mohiuddin sought votes in the name of General Musharaf, without being specific as to why General Musharaf should be supported. If it is enlightened moderation then the PML candidate doesn’t qualify to speak on his behalf because as per history, his ancestors started forced conversion of Ismailies as part of their divide and rule policy thus creating communal fault lines in the social fabric of Chitral. If his support for Musharraf is because of the mega projects in upper Chitral, then it may be understood that these are meant to link Pakistan with Central Asia.
Now that Shahzada Mohiuddin has been elected on the PMLQ ticket, people expect him to stay with his party and not change loyalties as he has done five times in the past saying that he wants to be in the government to bring development funds for Chitral. The fact of the matter is that Chitral still remains backward and in the process Chitralis have lost their self respect too.
It is time that Machiavellian politics of making “ends justify means” is called off and morality injected into the body politics of Chitral. Development is our destiny and should not be made the basis for vote snatching. Politics must revolve around long term interests of Chitral and must be based on issues and not personal vendetta. Chitral needs political and communal harmony. The practice of infiltrating into other parties and destroying them through planted agents must end. Politicians should have sense of history as to how they want to be remembered in future. The policy of divide and rule has failed in the past and would fail again bringing dishonor to its proponent.
The only silver lining in the present situation was the focus on communal harmony by the PPP rebel backed independent candidate Sardar Muhammad. His slogan of suuni ismaili unity gave healing touch to communal situation in Chitral. By bringing PPP and Jamat-e-Islami on his platform he gave meaning to this slogan.
Ironically this unique opportunity to bridge the sectarian divide was sabotaged by Ismaili leaders and institutions who misguided the Jamat to vote for PMLQ saying that the Imam wants them to vote for the Government of the day. The other side failed to present the correct side of the farman according to which Ismailis were mandated to make correct political choice leading to people’s empowerment, meritocracy and unity among the communities for development. It is therefore not surprising that PMLQ candidate lost in sunni majority areas but won in Ismaili areas. Thus an ideal opportunity to promote sectarian harmony was lost due to greed and short sightedness on the part of Ismaili leaders. The efforts of few pro harmony leaders who preached the correct version of Imam’s farmans were successfully countered by institutional leadership who thrive on hatred like their counter parts in other sectarian groups.
Another player in the electoral arena JUI played the role of a spoiler. It’s campaign was motivated by sectarian considerations on which it thrives. It played dubious role. In Upper Chitral it pretended to back the independent candidate but in Lower Chitral it showed sympathy for the PML candidate.
A critical review of the election campaign and its aftermath reveal that these elections were not contested on the basis of issues and political ideals. Big money is said to have changed hands. Sectarian, ethnic and regional issues were openly discussed. Personal attacks and insults ruled the campaign and public attention was successfully diverted from real issues like extremism and corruption.
It is time that we drew lessons from the campaign and injected positive elements in the politics of Chitral making communal harmony and accountability of public office holders as buzz words.
PPP needs to be reorganized to serve the interest of the down trodden. The role of outsiders may be reduced and local PPP workers may be empowered to choose candidates and party office holders. Land reforms and 1975 notification promulgated by the first PPP Government may be enforced to break the power of feudalism and free the common man from the clutches of feudals, contractors, local influentials and those doing business in the name of religion and communal hatred.
If the existing parties fail to unite Chitral and speak for its permanent interests then an indigenous movement like the present Chitral Dost Movement would gain strength and make the present parties irrelevant.