Pakistan election dictates a new day

Despite massive pre-election and election-day rigging, the people of Pakistan voted their confidence in democracy and rejected the forces of dictatorship. The Pakistan People’s Party won a convincing victory, along with the democratic Pakistan Muslim League led by my friend, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The party cobbled together a few years ago by the security services of President Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q Party, often dubbed the King’s Party by Pakistanis, was so decimated that their party president and several ministers in Musharraf’s government lost their seats in parliament. Monday’s election was a clear vote of no-confidence in Musharraf’s regime, and a vote of hope for Pakistan’s democratic and terror-free future.

My wife, Benazir Bhutto, came back to Pakistan in October last year to lead this fight for freedom, and she gave her life for democracy. We fought this battle empowered by her spirit and we achieved her goal.

We were terribly troubled by the level of rigging and violence. Indeed, 29 of our party officials and activists were killed, more than 200 were injured and 150 of our polling agents were kidnapped. Violence during the days preceding the election exclusively targeted Musharraf’s secular opposition; there were no terrorist attacks on the offices or rallies of the ruling party. Despite all of this, and despite the intimidation of the government for people not to turn out, Pakistanis defied the forces of authoritarianism and voted for change.

Let there be no ambiguity to the message of the people of Pakistan: They repudiated the status quo. They rose, almost as one, and said “enough” to dictatorship which has exacerbated terrorism in Pakistan.

Under the constitution of Pakistan, it is now required that Musharraf allow the leaders of the winning parties to form the next government. This will be the first indication of Musharraf’s good faith in accepting the mandate of the people.

It is the intent of the Pakistan People’s Party to form a broad-based, democratic, liberal government — an umbrella of reconciliation and consensus.

We have suffered from the politics of personal destruction; we have been battered by dictatorship; we have seen civil society taken apart and a free and independent judiciary destroyed. We have seen religious extremists empowered to justify continuation of dictatorship. We have seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We have seen progress on education, health and women’s rights stopped and reversed.

Now is the time for miracles in Pakistan.

I see a Pakistan that leads 1.5 billion Muslims all around the world into a new era of peace, reconciliation, progress and innovation, a Pakistan that leads an Islamic renaissance. In other words, I see the Pakistan that my wife lived and died for.

The international community, especially the United States, must support us in this endeavor instead of continuing with the erroneous belief that alliance with a strongman is its best bet to bring stability to Pakistan.

The task ahead will not be easy, but the Pakistan People’s Party is prepared to work in good faith with our fellow democratic parties to restore the constitution to its original state, without the distortions introduced by a dictator’s diktat.

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