Pakistan Elections 2008: Will They? Won’t They?

Posted on February 11, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Politics
27 Comments
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Adil Najam

Yesterday, while passing through Chicago airport on my way to Tokyo, Japan, I found myself transfixed by a wall full of posters announcing that Chicago is an “Applicant City” for the 2016 Olympics.

The airport was full of them but, frankly, the posters themselves are not remarkable.

They became remarkable for me Chicago Olympics 2018because of the thoughts they triggered in my mind regarding Pakistan’s upcoming elections. It is, in fact, remarkable that Chicago and the rest of the world is sure that there will be Olympics held in the year 2016 (8 years or some 3000+ days from today). Not only are people sure that they would be held, people are making serious investments of time, money and effort based on the belief that they would. And, indeed, if I were to bet I would bet that they would.

And, then, there are these elections in Pakistan. Supposedly they are to be held in just a week. 7 days. And yet, it is not fully clear whether they would, in fact, be held on schedule. After all, there have been schedules before, but no elections (remember, we even had a poll on whether they would be held in 2007)!

Frankly, if I were to bet I would (at this point) bet that they would, indeed, be held on schedule. But the odds are still not as strong as for the 2018 Olympics.

With the ANP political rally being bombed, noises about postponements, a severe lack of trust in anything that the Musharraf government says, immense trepidation amongst the political parties, continuing clampdown on civil society, the lingering shocks of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and a general air of societal unease and despondent uncertainty all over the country, I am not surprised that the most common question that I have been asked by journalists recently is whether the elections will be held on time or not.

Its not just the uncertainty of whether elections will happen? Nor even what might happen in the elections, but also that of what might happen after the elections; irrespective of what the results may be. One follows the news from Kenya with a grave sense of foreboding these days. A sense of nervousness borne out of unbearable uncertainty.


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I am not surprised, but I am annoyed. But I am not annoyed at the journalists, I am annoyed at the question. At the fact that it is, in fact, a fair question. That it is a fair question is what makes it troubling. The uncertainty that this question reflects is a fact of what Pakistan has become today. A place where we cannot be certain of anything. Where you wake up every morning not knowing what might have happened overnight or could happen today.

This uncertainly is not just uncomfortable, it is costly. I have not done the math, but no matter how you count, this uncertainty has to be expensive. How do you plan for anything? What is the cost to business of not knowing what might happen in 7 days, or even one? What is the cost to governance? To citizens? The cost of angst? The cost of anguish? The cost of just not knowing where things are heading? And most importantly, the cost of the feeling that you have little to no control over where they will head!

As I have already stated above, I think the elections are likely to be held this time. The domestic pressure and the international scrutiny is too high for them not to. I also believe that Olympics will, in fact, be held in 2018.The difference is that the first is a statement of hope; a likely probability at best. The second is a statement of certainty.

Living with such uncertainty cannot possibly be good. It cannot be good for citizens, it cannot be good for business, it cannot be good for politicians, and it certainly cannot be good for society. The tragedy of it all is that even if we have elections in 7 days, the uncertainty will not really disappear.

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27 responses to “Pakistan Elections 2008: Will They? Won’t They?”

  1. mahir nisar says:

    Sorry for the elections the correct URL is http://www.pw.org.pk

  2. mahir nisar says:

    in regards to upcoming Pakistani elections i suggest viewing and using parliament watch at http:/www.pw.org.pk. It has a rating system, live results, and commenting on every candidate.

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