Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Elections 2013 - the end of ANP's identity politics in KPK?

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

In 2008 ANP's victory in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its subsequent alliance with PPP at the center had mistakenly been seen as a victory for Pushtun Nationalism. That myth was burst in May 2013, just as the myth of MMA's Islamist politics had exploded earlier. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pushtun and Non-Pushtun, religious or non-religious, have proved yet again that they are not swayed by emotional slogans. After all if identity politics was what it was all about the renaming of NWFP as KPK should have been considered a major feather in the cap of ANP. The people of KPK, while proud of their new name which was an important corrective in Pakistani history, voted PTI because ANP's government from 2008-2013 was a spectacular failure on every count.

ANP says that it lost the election because Hakeemullah Mehsud was the referee. The truth is ANP lost the election not because it was not allowed to mobilize. That is a myth. TTP's threats and violence should have in fact gotten ANP sympathy vote. So strong was the injustice against ANP, that even I, a long time critic of ANP's identity politics, was moved and would have voted for ANP but only because I did not endure the bad governance that ANP put up.  After all ANP's sacrifices in its cause (and the cause of Pakistani democracy) are second to none. ANP lost the election because CM Hoti's government was notoriously corrupt. "Baba ta easyload waka"  or easy load for Hoti's father was ultimately the downfall of ANP's government in KPK.  Yet ANP's vociferous supporters and apologists refused to recognize this fundamental flaw in their government. Instead they spun the narrative that corruption and bad governance does not matter and that ANP deserves to win because it is a victim of terrorism. In an article titled "Watan ya Kafan" (do you want country or do you want the coffin- this article was referenced by Asfandyar Wali Khan in one of his pre-election interviews) one such apologist wrote:

For those who still think the ANP’s corruption doesn’t make it worth the effort, I propose the following calculation.

Step 1: Put a price on the life of a loved one; Step 2: Multiply that price by 700; Step 3: From this total subtract the biggest possible estimate for the ANP’s corruption (make it Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s entire budget if you may).
Very emotional. So why didn't it work? Consider these lines from the same article:

Yet survey after survey confirms that Pakistan considers corruption to be a bigger problem than terrorism. This is akin to a cancer patient citing a common cold as his biggest ailment. The difference between corruption and terrorism should be obvious from their respective units of measurement – rupees for corruption and deaths for terrorism. How big a bribe can outweigh the death of one human?
A deadly combo of arrogance and ignorance with a side of spurious argumentation! Answer this: Would bringing ANP back in power have defeated the Taliban? Unlikely. BTW notice that whenever something does not quite follow the logic, it becomes "Pakistan". So it is KPK and Pushtuns who elect ANP, but it is Pakistan who rejects them. Well the same set of people who voted for ANP in 2008 voted against it in 2013. Interestingly it was Pakistanis who are also Pushtuns and proud residents of KPK which got swayed by the corruption slogan. Perhaps it is for ANP to realize that something was indeed rotten in the state of Denmark.

11 May 2013 is a watershed for Pakistani politics. The electorate clearly and consistently rejected all identity and religious politics at a time when these two politics were at their highest point. ANP was rejected because the people of KPK realized that ANP's government had failed to deliver on not just development but security as well.  After all would you trust a party to rule you for another 5 years which cannot even protect its own leaders? ANP was automatically conflated with Pushtun honour. Anyone criticizing ANP or Bacha Khan for example would automatically become "anti-pushtun racist" and "Punjabi chauvinist". On 11 May, 2013, the Pushtuns of KPK showed that they did not conflate the two. An almost fascist mentality which assumed a zero sum game with the rest of Pakistan had taken hold. Insults like "political orphans" were thrown at those who dared disagree. That is untill their own Pushtun voter base sent them packing.
ANP does not speak for the Pushtuns. It has exhausted its trump card. KPK's emergence as Pakistan's swing state augurs well for democracy. PTI must realize also that if it thinks that rhetoric about drones will make up for bad governance, they should think again.  Politics of Pakistan's future, and in particular in KPK, is the politics of service delivery, governance and development.  If PTI fails it too will be booted out of power from KPK and if PML-N fails in delivering, Punjab too will go KPK way.

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