Today as I write these words, it is the 7th of December 2017. 47 years back on this day Pakistan’s firstever general elections took place. Incidentally these were the only general elections that can be regarded as reasonably fair in the history of Pakistan. Ironically these fair elections paved the way for the dismemberment of the Country. At that time I too was among those ‘charged’ democracy-enthusiasts who had heralded these elections and there results as The Dawn Of A New Era. Nine days after the first anniversary of these elections Pakistan was to pay a very heavy price for the extreme POPULISM it had pursued in the name of DEMOCRACY. With the help of the Indian army, the separatists of the Awami League had successfully engineered the secession of the East Pakistan from Pakistan’s western wing.
In the hindsight we have excellent reasons to believe that those elections should never have taken place the way those took place. The interim government (which was General Yahya’s Martial Law regime) should first have brokered a constitution, sought its public approval through a Referendum, and then proceeded to address the longings for power of the two towering political figures involved.
Neither the Pakistan People Party nor the Awami League were national parties. Bhutto’s PPP infact had no presence at all in the East Pakistan. He knew beforehand that he stood no chance of forming the Federal Government considering the East Pakistan’s advantage in the population. One of the main reasons of my disenchantment with Bhutto was this heart-wrenching realization that he had resigned to the approaching Dismemberment of Pakistan well before the General Elections. He had made no preparation to win even a single seat in what he was to dub later as ‘Muslim Bengal’.
The lesson to be learnt from those Free & Fair Elections is that Nations and Countries matter much much more than the ideals like Democracy. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as was revealed in the later years, had connections with New Delhi since 1954. He had taken advantage of Suharwardy’s trust in him and acquired control of the Awami League which was to become the biggest political party of the country. What did that mean? It meant that Pakistan’s biggest political party was remote-controlled from New Delhi.
Had Pakistan been divided into several reasonably autonomous administrative units under a well-drafted and populously adopted constitution before any Elections, the tragic secession wouldn’t have taken place. The December 1970 elections gave legitimacy to Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman’s mandate on linguistic and ethnic basis—-leading to the Fall of Dacca.
My contention is that the free and fair elections that we so ecstatically eulogize should never have taken place. Pakistan could easily have endured two more years of General Yahya Khan, and gone into a democratic process with zero fear of any catastrophe.