Deconstructing Husain Haqqani’s Latest Broadsheet On Election 2018

IRSHAD SALIM: I HAVE read with a bald eagle interest Mr. Husain Haqqani’s latest opinion piece and as a fellow countryman (US and Pakistan), I admire his articulated drive to followup on the “Media Construct” which was recently launched on international level to attempt deconstructing Election 2018. Mr. Haqqani has already mentioned that if PML-N doesn’t win in Punjab on national and provincial seats, the said party won’t accept the results.

A similar campaign was amiss in 2013 when PML-N was striving to win. The party was declared winner amid huge cry of foulplay by the two major parties: PPP and PTI.

Despite having formed the government at the Center and in Punjab, the “rigging” and “match-fixing” matter ultimately landed in the Supreme Court which ruled the 2013 Election was by and large free, fair and transparent. All moved on.

This time, a new coinage “pre-poll rigging” has emerged and being tossed around like a hot potato, setting the stage for a playing field should results be unpredictable — by the way both PML-N and PTI are neck to neck if opinion polls are to be believed.

Haqqani’s op-ed if bifurcated between a set of observations and inferences, throw up some undeniable facts and realities vis-a-vis debatable inferences which he’s entitled to make to further his opinion.

Observations refer to noting a fact or occurrence by using our five senses. We make observations by using our sight, smell, touch, taste,and our ability to hear.

There can be Qualitative and Quantitative Observations: Qualitative observations describe the quality of an object, such as a objects color, shape, and size. Quantitative observations measures the amount of an object, such as weight or height.

Related Article: Pakistan’s ‘Bible Belt’ And The Jeep Drawing Attention, Traction

Meanwhile, inferences are explanations or interpretations of what we are observing. They are statements that explain what we are observing. This is where the debate part kicks in and whosoever constructs set of salable narratives matter.

Here are few facts and observations in Haqqani’s op-ed which I picked for comments:

1. More than 100 million Pakistanis will have the chance to cast their ballots in general elections on July 25.
I’m glad Mr. Haqqani has recognized that project democracy is in the works for a decade now — a populist nation-building initiative launched in 2007 by no other than a military ruler backed by his institution — the same “deep state” or the “establishment” as you prefer to call them. They also launched several other far-reaching results-oriented sociopolitical moves, such as the electronic media in the private sector and the Higher Education Commission to name two here. And, just as “predictability and control” dictates any process anywhere including the United States, so is it emerging in Pakistan — a new establishment: state + the overwhelming silent majority driven + the youth bulge + the huge marginalized populace. This calculus  is now posing a natural challenge to the status quo. Also, we must recognize we have a “bible belt” akin to the American Midwest. Can’t write them off either.

So now we have a “Media Construct” versus the “New Construct”. The push-pull is heavily being painted by the former as an unnecessary ugly pimple on the face of democracy. Well, we can’t have the cake and eat it too.

2. Pakistan’s politicians are notorious for corruption.
I’m glad to find out that the person he served most of them diligently, particularly Gen. Zia ul Haq (who was a master politician), Nawaz Sharif, the head of PML-N and then Asif Zardari, head of PPP has braved to embed this key observation. Brevity demands a future broadsheet on them by a scholar of your level. The new world order calls for its elimination worldwide as terrorism and corruption (money laundering, kickbacks, tax evasion, etc.) have been recognized as mutually inclusive and a bane.

3a. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar disqualified Sharif for failing to fulfill an arcane constitutional criteria for “honesty and sagacity.”
This “arcane” constitutional criteria was inducted during his master Zia’s regime and followed through during his other masters’ regime. So let’s not call it “arcane” but a “rat-trap” meant to handle perpetrators and beneficiaries of his observation #2.

3b. Sharif was then put on trial and convicted, along with his daughter Maryam, for failing to explain their ownership of property in London.
Anything wrong with this? Isn’t the rule of law with due process which controls a civilized society’s existentialist norms and then democracy becomes an instrument for popular will of the people to prevail. Can we at your call and others dictates put the cart before the horse? Can democracy generate or cause rule of the law to prevail or is isn’t it the other way around. Can popular mandate of a “convicted” leader albeit politician override a verdict given through due process so rule of law and writ of the state prevail?

4. Pakistan still has the world’s highest newborn mortality rate.
Did the establishment (military-judiciary) socially or politically engineer this symptom so as to make the democratic system amenable to it?

5. Whatever the results on election day, the outcome will not rid Pakistan of its chronic instability.
Noted and acknowledged. Refer to observation #2 and #4 above and much more, such as elected government’s fetish to borrow internationally rather than generate revenues locally to deliver unsustainable projects just because they would be populist.

6. The establishment wants to root out the two parties that have dominated the political scene for the last three decades: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Actually, the apolitical classn (70 percent of the nation) which I prefer to call “the silent majority” wants not only to root them out but also the “corrupt leaders” which you have so candidly acknowledged in #2 above.

7. Army generals deem both Sharif and Zardari corrupt and are instead advancing the fortunes of the star former cricketer Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Actually majority of the nation (not just generals as they would be voting too) deem them corrupt and are therefore advancing the fortunes of the star former cricketer Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Let’s not discount the more than 4 to 5 million military-related populace in the country who would also exercise their right to vote in the election. Anf that’s a big number given that we have roughly 11 million registered voters with expected votecount to exceed 40 percent this time as compared to 33 percent in 2013.

8a. The Pakistan Army plans to deploy 371,388 troops and reservists on polling day..
A similar arrangement was also in place back in 2008 and 2013.

8b: …raising fears that soldiers might be used for a final push to influence the election results.
A similar fear also existed in 2008 and 2013. However, no party objected — in fact they welcomed it given the security environment. In 2013, some 159 people were killed in terror attacks prior to polls. In 2018, more than 165 have already been killed in attacks. And, since project democracy must continue, so must prevention and rapid response to any destabilizing moves.

The gripe in Haqqani’s oped in his own words, is Sharif’s conviction by the apex court orchestrated by a military-judicial nexus which is out to engineer the results. Should he not then fax the GHQ and the Supreme Court a class action lawsuit “John Doe vs the State of Pakistan”, and let the chips fall as they may? I firmly believe that’s not his intention.

As for the inferences embedded in Haqqani’s opinion piece, it’s a matter of who says what how loudly and convincingly. According to an unofficial estimate, over Rs200 crore has so far been spent on digital marketing by the parties — and understandably PML-N leads the pack with a whopping number.

Here’s a picture of the rainbow below. What can we infer from looking at this picture?

Possible inferences include:
It just finished raining or still may be raining.
The sun will come out and it has finished raining for the day.
It was thunder storming earlier.

At the end of the day, just as a rainbow will remain and disappear while we keep looking at it and interpreting it, Election 2018 will be held and the rainbow that emerges will be observed and inferred across divide.

The title of the op-ed, “No Matter Who Wins Pakistan’s Vote, the Nation Loses” makes sense to me though both on observation and inference level. As things stand, I foresee a successful poll (observation) but a hung parliament (inference). Most likely scenario is a rocky travel ahead (opinion given by Zardari et al also). But that’s what elections yield (matter of fact) — Pakistan is not alone in the jungle (observation). Electables who drive our democracy matter (fact therefore observation). Refer to your observation #2 (your own observation). Inference: Pakistan is moving ahead with project democracy.

(The writer — a dual national — is a consultant, analyst and Editor/Publisher of, and BE2C2 Report)

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