The supporters and opponents of vote-rigging

Rani Singh

Unlike in, say, American politics, pre-elections polls are bit thin on the ground in Pakistan. The results of one, however, have been published by the Dawn. Conducted during January 2008, the US-based Terror Free Tomorrow poll finds that 70 % of Pakistanis want President Pervez Musharraf to quit, and that the PPP is the most popular party this side of the elections, with 36.7% of poll voters. The PML (N) of Nawaz Sharif follows with 25.3% and the PML (Q) which supports Musharraf comes in with 12%.

Dawn’s special correspondent Mohammed Ziauddin comments:

“A clean sweep for the PPP at the elections doesn’t fall into the gameplan of Musharraf, London, Brussels and Washington. So they will go along with Musharraf if he rigs and brings in a hung Parliament.”

Mohammed Ziauddin warns of possible dangers ahead:

“The lawyers’ movement, civil society and students are still there, and they’re spoiling for a fight. If there’s the merest hint of rigging, PPP supporters will come out onto the streets and their moaning will turn into marauding and riots. The lawyers cannot be subjugated.”

When I point out that the military can always be mobilised, Ziauddin replies that the army and the rangers will not fire at their own:

“In Punjab, Lahore for instance, many of the army have family members who support the PPP; they are inter-related. With lawyers, they can be baton-charged and tear-gassed. Their numbers are only in the hundreds. PPP supporters will be in the thousands. The only way to stop them would be to fire at them with bullets.”

Discussing censorship and his own newspaper group, Ziauddin says that though Musharraf sees him as an irritant, the President doesn’t see the Dawn as much of a threat as it’s printed and published in English. The diplomats and chattering classes who read it don’t count; they’re not a substantial vote bank. Musharraf is more concerned about the Urdu-speaking channels like Geo News which, as I wrote in an earlier blog, was subject to a 78-day blackout.

Speaking of which, and completely at a tangent, Geo reporters name their cameramen with each sign-off. Considering that the latter often have a trickier job and get less recognition than on-screen reporters, I think that’s a little bit progressive…