And the celebrations began – but uncertainty may continue

By Zofeen T. Ebrahim, IANS

Karachi : Bilawal House, Benzair Bhutto’s residence in Karachi, that looked eerily quiet on election day Feb 18, suddenly came alive with the first scent of victory.

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Ecstatic workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) reached in droves from all over Karachi and began making merry amid blaring horns. Many broke into impromptu songs and dance and the rat-a-tat of rifle firing continued till the wee hours.

Having dealt a death blow to the allies of President Pervez Musharraf, the opposition parties began celebrations late Feb 18 evening that continued all of Tuesday.

Yousuf Raza Gillani, of PPP, terming the elections “historic” said it is “not a solo flight” and the PPP will need to forge together with democratic forces to take the country out of the crises. But who it will forge alliances with and for how long remains to be seen.

“It is clear that the two major opposition parties have got the lead everywhere except in Balochistan. The electoral process was flawed but still the pro-Musharraf elements lost. The making of the governments and reversing the changes made by Musharraf will be a complex affair but, in any case, the possibility of confrontation with Musharraf cannot be ruled out. Political uncertainty will continue for some time,” Hasan Askari-Rizvi, a defence and political analyst, told IANS.

“What’s happened is good. It’s a vote against Musharraf’s politics,” remarked Zaidi. But to be fair, he says: “The results also proved that elections were fairly fair and free of rigging.” In any case, says Zaidi, the “momentum was such that people would not have accepted results going any other way.”

Hussain Haqqani, former aide of Benazir Bhutto and now director of the Center for International Relations, Boston University, agreed. “The regime had hoped to stop the opposition through pre-poll rigging but the popular sentiment against Musharraf is so strong that the tilting of rules didn’t help the Kings Party.

“This is a vote against Musharraf and establishment manipulated politics. It is a vindication for Benazir Bhutto’s sacrifice for democracy and for Nawaz Sharif’s decision to work together with Asif Zardari.”

For Haris Gazdar, the election results have opened yet another interesting facet. “We were told that the MMA was supported by the Pashtuns in the North West Frontier Province because of their anti-US sentiment and the Musharraf’s pro-US policies; that the Taliban had made inroads in Pakistan and found support here. However, the people have chosen the Awami National Party which has never supported the Taliban; in fact have supported the Karzai government.”

Gazdar is not sure how to define former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s triumph. “That is because he keeps taking up positions and then goes back on it.”

While Nawaz Sharif seems adamant about his stand on the re-instatement of judiciary, which may have won him the victory at the ballots, Gazdar says, he is quiet about “what the practical way to achieve this” would be.

Still, there are many unanswered questions that may get solved in the coming days. Will Zardari decide to form a government with President Musharraf? If he does for how long? Will that be acceptable to the people in general and his party in particular?