Comments on: Pakistan bucks apparent Islamist trend in elections Religion, faith and ethics Sat, 23 Apr 2016 23:25:07 +0000 hourly 1 By: Tom Heneghan Sat, 23 Feb 2008 11:36:51 +0000 Hassan, you make some very good points here. I think we agree a lot more than you seem to believe. Let me go through your arguments one by one:
1. The fact that diehard Islamists consider Fazlur Rehman a quisling for cooperating with Musharraf does not negate the fact that he basically is friendly towards the Taliban. On a scale of T-friendly, T-neutral or T-hostile, he surely belongs on the T-friendly side. Looking at him just in terms of what the diehard Islamists may say obscures the larger picture of where he fits in the political spectrum. We want to show this wider picture to the reader, not just the microcosm of Islamist politics.
2. The fact that Maulana Qazi boycotted the election certainly meant the Islamist vote would be lower. But was this just because of a split among the Islamists? I didn’t get into this aspect because it would have taken me into a whole other direction, i.e. asking whether his decision to boycott was not also inspired by the clear indications the Islamists were going to take it on the chin this time. Was this possibly a case of thinking it was better to stay away so nobody could see how badly they would fare at the polls than enter the fray and come out with the expected bloody nose?
3. I agree with you that the vote for secularists was a vote for a real alternative and against anti-democratic policies. I would also add it was a vote of protest against corruption and failed economic policies. I would not have included Ali Eteraz’s comment to this effect if I didn’t agree with his analysis.
4. Your final paragraph is also one I can agree with almost 100% (I disagree with the six month prediction, which I think is way over the top). Ali made much the same point in his analysis, which I thought was eloquent enough that I didn’t have to put ditto marks underneath it.
5. You started your comment saying “I wouldn’t be too sure the Islamist parties have lost, as you seem to think.” Well, if you don’t interpret those results in these elections as a loss, I don’t know how you define the word. We’re talking about the elections that took place on Feb. 18. The Islamist parties lost them plain and simple. So I disagree with your opening premise. At the end of your comment, however, you modify this to say “the recent Pakistan elections should in no way be understood to mean that the Islamists are done in.” That’s taking a longer-term perspective, and there I agree with you fully. They can come back, and the fact that I ended up with Ali’s quote saying so indicates this is the parting message I wanted to leave the reader.

As I read it, your whole argument supports my opening premise, that these elections bucked an apparent trend towards Islamist victories at the polls. This analysis is often used as an argument against holding free and fair elections in some Muslim countries. What I wanted to point out is that this does not have to be the case. The voters of Pakistan have shown this and it is now up to the politicians, as you rightly say, “to deliver on the expectations of the people.”

By: Hassan Abbas Fri, 22 Feb 2008 20:02:15 +0000 I wouldn’t be too sure the Islamist parties have lost,as you seem to think.Also I would disagree with your description of Maulana Fazalur Rehman as a taliban friendly politician.
The actual position is that in Pakistan politics there was a split amongst the Islamists,and the real diehard Islamists -the ones who have the support of the core Islamists -led by Maulana Qazi bycotted the elections.It is therefore hardly a surprise they got so few seats.
As far as Fazalur Rehman is concerned he is viewed as a quisling amongst the die hard Islamists for his co-operation with President Musharraf.The Islamists consider he sold himself out to the President by getting him out fo numerous tight situations in the parliments where the maulana was the leader of the opposition.
Even the seculiarists[PPP,Muslim League (Nawaz),ANP and MQM] got their votes not because of any inspiring ideology or party manifesto; infact the vote for them is a vote for the restoration of an independent judiciary as well as a vote against Musharaff’s self serving and anti-democratic policies. This is also the reason real reason why Fazalur Rehman(and his other party members also) failed to get elected from their home towns.Nothing brings this out more clearly then the fact that despite massive pre-election rigging and foul play in favour of the candidates fielded by Musharraf’s party,they won only about 10 percent of the seats.
This does not mean the seculiarists cannot rout the Islamists.Pakistan had always been more seculiar than Islamist -till the late general Zia aided by the CIA’s aim of driving the Russian’s out of Afghanistan created,funded and trained the Jihadist and taliban phenomina.This served Zia’s purpose in that he used these Jihadists to counter the appeal of the popular seculiarist’s(PPP) to shore up his own appeal.Musharraf finished what ever genuine voter backed counter to Islamists remained by doing away with PML(nawaz group).
By sacrificing her life Shaheed Benazir Bhutto has given a fresh inspiration to the seculiarists;so much so that even arch rivals like PPP and PML(Nawaz) co-operated with each other both in the pre-election as well as the post election phase;and the Pakistani voters gave the overwhelming support.
So the recent Pakistan elections should in no way be understood to mean that the Islamists are done in.The true situation is that the seculiarists have finally found their voice in their elected representatives .But should they fail to deliver on the expectations of the people namely a restoration of the illegally removed judiciary as well as freedom from a dictator whom they have so openly rejected – the Islamists will be back within six months-and in renewed strength.