The stealing of the 1990 elections, once again, is a common subject of discussion these days. Not only that, but echoes of the rigging of the 1988 elections are also resonating. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon was banished from politics for bugging the party headquarters of the opponents. The court not only announced the verdict but also awarded due punishments. The entire process was completed within 22 days. The verdict in the rigging of 1990 elections has come after 22 years and that, too, in an incomplete form.
In spite of this development, our friends and the editorial pages of newspapers are feverishly engaged in hiding the proven crimes of rigging of the elections and sabotaging of the mandate of the people. They are also trying to ferret out something negative against the affected Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its allies.
Muhtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto did not survive to see her stance about the rigging of the 1990 elections being proved right. After an inordinate delay of 22 years, an incomplete verdict has come to show the existence of a conspiratorial cell in the presidency and the use of public money against the PPP has been established; they have their own elected president sitting in the presidency who has cleansed it of all the remnants of conspiracies and turned it into a catalyst for strengthening democracy. Nevertheless, the people of Pakistan and time have delivered a marvellous justice.
But those elements who projected the 1990 elections as the true verdict of the people are now desperately trying to throw the blame for this proven crime back on the PPP through their editorial notes to camouflage their own embarrassment.
The decision makes mention of only one president who could not be President Asif Ali Zardari, as he himself was an aggrieved party. How could he be the architect of this crime? The verdict is about the president who occupied the presidency when this episode unfolded. Is it not a matter of oppression that when at last an incomplete verdict has been given, attempts are being made by the use of the power of the pen to give it a different hue and use it against the oppressed. It has been established beyond any iota of doubt that president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and his cronies stole the people’s mandate by manoeuvring the defeat of the PPP and catapulted Mian Nawaz Sharif as prime minister of Pakistan. But no punishment has been handed out. However, the Court has unequivocally declared the simple truth that Nawaz Sharif became prime minister courtesy rigging of polls at the official level.
The worst dictator of our history could not banish the PPP from the political landscape of Pakistan despite his sinister machinations and the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. After his death in a plane crash, his successors unleashed unending conspiracies against the PPP and Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto. Mohsin Naqvi wrote that the daughter of Asia was surrounded by conspiracies. Even Mohsin Naqvi was martyred. Through newspaper advertisements, editorials and making noise on the official media, they tried to rub in the notion of Benazir being a security risk. Bhutto’s son-in-law was implicated in false and fabricated cases. But how could the people believe this farce? They repeatedly mandated the PPP into power. The PPP has no doubt about the fact that the people are more intelligent than the so-called intellectuals and their miniature groups. They know who their well-wisher is. General Hameed Gul created the IJI after the demise of General Ziaul Haq in 1988. Actually the conspiracy against Shaheed Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto was hatched the day she landed in Pakistan in 1986. The IJI secured only 53 seats against 92 of the PPP in spite of official support. However, the enemies of the PPP succeeded in rigging elections in Punjab and making Mian Nawaz Sharif the chief minister of the province. Then, in 1989, an abortive attempt was made to bring in a vote of no-confidence against Benazir. Ultimately, through a conspiracy, Benazir’s government was sacked. In the ensuing elections, the IJI obtained 105 seats through rigging, official patronage and extensive use of public money. The PPP could only manage 45 seats. Benazir Bhutto, while talking to the media at Islamabad airport on October 25, 1990, said that she was being threatened that her husband will be eliminated. She declared that the IJI owed its existence to animosity against the PPP. She emphatically declared: “On October 24, the mandate of the people was stolen. The tyrants usurped the rights of the people in the broad daylight and we are participating in the provincial elections for the tomorrow of Pakistan and democracy.”
Now, the Court has accepted the PPP’s version about the rigging of elections and asked for filing an FIR. We are sanguine that history will unravel the ultimate truth. This verdict established without any doubt that public money was used to steal the elections and the mandate of the people. Is it a small theft that public money is spent on stealing the public franchise? Yet, Chaudhry Nisar has the audacity to ask in a press conference, what have we done? He asks the well-informed journalists of Islamabad in feigned innocence that there were eight other parties in the IJI, so why then is only the PML-N being pinpointed? Perhaps, he thought that this new crop of journalists will be unaware of the nexus between the government that was formed as a result of rigging the elections, four chief ministers and 80 per cent members of his league. A poet probably said this verse for our friend “Yaade Mazi Azab Hey Ya Rab Cheen Ley Muj Sey Hafza Mera” (Oh God, my past memories are haunting me please deprive me of my retentive faculty of mind). People are flabbergasted as to how a person like him could muster the courage to ask, what we have done, even before the ink with which the verdict was written dried out? His situation can be likened to General Yahya Khan’s asking after dismembering Pakistan “Mein kera lokan di khoti noon hath laya eh?” (what have I done to earn the ire of the people?)
It has been proved that that an election cell existed in the presidency, which planned the rigging of the elections and the conspiracy was executed through lavish use of public funds to keep the PPP out of the corridors of power. Shaheed Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto, in a press conference on October 18, 1990, revealed that President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had ordered that no election result should be announced without it being shown to him first. This is how complete rigging had been choreographed. In the short verdict announced by the Court, the name of the head of the cell has not been revealed but there are innumerable witnesses to this effect. It is obvious that there existed a cell and it might have been headed by somebody. Maybe in the detailed verdict, an order may also be given for action against him. The basic difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that of legitimacy, which comes through public mandate. Our history is replete with direct and indirect martial laws. The government formed in 1990 was a product of an indirect martial law. It was a denial of people’s right of vote and that is why it became a culpable crime. Ahsan Iqbal says that the people will not vote in the elections on the basis of history. Whatever the reason, the people have been putting their trust in the PPP. The people know the historic injustices, their perpetrators and their victims. Let Ahsan Iqbal say what he likes but the reality is that, once again, a historic injustice stands proven during our regime. It is a recent occurring and that is why pro-PML-N columnists are trying desperately to defend its leadership. Every column begins with the line that the PML-N has no connections with this case. They end up saying that it was an insignificant case of the past which has come to a close. One may ask that if this was so, then why there was a need to write columns on this subject every day? Obviously, there is some spark flickering somewhere and emitting smoke relentlessly. If the PML-N tries to suppress it as rubble of history, then the people will also demand accountability of the slogans raised in favour of the rule of law and justice. Granted that due to our judicial system and the political nature of the case, the matter dragged on for long but it does not mean that the culprits should not be unmasked and go unpunished. Justice delayed is justice denied. But intellectual dishonesty and apologetic attitudes are even bigger injustices. A robbery was committed in broad daylight and now the perpetrators want the people to forget it. This apologetic stance, however, cannot change history. The history is that Asghar Khan contested election from NA-95 from Lahore against Nawaz Sharif in the 1990 elections and later on lodged a case of the rigging of the elections, on which the verdict has been delivered now. Even then, Chaudhry Nisar asks, what have we done? The rigging was carried out through the use of money. Fake organisations were raised and in their name, an advertisement campaign in the media was run utilising the funds provided for the purpose. Three to four advertisements were placed in one newspaper daily for the character assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and President Asif Ali Zardari. A number of false cases were instituted against them.
Now, it has been established that they were never elected. If they were not elected, how did they form the government and what is the truth about the cases raised by them? What about the fables of piety and trusteeship? The PPP and its allies, through the platform of the Peoples Democratic Alliance, issued a white paper comprising 500 pages that furnished exhaustive details about pre-poll rigging, partisan attitude of the caretaker set-up and the president, ghost polling stations, registration of bogus votes and ID cards, misuse of postal votes, denying access to the polling stations to the voters of the alliance, arrests and kidnappings, forced expulsion of polling agents from the polling stations, changes in the elections results before sending to the presiding officer, refusal to provide signed copies of result to the polling agents, presence of police within the polling stations and the tactics used to pressurise the ticketholders not to participate in the elections.
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Roedad Khan were personally monitoring this rigging. The rigging was carried out through the presidency, caretaker government (Jatoi) Ghulam Haider Waen, Jam Sadiq, bureaucracy and functionaries of the court. The modus operandi of rigging on the polling day was that they would enact the farce of a hundred per cent polling of votes, whereas the general turnout was not more than 40 per cent. So, through this extensive rigging, seats were won for the party of Nawaz Sahrif and he was unfairly made the prime minister. Muhtarma Benazir demanded re-polling in a hundred constituencies in view of this unprecedented stealing of elections which was outrightly rejected. Mian Sahib became prime minister on the basis of a false mandate. Even then, Nisar asks, what have we done? Mushahidullah Khan says that the names of Nawaz and Shahbaz have not been mentioned in the Court decision. The fact is that the affidavit on the basis of which the Court has delivered the decision contained the names of these two gentlemen on top of the list. According to the Court procedures, if the contents of the affidavit entered in the Court are not contested or disputed, it is tantamount to confession and the Court has no option other than to decide the case on the basis of that affidavit. According to the affidavit submitted by the former ISI chief,both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif received the money. This money was only a token. The other benefits that they accrued afterwards were much bigger than this. Since the Mian brothers did not contest the affidavit of the ISI chief, therefore, in conformity with judicial principles, their culpability stands proven and if the Court had not shown leniency, they could even had been convicted on the charges of violation of the Constitution, showing disrespect to the public mandate and accepting illegal money. Both brothers could have been incarcerated, fined and debarred from participating in political activities. But the Court exhibited leniency. We are happy that after 22 years, the Court has accepted the crime as a crime. We can wait for another 22 years for their convictions. Shahbaz Sharif, every now and then, talks about resignations on moral grounds. Now, that his crime has been established and further investigations have been ordered by the Court, morality demands that he should resign from his post till the completion of the probe. The verdict in the Asghar Khan case has identified an old bureaucrat known as Baba and his 40 accomplices, and the people now know who the real and the biggest 40 thieves are. I appeal to the people to recognise these characters and their Baba properly. Otherwise, they will continue to dupe the people with identical names. I will also advise this gang of 40 thieves to listen to the poetry of a romantic poet who sayssunta ja sharmata ja (listen and feel embarrassed) instead of breaking the legs of the revolutionary poet Habib Jalib. And if at all they need to do something, they better be ashamed of what they have been doing because according to Karl Marx, this is the least revolutionary step that they can take.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2012.