No free, fair or cathartic election for Pakistan – Asia Times

No free, fair or cathartic election for Pakistan - Asia Times

At a time of fresh social unrest in the nation, Pakistanis will go to the polls on Thursday to choose their new congress and prime minister.

Imran Khan, a well-liked former leader of the nation, has received three independent sentences to long prison terms in subsequent weeks. The timing of this week’s poll is meant to convey that the defense wants to remove him from politics through legal means.

In the run-up to the ballot, the military, which has had direct and indirect control over Pakistan’s politicians for seven decades, seems determined to resume the political sphere for two different parties.

These include the Pakistan People’s Party, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the murdered former prime minister, and the three-time ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Which group is likely to win the election now that Khan is imprisoned and unable to run, and what difficulties does the new state face?

Khan’s demise

Former cricket player Khan led the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ( PTI ) party to victory in the 2018 elections. However, he lost the military’s aid and was removed from office in April 2022 after a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly.

His group, the PTI, has remained incredibly well-liked ever since. In late 2022, it won by-elections to complete seating in the National Assembly that had been vacant after a large number of PTI legislators resigned to oppose his resignation.

Khan was given a five-year suspension from elections last year after being found guilty of corruption-related offenses. He claims that the accusations were motivated by politics. The sentences that were handed down this year followed ( it is unclear if they will be served concurrently ):

  • For violating the Official Secrets Act, ten years in prison
  • For failing to disclose gifts received from international officials, selling them, and next withholding the proceeds, a 14-year prison sentence was imposed.
  • For being in an un-Islamic matrimony, I spent seven years in prison.

Khan is prohibited from running for office, and the defense offers no assistance, making it extremely unlikely that PTI will be able to win enough seats to retake energy.

Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses lawmakers after being elected by the National Assembly in Islamabad on August 17, 2018. Photo: AFP/ handout
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, is incarcerated. Image: Handbook

By prohibiting the party from using the game wicket symbol to identify its individuals, the electoral commission made matters even more challenging. Many people in a nation with lower education levels rely on these symbols when casting their votes.

Otherwise, the committee has given PTI candidates specific symbols. The PTI’s supporters may become confused as a result, and they will need to know which images have been given to which applicants in their particular electorates.

The PTI administration is urging its followers to vote in the elections, and Khan has the support of the youth, so the party’s candidates may still be able to win seats in both the national and provincial assemblies. However, their chances of forming a state are all but nonexistent.

returning from captivity

Sharif, who is now 74 years old, is regarded as the front-runner to become prime minister a third time.

Sharif owes the military government led by General Muhammad Zia la Haq in the 1980s for his first foray into politicians. But since the 1990s, his interactions with the army have alternated between friendly and hostile.

In fact, when Sharif was found guilty of fraud in 2017, he accused former government and spy chiefs of planning his downfall. He was eventually barred from taking part in Pakistani elections for the rest of his life.

He has now returned from a self-imposed exile in order to launch another social return. When he returned to Pakistan late last year, the courts swiftly overturned his corruption views, opening the door for him to run in the vote. His relationship with the army was once again in a” polite” period.

Since then, Sharif has coined the phrase” Pakistan ko Nawaz do,” which has the dual meanings of” Given to Pakistan” and” Be Generous in Pakistan.”

Bhutto, who is only 35 years older, comes from a political dynasty that laid the foundation for his ascent to energy. He has established himself as the foreign minister in the coalition government that ousted Khan and is positioned in Pakistan as a representative of new thinking ( nai soch ).

Both candidates have been holding demonstrations all over the nation, but it is still unclear whether either will be able to get the country’s election. PPP’s support primarily comes from Sindh in the far south-east, while PML- N is powerful in Punjab to the east.

Pakistan therefore appears to be moving toward a coalition government, which will need to deal with some issues the nation is currently facing.

deteriorating economy and rising prices

The most important task for the new administration will be to stop further financial collapse and enhance the standard of living for regular people.

Pakistan’s GDP has decreased from 5.8 % in 2021 to roughly 0.3 % in that year. The International Monetary Fund’s demands for more reasonable financial planning and the elimination of irrational grants, as well as the disastrous storms in 2022, the increase in oil prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, and other factors have all contributed to the rise in inflation. Rates went up from 8.9 % in 2021 to a staggering 29.7 % in December 2023.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s poverty rate has increased to almost 40 %, more than five percentage points higher than in the fiscal year 2022.

Pakistan’s foreign policy will also need to be reviewed by the novel administration. Khan’s claims that the US was interfering in Pakistani politicians damaged relations with Washington, and his less-than-enthusiastic approach to Chinese purchase jobs strained ties with Beijing.

Yet the Gulf nations, which had historically had cordial relations with Pakistan, started to reevaluate their Southern Asian tactics, with a definite bend toward India.

A fresh strategy for Afghanistan will also need to be developed by the fresh administration. Despite the joy that some people, especially Khan, experienced upon the Taliban’s return to power, Islamabad’S relations with Kabul have been hampered by the new regimes ‘ reluctance to handle the increase in attacks from the Pakistani Taliban ( often referred to as Tehrik- e Taliban Pakistan, or TTP ) and other organizations.

A Pakistani villager casts his vote at a polling station during general election in Mohri Pur, some 60 kilometres from the central Pakistan city of Multan on July 25, 2018.Pakistanis vote on July 25 in elections that could propel former World Cup cricketer Imran Khan to power, as security fears intensified with a voting-day blast that killed at least 30 after a campaign marred by claims of military interference. / AFP PHOTO / SS MIRZA
On July 25, 2018, a peasant from Pakistan casts his ballot at the polling place. Asia Times Files, AFP, and SS Mirza are shown in the image.

The growing pessimism among Pakistanis regarding the legitimacy of the political process, however, may present the most significant concern for the new authorities.

Khan’s demise has drawn attention to the military’s ever-present need to control the government. And this has led to ordinary citizens openly criticizing the military, a phenomenon unheard of before. A small minority of people in private gatherings are even questioning the legitimacy of the idea of Pakistan.

To establish its legality in such conditions, the new government will need to put in a lot of effort. If that was n’t done, Pakistan would experience yet another round of unrest.

Samina Yasmeen is the chairman of the University of Western Australia’s Center for Muslim States and Societies.

Under a Creative Commons license, this article is republished from The Conversation. Read the article in its entirety.