In introducing our last ATP Poll, I had suggested that the most important political questions demanding analysis relate to how Pakistan politics will shape up because of the events of the last year, but particularly in light of Gen. Musharraf getting himself elected as President again.
The responses from our readers suggests that there is great uncertainty about exactly what will transpire, but significant consensus that the instability is most likely to continue.
We had posed two questions this time.
Q1. Assuming that Gen. Musharraf will get himself elected as President, what do you think is most likely to happen next?
Q2. One year from today, what do you think would be the level of Gen. Musharrafâ€™s political power?
Some of the interesting findings that emerge from the first question are (435 responses):
1. There is a very small minority of our readers (3%) who believe that Gen. Musharraf’s election will not stand. They seem to suggest that the Supreme Court decision still pending will somehow invalidate the results of October 6. The real thing to note here is just how few of our readers actually believe that the Supreme Court will act thus.
2. There is a more significant minority (as many as 11%) who do see an optimistic future and believe that ‘a government of national unity will be formed and things will calm down.’ Although this is not a large proportion of respondents, it is nonetheless a significant proportion.
3. There is another significant minority (16%) who feel that Gen. Musharraf wil, once again, refuse to drop his uniform. That once elected, he will again go back on his promise. Here, again, the thing to note is that while not a majority, this is not an insignificant proportion.
4. Finaly, and importantly, the vast bulk of respondents see continuing instability in the affairs of the state one way or the other (70%). Of this group, the single most popular response was that ‘political turmoil will continue in Parliament with odd and unstable coalitions’ (28%). The second common response in this cluster was that ‘political unrest will increase and spill to street protests and the Supreme Court’ (22%). Third, there are 19% of our readers who feel that instability will continue because without his uniform, gen. Musharraf will be sidelined by politicians and the new military leadership. Although there are nuanced differences between these three responses, the common element is that each suggests a continued and prolonged period of instability.
The findings from the second question are even more clear (432 responses):
1. Just over half the respondents (51%) believe that in a year from now Gen. Musharraf will still be President but he will have much less power and influence. One assumes that they feel so because of the of the confluence of the points highlighted in bullet 4 above.
2. Interestingly, as many as a third of our readers (33%) believe that in a year from now Gen. Musharraf will no longer be President and will not be in power in any other capacity. This is a surprisingly large number and, once again, suggest a coming era of greater instability.
3. There are, however, a significant number of respondents (15%) who feel that in a year from now Gen. Musharraf would have further consolidated his hold on power further; that he will be more powerful than he is today. This probably includes many of those who hold an optimistic view of politics to come, but obviously also include some who see this as a dangerous proposition.
All in all, then, hold on to your seats. The roller coaster will continue and we are in for some interesting politics and, maybe, dangerous upheavals. Let us know what you make of these responses. Of course, any web poll is just that – a web poll, that reflects the opinions and biases of those who visit this poll. Extrapolating too much from these numbers can be dangerous. However, it does seem that the basic prediction of continued and enhanced instability is a fair one. Having said that, how would your analysis of these numbers be different, and why?
P.S. I have been accused, probably rightly, of being too depressed by the mockery that has recently been made of all democratic ideals by all concerned. I have already pleaded guilty to this charge. These are depressing times for anyone who still believes in democracy. And I do.
As I have stated before, I believe that Pakistan is a democratic society trapped in an undemocratic state. Despite my my disgust at recent machinations, I do believe that ultimately the will of the Pakistani people will triumph. If I did not believe that I would not believe in democracy. But let me not dwell much on this point. I have made it in umpteen posts here at ATP and also made it recently during a detailed radio discussion on National Public Radio’s (US) popular news analysis program, On Point, where I was a guest this Monday (listen to show here; I have been a guest on the show multiple times, including on the Lal Masjid affair).