The initial trends of the February 8 poll results have proven that there is no end in sight to the multiple crises Pakistan is faced with. The elections, it is being assessed, are less promising than the hopes that Pakistanis had pinned as the results have been marred by charges of rigging and delay in the announcement of the results. It all bodes ill not only for democracy but also for Pakistan itself. Things will become clearer in the next few days even as it is ominously clear that army is set to play its traditional role of ruling from behind-the scenes. And that’s a recipe for Pakistan heading toward worsening crisis.
Pakistan and its political and military establishment cannot afford to crash land after the critical polls, which were held amidst a host of uncertainties yet with a glimmer of hope to look for better days. The polling on Thursday itself was plagued by restrictions on the internet across Pakistan and that cause a lot of disruption. It has become a fashion with the undemocratic rulers across the world to shut down internet to block their opponents and dissent.
The army has shaken hands with its political collaborators to manipulate the outcome .. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) supremo and three-times Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif fits in this slot, who returned from self-imposed exile for elections. this time he has made a common cause with army to keep Imran Khan out of the political system. But the trends are showing that Army-Nawaz collaboration may not help them. as former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party is moving ahead, despite having suffered loss of its iconic symbol cricket bat and jail terms for its leaders. Imran Khan himself is sentenced to at least 20 years’ jail on three different counts. This is a road littered with more uncertainties that may pull part the social, political and economic fabric all at once.
Two major factors have contributed to the uncertainty on which Pakistan has embarked as the election results are trickling in. Former premier Imran Khan’s Pakistan- Tehreek—e-Insaaf ( PTI), despite facing harsh crackdown by the military establishment has surprised Pakistanis and the observers alike. The PTI’s performance has shown that there is anger among Pakistanis against the army and they have shown their desire to derail the shape that army wanted to give to the outcome of the polls. This may be a reaffirmation of the anger that the people had shown on May 9, 2023 when the PTI supporters had taken to streets to protest against imprisonment of Imran Khan and targeted the army establishments.
In short, the whole thing has been managed to squeeze Imran Khan and his party. This planning, however, appears to be hitting roadblocks. The people are showing their preference for the political party and the leader who heads the popularity chart in Pakistan. This could be undoing of army’s plans or it may provoke army to undertake some suicidal path to kill whatever is left of democracy in Pakistan.
The polls held in a situation that indicated that the army had made up its mind as to who should win or lose is not the way it was planned. It had manipulated everything from the election schedule and who all could campaign and how much. Severe internet restrictions across Pakistan on the polling day and causing of deliberate delay in voting in many polling booths across the country, particularly Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, citing security situation manifested intentions of the establishment. It ghettoized the whole political and electoral process. It has created circumstances where there is anger against the army, and the commentators in Pakistan have made ominous predictions that Pakistan will not change for better after all the poll results are out.
In its reflections on the February 8 polls, Dawn newspaper highlighted its criticality for various important reasons. It rote: “The country is mired in unprecedented economic and social challenges, which cannot be solved except by a stable government that enjoys strong public support for its decisions. Given its dependence on international assistance, it is also important for it to stabilize socially so that leaders and investors can feel safe about their decisions.” This is script for Pakistan’s disharmony and addition of problems.
Arun Joshi is author of “Eyewitness Kashmir; Teetering on Nuclear War and senior journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir, writes on South Asian affairs)
Disclaimer: This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.