Shoes to gauge political losers in Pakistan polls

Washington has the honor of giving Iraq the most costly democracy in the entire world history but an ungrateful Iraqi journalist Muntazir al-Zaidi returned the favor to former U.S. president George Bush by throwing at him shoes in public, an act considered in Middle East and Asian regions as treating somebody with utmost insult.

General Musharraf had unleashed a reign of U.S. terror upon innocent Pakistanis who had resisted the shifting of Afghan war inside Pakistani territories in the garb of military operations against al-Qaeda.

Mansoor Jafar

This metaphor of public hatred began spreading all over the world like wildfire ever since. Targets are the most powerful but most hated dictators and rulers who are reaping the hatred they had sown. Latest among the list of targets are former Egyptian soft-spoken foreign minister Abul Ghaith, and former military dictator of Pakistan General [retired] Pervez Musharraf who had the 'honor' of becoming the target of a shoe throw for the second time when he came out of a High Court in Karachi on last Friday. He was also thrown at with a shoe two years ago in London. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is another personality that has been twice thrown a shoe at.

As Pakistan braces to go to polls in five weeks’ time, the political situation is uncertain as people doubt if the polls would actually be held. All the contenders are doubtful about the elections as reflected from their half-hearten and insipid campaigning. But the shoe-throwing is among the initial signals that reflected how things would unfold in coming weeks.

Musharraf’s return

Musharraf managed a safe return to the country last week with the hope of making a 'commando action' on general elections being held on May 11, but only after powerful international guarantors brokered a deal with his strongest political adversaries, two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, to give-up their demands of trying him [Musharraf] for treason, a charge carrying death punishment. The former military dictator's return materialized after he was allowed bails by High Court in three main cases he was facing possible death punishments, presumably as part of the international deal.

General Musharraf had unleashed a reign of U.S. terror upon innocent Pakistanis who had resisted the shifting of Afghan war inside Pakistani territories in the garb of military operations against al-Qaeda. He killed, maimed and thrown in secret jails thousands of innocent people on charges of being or helping al-Qaeda and Taliban. He fled the country to save imminent arrest after political forces opposed to him gained power in Feb. 2008 general elections, and had lived in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai.

A lawyer threw shoe on Musharraf outside the court room when he was returning after seeking extension in his bail period. He narrowly escaped taking the shoe on his face, which brushed his cheek. But it was enough to set the tone of his political campaigning, and any possible success in elections which seems distant after more people vowed to throw shoes at him. Inside the court room, the former iron man was begging for bail extensions before the same judges he had arrogantly dismissed them en masse and the put them under arrest.

The once mighty General is set to contest polls from Karachi with the support of a linguist party that enjoyed his blessing while in power. He faced yet another nerve-racking situation on Sunday when Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui filed nomination papers against him. Fauzia is the elder sister of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT Ph.D in Neurology who was among those thousands of countrymen sold out to CIA by Musharraf for the sake of few thousand dollars.

Musharraf ventured to return after elaborate arrangements for providing him security by army commandoes since he was the most sought after bounty in Pakistan following the announcement of ten million dollars head money on by the sons of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a tribal chief of resource-rich Balochistan province whom he had killed in an army operation in 2006. Musharraf had earlier threatened to kill Bugti who had opposed to military operation in Balochistan and selling off of natural resources to multinational companies in the name of privatization. But all his dreams shattered when only two hundred party men reached at airport to give him the promised ‘red carpet’ welcome. His party leaders have threatened the prospective shoe-throwers of dire consequences, but his opponents say the shoe was the first vote he was to get in coming elections.

Bleak prospects

On the other hand, chances of any significant electoral success for president Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party are bleak after a five year dismal performance ridden with incessant lawlessness, price hike, killings, violence, bomb blasts, and load shedding. Zardari, who continued all the policies of Gen Musharraf, is empty handed to woo the masses for votes. Zardari was thrown shoe at in London last year by a young party member.

During last 45 years of its history, the PPP had always gone to election campaigns bemoaning and wailing of victimization and injustices, to win voters sympathies. But this time, PPP had neither any martyr nor any victimization by any army coup. That is why the newly crowned PPP chairman, 25 years old son of slain Premier Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, had fled to the safe heavens of Dubai, rather than leading party’s election campaign under the toughest of the situations.

The PPP leaders say Bilawal faced security threats but media reports citing insiders say he had developed serious differences with his father Asif Zardari over how to lead the party affairs and election campaign under the highly adverse situation caused by his father’s turbulent wheeling-dealing over the last five years.

In the backdrop of elections five weeks away, all eyes are now set on the two aged custodians of Pakistani elections, 85-year old Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin Ebrahim and 84 years old caretaker prime minister Hazar Khan Khoso. People taunt as to how both of the old and weak contenders could ensure fair and impartial elections since they are unable to carry their own bodies.

Mansoor Jafar is the founding Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based at Islamabad. He can be reached through Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Last Update: Tuesday, 02 April 2013 KSA 08:26 - GMT 05:26
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.