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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To Vote or Not to Vote - Two views

Will you be exercising your right to vote on February 18, 2008? Here are two views on it. For voting it is Nasim Zehra in the News and for not voting it is Imran Khan in the Daily Times. - t

Why we must vote
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Nasim Zehra

The writer is an Islamabad-based security analyst

Pakistanis go in to cast their vote the eighth time since the 1970 elections in an unusually challenging context. Let us document it for posterity. One, the security environment has perhaps never been worse. Pakistan is now struggling with the spreading phenomenon which was once unknown to us; the suicide bombing phenomenon which essentially stands the paradigm of security on its head. How does a society fight those who do not fear death, those for whom there is no deterrent available in the traditional textbooks teaching security. Pakistan has suffered 60 suicide bombings in the last one year. And clearly as we have seen there is no target now beyond the reach of these suicide bombers and no target that is sacred enough to be avoided--children, mosques, women, politicians, men in power, the army, the police and even the intelligence agencies.

Two, the country has never been so polarised before. We are we polarised along ethnic and regional lines, along the lines of the have and have-nots, along ideological lines. These are the grey zones of our multiple identities. These are shifting identities and sharpen according to the changing socio-political context. But the new divide is one that is etched along religious lines--the divide of the moderates and the extremists. This adds to the existing polarisation. It exacerbates it and injects and righteousness-based intolerance for the other. This unfortunate trait has been bestowed on us by those within our ruling elite who chose to adopt the language of the "other" in their keenness to participate in clumsy and thoughtless ways in the "international war on terrorism." Pakistan's many growing polarisations are not inevitable, for at the core lies the need for every Pakistani to live in peace, but with political and economic justice as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. [for more click on this]

VIEW: A vote against voting —Imran Khan

Winston Churchill once said, “War is too serious a business for generals.” The same is true of democracy

As Pakistan gears up for its parliamentary election on February 18, many observers hope that the vote will usher in a period of stability and calm by lending popular legitimacy to the government. But sometimes democracy is best served by refusing to participate. The upcoming election, to be held under the illegal Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) implemented following President Pervez Musharraf’s state of emergency on November 3, is such a case, which is why my party and its coalition partners are boycotting the vote.

To be sure, contesting the election would provide my party with a great opportunity to take issues to the people. In fact, my party’s support has been growing, with opinion polls now indicating that it is the second most popular in the frontier province — and gaining ground in every other province.

But elections by themselves don’t bring democracy. Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, loves elections. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been holding elections for 27 years. Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov has been in power for 30 years, and has just been “elected” to a fresh seven-year presidential term. Elections are meaningful only if they are perceived to be free and fair, which requires independent referees. [for more click on this]


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