ELECTIONS, DEMOCRACY AND STABILITY IN PAKISTAN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS President Musharraf faces the most serious challenge to almost eight years of military rule. Opposition has gathered momentum following his failed attempt to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Moderate political parties, all segments of civil society and the public at large are vociferously demanding restoration of democracy and rule of law and the military’s withdrawal from politics. The choice is not whether a transition will come but whether it will be peaceful and orderly, through free and fair elections, or violent.
Musharraf and the high command are tempted to retain their power at all costs. Several of their options – particularly emergency – could portend disaster. Rigged or stalled elections would destabilise Pakistan, with serious international security consequences. Especially the U. S. , needs to recognise its own interests are no longer served by military rule (if they ever really were) and use its considerable leverage to persuade the generals to return to the barracks and accept a democratic transition through free and fair parliamentary, followed by presidential, elections this year.
Bent on gaining another presidential term and retaining the office of army chief, Musharraf wants the present national and provincial assemblies (collectively the presidential Electoral College), which are themselves the product of the rigged 2002 polls and end their own five-year terms this year, to re-elect him. Opposition parties, including the main civilian contenders, Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League (PML-N), reject that. They also rightly fear that elections for new assemblies, if held at all, are likely to be rigged.
However, Musharraf can no longer count on a pliant judiciary endorsing his re-election by the current, stacked assemblies, his retention of the dual offices of president and army chief or any other unconstitutional act. Another stolen election would be strongly resisted by the opposition parties and civil society and could possibly lead to a violent confrontation between the military and protestors. A rigged election would also not serve international interests. Now, as before, Musharraf has little choice but to support the Islamist parties to counter his moderate opposition.
The pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulemae-Islam (JUI)’s help is essential to him, particularly in Balochistan, where the staunchly anti-military Baloch nationalist parties would likely win a free and fair poll. In the national parliament too, Musharraf would need the Islamists’ support to get renewed approval of his dual hats. If the Islamist parties gain five more years of power in Balochistan and Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), their militant allies – Pakistani, Afghan and transnational – will benefit, and the moderate parties, which still retain the support of the vast majority of the population, will lose. With his military government fast losing all claims to public support and legitimacy, Musharraf could decide to compromise with the national-level moderate parties, reaching, for instance, a power-sharing accord with Bhutto’s PPP, which would likely win a free and fair election.
Speculation about such a compromise was revived by their meeting in Abu Dhabi on 27 July. By agreeing to hold such an election and give up his army post in return for the PPP supporting him for president, he could retain some legitimacy and policy-making influence. Given the momentum of the pro-democracy movement, however, this option may no longer be viable. Even if Bhutto is still amenable, Sharif’s PML-N rejects any further role for Musharraf, in or out of uniform, and the Supreme Court might be reluctant to give him a pass on the two-year constitutional bar on a retired general standing for public office.
Musharraf and the high command could still refuse to see the writing on the wall and impose a state of emergency, suspending democratic rights and freedoms postponing general elections for a year and in effect imposing absolute military rule. Citing the threat of heightened militancy as a pretext for the action, he could then use the emergency powers to postpone national elections. This would fuel pro-democracy protests and civil disobedience, forcing the military either to back down or resort to violence.
Such repression would cause citizens, especially in those regions such as Balochistan that have already suffered from Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan Crisis Group Asia Report N°137, 31 July 2007 Page ii military excesses, to lose belief that political change can come through peaceful and democratic means. (a) (b) In the face of such unattractive options, it is also possible that the generals would conclude that a democratic transition is their best course. This would require them to withdraw their support from Musharraf and agree to genuine elections.
Whether they reach such a decision, however, depends importantly upon how the international community uses its considerable leverage with the high command. It is vital, therefore, that the international community understand its interests are best served by a stable, democratically-governed Pakistan.
Since the 11 September terror attacks, the U. S. has provided the bulk of $10 billion in aid to the military, believing that the military is their reliable partner and the only institution with the capacity to govern and to combat militants. On the contrary, by excluding moderate parties, military rule has fanned extremism; by alienating the smaller provinces and virtually blocking all institutions and channels of meaningful participation, it threatens to destabilise a country of 160 million people in a strategic and volatile neighborhood.
By permitting the Taliban insurgents, aligned with jihadi political parties, to operate from Pakistani sanctuaries, it has endangered the fragile democracy in Afghanistan. The U. S. should use its considerable influence to persuade the generals to give up power, offering political and material incentives if they do so and threatening sanctions if they thwart democratic change.
A free, fair and transparent election this year is the first, necessary step in the peaceful political transition that is needed to bring Pakistan to moderate, democratic moorings. RECOMMENDATIONS 2. 3. Hold timely, free, fair and transparent national and provincial assembly elections this year, before presidential polls, so that assemblies with a new popular mandate can serve as the presidential Electoral College. Appoint a neutral, caretaker government formed in consultation with the main opposition parties in parliament, once the election schedule is announced, to supervise the general elections.
Ensure the independence and autonomy of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by: empowering the ECP to enforce its Code of Conduct, especially provisions relating to the use of government resources for election campaigning, including the announcement and/or inauguration of public sector development schemes that might influence votes. 4. Suspend the current local governments once the election schedule is announced and appoint administrators to serve until the elections are held and results announced. 5. Forbid involvement of intelligence agencies at any stage of the electoral process and refrain from using the civil administration to influence the outcome.
6. Provide a level playing field by: (a) releasing political prisoners; (b) allowing the unconditional return from abroad of political leaders and repealing the bar on a prime minister serving more than two terms; and (c) affording all political parties freedom to organise public rallies and mobilise voters and giving them equal access to state media. 7. Share preliminary electoral rolls with all political parties and ensure that potential voters are given ample opportunity to exercise their right of franchise. 8. Ensure the security of domestic and international election observers and provide them unfettered access to the electoral process.
To the Government of Pakistan: 1. appointing a new Chief Election Commissioner in consultation with the parliamentary opposition parties; and To the Political Parties: 9. Pool resources to expose electoral malpractice and fraud. 10. Do not accept military support during the election process or in the process of government formation. 11. Agree on and adhere to a common code of conduct for the elections. To the United States, the European Union and Other Members of the International Community: Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan Crisis Group Asia Report N°137, 31 July 2007 12.
Strongly and publicly warn against imposition of emergency rule or any other measure to stifle constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of speech, association, assembly and movement. 13. Urge the military high command to accept a return to democracy, including by concurring in the following steps: (a) return of exiled party leaders; (b) free and fair general parliamentary elections before a new president is selected; (c) the new assemblies acting as the presidential Electoral College; and (d) separation of the posts of president and army chief.
14. Assist the democratic transition by: (a) sending adequately resourced and staffed election observation missions at least three months in advance of the elections to assess whether the polls are held in an impartial way and meet international standards; (b) conditioning military assistance to the government on meeting international standards for free, fair and democratic elections and making such assistance after the elections conditional on the military accepting the supremacy of civilian government; and (c) providing strong political and financial support to an elected civilian government. Islamabad/Brussels, 31 July 2007 Page iii Asia Report N°137 31 July 2007 ELECTIONS, DEMOCRACY AND STABILITY IN PAKISTAN I.
INTRODUCTION As President and Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf completes his five-year presidential term and the National Assembly also ends its term this year, two crucial elections are due. Popular resistance to military rule has reached new heights following Musharraf’s failed attempt to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the end of his military regime is now a matter a time. The manner in which the presidential and parliamentary voting is held, however, will determine if there is a peaceful, orderly democratic transition through free and fair elections or a violent transition, with the attendant costs for a fragile polity.
1 Musharraf and the military have kept power for almost eight years by suppressing democratic forces and rigging national and local elections. To marginalise its moderate civilian opponents, the regime has manipulated electoral processes and empowered Islamist parties, which are dependent on the military’s patronage since they lack broad domestic support. 2 Due to the military’s manipulations, the six-party Islamist alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), governs two of Pakistan’s four federal units, Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and 1 Crisis Group warned that imposition of rule by emergency decree or flawed elections would seriously destabilise Pakistan.
See Crisis Alert, Pakistan: Emergency Rule or Return to Democracy? , 6 June 2007. 2 For previous Crisis Group reporting on Musharraf’s rigged national and local elections, see Asia Reports N°40, Pakistan: Transition to Democracy? , 3 October 2002, and N°77, Devolution in Pakistan: Reform or Revolution? , 22 March 2004; and Asia Briefing N°43, Pakistan’s Local Polls: Shoring up Military Rule, 22 November 2005. For the military’s partnership with the Islamist parties, see Asia Reports N°36, Pakistan:
Madrasas, Extremism and the Military, 29 July 2002; N°49, Pakistan: The Mullahs and the Military, 20 March 2003; N°73, Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan’s Failure to Tackle Extremism, 16 January 2004; N°95, The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan, 18 April 2005; and N°130, Pakistan: Karachi’s Madrasas and Violent Extremism, 29 March 2007. Balochistan,3 the latter in partnership with Musharraf’s national ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim LeagueQuaid-i-Azam (PML-Q). The Islamist parties have repaid the military by backing Musharraf’s constitutional and political distortions in parliament, including retention of the dual posts of army chief and president.
4 If there is another rigged electoral process, the military will likely support them again to counter its civilian opponents. Free and fair elections, however, would return those moderate, national and regional-level parties to power which have borne the brunt of military rule and, against all odds, have retained the overwhelming support of the country’s moderate majority. 5 The absence of democratic avenues for bargaining and consultation has widened political fissures and fuelled internal conflict in the multi-ethnic, multi-regional state.
While elections do not equal democracy, they are a necessary precondition for democratic functioning 3 Pakistan is formally a federal parliamentary democracy with four units: Balochistan, Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh and Punjab. Internal conflict in Balochistan and the Pashtun belt is discussed in Crisis Group Asia Reports N°119, Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan, 14 September 2006; and N°125, Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants, 11 December 2006.
4 Article 41 (2) of the constitution states that a presidential candidate should be qualified to stand for parliament; Article 63 (k) disqualifies a government official from standing for the National Assembly “unless a period of two years has elapsed since he has ceased to be in such service”. 5 In the past, the Islamist parties failed to gain more than 5 to 8 per cent of the popular vote. In 1990 PPP and Muslim League-led alliances won almost 73. 5 per cent. In 1993 the PPP and PML-N gained 90 per cent; in 1997 their total was 68 per cent. Even in the 2002 rigged polls, in which they benefited from military patronage, the Islamist parties collectively obtained only 11 per cent of the vote, compared to the PPP’s 25.
01 per cent, and the PML-N’s 11. 23 per cent. Crisis Group Report, The Mullahs and the Military, op. cit. , p. 17. See also Crisis Group Report, Transition to Democracy? , op. cit. , p. 14, and Crisis Group Asia Report N°102, Authoritarianism and Political Party Reform in Pakistan, 28 September 2005. Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan Crisis Group Asia Report N°137, 31 July 2007 since they create legitimate political authority for governance. As Pakistan approaches national elections amid mounting popular resistance to military rule, President Musharraf and his fellow generals should be searching for an exit strategy and an orderly political transition. Instead, the military government seems keen on retaining and consolidating power by insisting that the lame-duck parliament re-elect Musharraf president before the people can express their will by voting for the new parliament.
6 Likewise, Musharraf’s intention to remain army chief both undermines the prospects of an impartial election and hampers a transition back to the genuine parliamentary democracy envisaged in the 1973 constitution. However, a distorted electoral process will not ensure regime stability, let alone consolidation. The parliamentary and presidential elections are crucial for Pakistan’s long-term viability as a democratic state.
If they are free and fair, they will restore public faith in state institutions and constitutional and legal ways of changing governments. But “if this opportunity is squandered”, warns Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal, “the people of Pakistan are likely to view regime change through the ballot as an illusion. This can only help extremists who would like violence to replace elections”. 7 In the face of growing domestic opposition, the military government could even attempt to put the electoral process on hold.
Opposition leaders fear that under the pretext of heightened militant threats to national security, Musharraf might impose a state of emergency, extending the life of the present legislature for one year, suspending all constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights and imposing what for all practical purposes would be martial law. This extreme step would only postpone the inevitable, while costing the government all claims to public support and its remaining vestiges of legitimacy. This report identifies key civilian and military actors and institutions that will play a role in the electoral process, analyses steps taken in preparation for the national and presidential polls and suggests mechanisms for minimising the risks of electoral manipulation.
It also assesses the international community’s role and the implications of flawed or postponed elections for domestic and regional stability. 6 The National Assembly and Senate along with the four provincial assemblies form the presidential Electoral College, 1973 constitution, Article 3, second schedule. 7 Crisis Group interview, 19 February 2007. Page 2 II. MILITARY INTERVENTIONS A.
Pakistani political analyst notes that “in the last few decades, the politicisation of the bureaucracy, coercion of rival politicians, manipulation of the electoral process, and the use of state machinery in pursuance of ‘desirable’ results gradually became part and parcel of the conduct of elections”. 8 Yet, the rigging of elections has a much longer history and is rooted in the state’s main dichotomy – the military’s ability to intervene at will but its inability to gain legitimacy for a political role, given widespread popular support for democratic representation and constitutionalism.
Military governments are forced to create democratic facades, which they then attempt to legitimise and perpetuate by distorting the constitution and rigging elections. During periods of civilian rule, the military has attempted to exercise power from behind the scenes through electoral manipulation aimed at undermining civilian rivals, rewarding political allies, and putting pressure on elected governments. The high command became directly involved in electoral manipulation under Pakistan’s first military ruler, General Mohammad Ayub Khan. Having abrogated the 1956 constitution, he created an elaborate network of local bodies, the “Basic Democracy” plan, to provide an appearance of democratic representation. 9
Besides serving on the local councils, the Basic Democrats formed the Electoral College for the presidency. In 1960, Ayub used this new institution to gain confirmation as president for five years through a referendum in which he obtained 95. 6 per cent of the vote. At the end of this term in 1965, he was re-elected, defeating his principal civilian opponent, Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the country’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in a contested but badly flawed election. In 1969, facing countrywide opposition to military rule, Ayub stepped down but only to hand over power to Army Chief General Mohammad Yahya Khan, who oversaw the first national election in December 1970.
It was held in a bid to neutralise broad support for a democratic transition and in the belief it would result 8 Mohammad Waseem, Democratisation in Pakistan: A Study of the 2002 Elections (Karachi, 2006), p. 189. 9 The country was divided into 80,000 wards (single-member constituencies of 1,000 to 1,200 persons each) to elect a “Basic Democrat” on a non-party basis. Local councils were created at the district and sub-district levels.
Roughly half the members of local councils were appointed, not directly elected. See Crisis Group Report, Devolution in Pakistan, op. cit. Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan Crisis Group Asia Report N°137, 31 July 2007 in a hung parliament. It was unacceptable to the military, however, that Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Bengali nationalist Awami League swept East Pakistan and gained an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
Refusing to transfer power to the Bengalis of the East wing, the West Pakistan-dominated military disregarded the results and used indiscriminate force against Bengali dissidents, sparking an all-out civil war. Indian military intervention on behalf of the Bengali secessionists in 1971 hastened the country’s break-up and Bangladesh’s independence. In the truncated country, the military high command reluctantly handed over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had won a majority in West Pakistan.
The 1973 constitution, the first that was democratically crafted, established a federal parliamentary form of government, but Bhutto’s failure to respect democratic norms undermined his legitimacy and gave the army the opportunity to seize power again. In 1977, the PPP swept the national elections but the right-wing opposition, the Pakistan National Alliance, alleged heavy rigging.
10 Just when Bhutto and the opposition were on the verge of peacefully resolving the deadlock, the military, under General Zia-ul-Haq’s command, ousted and subsequently executed Bhutto. 11 Under Zia (1977-1988), electoral manipulation reached new levels. Facing domestic resistance spearheaded by the PPP, he repeatedly postponed national elections. In 1984, Zia, who had appointed himself president in 1978, extended his term for five years through a rigged referendum. Like Ayub, Zia created a democratic facade, relying on local bodies to legitimise military rule. Those bodies served as the military government’s civilian base in return for economic and political benefits, while local government was used to extend patronage to pro-military politicians.
This new and pliable local elite was also employed to weaken regime opponents and played a major role in ensuring that the military regime obtained the results it sought in nonparty-based elections. 12 It formed the core of Zia’s rubber-stamp parliament that ratified distortions of the 1973 constitution, including the provision that gave the president, the indirectly elected head of state, the 10 The PPP received 58. 1 per cent of the vote and won 155 of the 200 contested National Assembly seats. The PNA won 35. 4 per cent and 36 seats. Hasan Askari Rizvi, Military, State and Society in Pakistan (Lahore, 2003).
11 Tried and sentenced to death on trumped-up murder charges, Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979. 12 Crisis Group Report, Devolution in Pakistan, op. cit. , pp. 4-5. Page 3 power to dismiss elected governments. 13 But Zia’s authoritarian manipulations failed to silence organised political dissent. 14 A. DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION MILITARY INTRUSION AND When Zia died in a midair explosion in August 1988, the high command opted for a democratic transition after weighing the domestic and external costs of retaining direct power.
15 In return for its role in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, the military government had received considerable international, particularly U. S. support, which had enabled it to prolong its rule. With the cold war ending, however, the international environment was no longer as favourable. Since military rule would also have faced civilian resistance and undermined their domestic standing, the generals transferred power formally to civilians, while protecting their institutional interests through pressure on elected governments.
The indirectly elected president, the head of state, acted as their proxy. The high command was particularly unwilling to risk a free and fair election in November 1988 from which the PPP, by then headed by Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, could have emerged with a comfortable majority in the national parliament, enabling it, with the support of like-minded partners, to repeal Zia’s constitutional amendments.
The military manipulated the electoral rules16 and cobbled together a right-wing alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI, Islamic Democratic Alliance), headed by Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League and a number of Islamist parties, including the Jamaat-iIslami (JI). 17 The IJI won 53 of the 217 seats in the 13 The Eighth Amendment Act of 1985, clause 58 (2) B, gave the president the power to “dissolve the National Assembly in his discretion where, in his opinion, a situation has arisen in which the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary”. 14 See Mohammad Waseem, “Pakistan’s Lingering Crisis of Dyarchy”, Asian Survey 32, 7, July 1992, p. 620.
15 In May 1988, intending to continue as president and army chief for another five years, Zia dismissed Mohammad Khan Junejo, his handpicked prime minister, dissolved parliament and announced non-party elections for that November. 16 For instance, voters without national identity cards were barred, a decision that disproportionately affected the PPP, many of whose supporters were from the lowest classes and lacked this documentation.
17 At the directive of the army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, the ISI reportedly helped organise the IJI’s election campaign and distributed $7 million (Rs. 140 million) to key IJI parties. Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan Crisis Group Asia Report N°137, 31 July 2007 National Assembly, the lower house of the national legislature. 18 The PPP, with 92, was short of a majority, so entered into a coalition with smaller, regional parties. Acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan19 invited Bhutto to form a government but only after she accepted him (the military’s candidate) as president. Her powersharing arrangement with the military also included acceptance of its internal autonomy and control over domestic security and foreign policy.
20 Relying on bribery, coercion and electoral manipulation, the military repeatedly disrupted democratic functioning
between 1988 and 1996. The president dismissed three successive civilian governments at the military’s behest. No elected government was allowed to serve its full five-year term. 21 The courts sanctioned every military intervention except the attempt to oust Nawaz Sharif in 1993 (even then Army Chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar forced the prime minister to resign). Even in those brief periods when a Bhutto or Sharif government was allowed to function, the military’s intelligence services, especially Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), worked to destabilise it.
22 Caretakers were installed following the dismissal of each elected government to ensure the electoral defeat of the ousted ruling party. In 1990, for instance, the military orchestrated the PPP’s defeat through an electoral strategy, repeated successfully throughout the 1990s, which relied on “partisan caretaker governments, prosecutions of the members of the ousted party, and ‘result’ reversal in certain selected 18 The IJI won the election and formed the government in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and politically-dominant province.
19 Under the 1985 amendment of the constitution, if the office of president fell vacant by reason of death or resignation, the chairman of the Senate (upper house of the national parliament) was to act as president until the election of a successor. Khan, a former bureaucrat, was Senate chairman at the time of Zia’s death. 20 Crisis Group Report, Transition to Democracy in Pakistan? , op. cit. , pp. 8-9. 21 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s first PPP government lasted from 1988 to 1990, the second from 1993 to 1996.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first government lasted from 1990 to 1993, the second from 1997 until ousted by Musharraf’s October 1999 coup. 22 In October 1989, for instance, ISI officers were responsible for Operation “Midnight Jackal”, designed to bribe PPP legislators to vote “no confidence” in Bhutto. The ISI’s capacity for surveillance and covert operations expanded during the 1980s, when Pakistan was the CIA’s main base for covert operations against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. See Hussain Haqqani, “Pakistan:
Between Mosque and Military”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, 2005. Page 4 constituencies”. 23 The military also used its close working relationship with the JI and other Islamist parties to create and support right-wing electoral alliances and deny the PPP majorities in the 1990 and 1993 elections.
The PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N,24 the main national-level moderate parties, dominated government and opposition during the 1990s but succumbed to the military’s divide-and-rule policies. Each sought the generals’ support to gain or retain power and hence enabled the high command to intervene at will. In 1997, the Sharif government and the PPP opposition finally joined hands to strengthen the democratic transition, passing the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment that repealed the provision allowing the president to dismiss an elected government.
25 In October 1999, however, General Musharraf, then chief of army staff, substituted direct military rule for covert military intervention, ousting the elected government in a coup d’etat. B. CONSTITUTIONAL MANIPULATIONS AND ELECTORAL MANOEUVRES Like Zia and Ayub, Musharraf has relied on constitutional manipulation and electoral rigging to retain power. Regime consolidation has come at the cost of constitutionalism and rule of law. His constitutional distortions have concentrated power in the office of the president, the unelected and symbolic head of the federation,26 while rendering the prime minister, the head of government, and indeed the legislature itself powerless in Pakistan’s federal parliamentary democracy.
Like his predecessors, Musharraf has manipulated national and local polls to undermine civilian opponents and reward allies. Following Zia’s example, he has also relied on the Islamist parties to marginalise his moderate political opposition. While the leaders of the mainstream, moderate parties, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhuttto, have in effect been kept in exile, the Islamist parties in the six-party Muttahida Majlis-i- 23 Aitzaz Ahsan, “Why Pakistan is Not a Democracy”, in Meghnad Desai and Aitzaz Ahsan (eds.), Divided by Democracy (Delhi, 2005), p. 138. 24 The Muslim League, Pakistan’s founding party, is divided into several factions. In 1993, the Nawaz Sharif-led faction was named Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) after its leader.
25 The repealed provision was clause 58 (2) B of the Eighth Amendment (1985), see above. 26 According to Articl