Elections in this part of the world are always a source of fun and merriment. While Modi and Rahul slug it out in the preliminaries, with Nitish doing his bit to muddy the NDA waters, in neighboring Pakistan the mirth is even more well pronounced.
The world body formally recognizes a country as `true democracy’ if they have two consecutive successful peaceful transfers of power from one elected Govt to the next. Consecutive, successful and peaceful – all equally important catch words. Last month, for the first time in 63 years, a civilian government in Pakistan completed its five year tenure. Assuming next month’s elections go off without a hitch, and power is transferred peacefully, Pakistan will be half way to being called a true democracy!
But the fun has already begun. Post 2008, all candidates need to be graduates – which has led to a huge boom in the fake degrees/certificates market! But like every student indulging in `nakal’ (copying), there is an almost total absence of `akal’ (common sense).
One candidate had to be rejected when the Returning Officer glanced at his application, and asked him “Aap 1972 mein paida huye, aur 1974 mein matric kar liya - kaisey?” The Doogie Howser wannabe was politely shown the door!
Or another case.
"Aap ki degree kya hai?"
"Aap ke BSc ke mazmoon (subjects) kya the?"
"Janab mazmoon to yaad nahin hain, kaghaz pe likhe huye hain!"
Next, Articles 62 and 63 of the Pakistani constitution demand that a candidate be a `good Muslim of integrity and honesty’ who practices Islam, and is knowledgeable about the religion. They were passed by the military dictator General Zia ul Haq in 1985 to convince the religious right that he was serious about Islamicising Pakistan.
So Returning Officers - low level bureaucrats - are empowered to grill prospective candidates on their knowledge of the Quran, and their life style.
Sample these gems..
- How many wives do you have and which one do you live with?
- Do you believe in honeymoon?
- Have you ever stood outside a girls' college?
- Have you ever watched a 'censored' movie?
- When is it compulsory for you to perform ablution after marriage? (Seriously??)
- If your wife, son and a religious scholar are all drowning in front of you and you can save only one, who will it be and why?
- If you're dying from thirst in the middle of a desert and you come across a bottle of liquor, will you drink it up?
- Have you ever had pig meat?
It would have been funny if it wasn't so serious!
The great white hope for Pakistan is Imran Khan, pitted against the delectable Meera! He promises to sweep the elections in a tsunami like wave, and carry Pakistan into euphoria, like he did in the 1992 World Cup!
Gen Pervez Musharraf has been rejected from all the four constituencies from which he applied, making his much publicized `come back’ a flop show. Believe it or not, he had hired an Event Management Agency to coordinate the event. They actually sold tickets online – for US$ 2,500, you could book yourself on the same flight as the Commando, share a meal with him, and be a part of the tamasha - I kid you not!!
Another high-profile figure to have been disqualified is Ayaz Amir, a newspaper columnist (and an ex fauji, an Air Defence gunner) who hoped to stand for re-election from the constituency of Chakwal in the eastern Punjab province. Amir was rejected on the basis of articles he had written which were deemed to be against the `ideology of Pakistan’ – apart from rejecting the two nation theory, they purportedly encouraged consumption of alcohol, forbidden in Pakistan.
In India, candidates with criminal records, including murder, routinely get elected to Parliament. Frankly, I don’t know which scenario is worse!
Vive la democracy!! Or as they say in Pakistan, Jhamooriyat zindabad!!