Why Hamas won [Archives:2006/922/Opinion]

February 20 2006

Imran Khan
[email protected]

Everyone was stunned by the Islamic hard-line militant group Hamas victory in recent Palestinian territory elections. Many feared that Hamas was in a strong position, but never thought it could sweep the elections. Does this illustrate that people like militant groups and voted for them because of their hard-line stance against Israel? Well, I don't think like that. I don't believe people of any country like militant or extremist groups to come into power. It's not in our nature to go for extremism.

But we saw Palestinians give their votes to extremists in their recent elections, so does this mean I'm wrong? I still will not change my words and will say that people don't like extremism at all – there are a few reasons why.

If we look at recent history, the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996 by force and imposed a few hardships on Afghanis, trying to reach their goals by pressuring and forcing the people. Its rule ended in 2001 after the U.S.-led war against it. Since then, if we look at recent polls, the majority of Afghanis don't want the Taliban back, saying things are much better now.

The other example I can mention is that of the 2002 Pakistani general elections, wherein religious parties won considerable numbers of Parliament seats, which they never before had won in the history of Pakistan. They even won one provincial government by complete majority, as well as won an important opposition leader's National Assembly seat.

Many believe giving votes to religious parties was a reaction against the U.S. war on Afghanistan, but there also were other reasons, as voters thought perhaps the change would bring something good to them, as nothing happened in their favor in the past. But after coming into power, the religious parties did nothing and things were the same. People saw no big changes in their lives. Reaction against the religious parties came in last year's local government elections when voters rejected their nominees. If people only voted for them because of U.S. policies, then I don't think the religious parties would have lost the local elections, as the U.S. still has a presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On other hand, in Pakistani tribal areas, the Taliban is trying to achieve the same kind of influence that Hamas has in Palestine, for example, by killing bandits who were looting and killing people. Commoners there welcomed such moves. If the government is not protecting citizens and there is no law, such people can gain citizens' sympathies by removing a few bad problems. In the Palestinian case, if we simply summarize, then Israel's unjust actions against Palestinians created Hamas and Fatah, the long-ruling corrupt party, which also did nothing to better Palestinians, so they let Hamas win the election.

These events clearly suggest that when people have no other choice, they will go for anything. The fault is not voters who choose these types of extremists, but the government's and those who hold power but don't consider commoners' miseries when they have the resources and means to change their lives.

So, responsibility lies on every government to better its citizens. If it keeps doing that, then no one will ever think about going toward extremism or anything similar. It's very simple: if someone does good things for us, we appreciate it, but if someone harms us, we are ready to fight. The message is loud and clear – now it is the time to think about changing a few things in the right direction. Then election results will never stun anyone.

Muhammad Imran Khan is assistant director of Pakistan's National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). He is an economic and commerce specialist and a freelance writer for several international newspapers.