Pakistan’s National Assembly has been dissolved, and the caretaker government, as obligated by the country’s constitution, should hold elections within 90 days. This time, however , it is not going to happen as the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that stepped down on Wednesday, notified that the elections will follow after the fresh delimitation of the constituencies as per the recently held census.
In the modern-day world, interconnected and where the political influences travel faster than ever before in the history, elections in any part of the world have their own resonance and geopolitical consequences. The neighbours cannot expect to escape direct and indirect influences emanating from the country in question. In that context, India, the immediate neighbour, which has suffered consequences of inability of deliberate inaction of Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism, should be concerned which way the electoral wind will blow across the border.
This time, elections in Pakistan would be held in unique circumstances even by the unique standards of its off-on democracy since the nation appeared on the map after Partition in 1947. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is in jail. He was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment in a corruption case. This, Pakistani media has generally interpreted with some substantive arguments was to take Khan out of the electoral politics. Election Commission of Pakistan, which has shown itself to be stooge of the establishment, announced disqualification of Khan for five years.This happens when the courts and the institutions work at the behest of the establishment.
Shehbaz Sharif government that had come to power after ousting Khan from the premiership in a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly in April last year , could also not live up to its promise of ridding the nation of all its political and economic woes .Pakistan is surviving because of the IMF loan , and borrowings from other countries, China , Saudi Arabia and UAE . It is a bad shape .The climate change triggered disasters have been compounded by the man-made disasters ,as the government looked other way round . They were more focused how to cut the popularity of Imran Khan , and seeking ways to put him in jail and easing him out of political arena than on the real issues confronting the nation , floods, inflation , and even rising wave of terrorism unleashed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Islamic State – Khorasan . Its soldiers were dying by dozens , and the political rallies were targeted to show the weaknesses of the system. This happens when the governments divert their energies and resources in containing an individual whose popularity had become their nightmare . This kind of politics has disastrous consequences . Pakistan has seen it in the past , and it has experienced it yet again. The loser is nation . Physically , Pakistan may have been able to protect its geographical entity to which it was reduced to post 1971 war when it lost East Pakistan forever, but there is psychological disintegration Its Balkanization is complete in the minds of the people .
There also is a global perception, based on Pakistan’s history, that the elected governments matter for nothing as the real power lies with the army. Pakistan army guides country’s domestic and foreign policy , whether the Generals rule directly or from behind- the scenes . They call shots , so why worry about elections and their outcome . That is not how the geopolitics of the day works .
Whatever be the shape and colour of the Government that comes into being as a result of elections , it gives an idea as to which way the people are thinking . It may be delusion of the people that they have elected the parties and candidates whom they voted for , as the ultimate power lies with the army which is not accountable to people .The people’s participation in elections reflects their mood and choices and that ‘what should matter to the nation itself and others beyond its borders.
In whatever diluted form the democracy manifests itself in Pakistan ,it’s welcome , as the saying goes , that even the worst form of democracy is better than autocracy . The current trend in the world is worrying where democracy is backsliding even in the West, which tends to define democracy for the rest of the world. And if the elections are delayed or manipulated , which is now a common practice , then it was quite ominous for the people . That elections in Pakistan should be held in a reasonably fair manner is crucial to the world , and particularly to the neighborhood .
India , is duty-bound , both as neighboyr of Pakistan , and also a responsible democratic nation , to watch the political developments across the border . This is high stake election for Pakistan , but it matters no less for India . Pakistan has been a problem for India . First, of course it has been exporting t terrorism into this country , bleeding Jammu and Kashmir , and causing disturbances of unbridled proportions . This, in fair analysis , as former Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao, had pointed out , had forced India to deploy troops in Kashmir hinterland . Prior to 1989 , the troops were deployed on borders only . The terrorism , and its magnitude when it challenged the Indian state and sovereignty , forced Delhi to send and deploy more troops in Kashmir. If there is militarization and the army have been given extraordinary powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, it’s because of Pakistan’s attempts to bleed Kashmir, the integral part of India .
Secondly, it is true that India has been forcefully presenting its case on Kashmir- J&K is an integral part of India, and it will remain so, but Pakistan continues to rake up the issue to score political points . India believes and rightly so that the world has stopped listening to Pakistan , and it was evident when the world responded with silence when Article 370 was abrogated in August 2019 . Yet , it should not be forgotten that, despite hugely successful G20 meet in Srinagar , three main members of the grouping – China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia stayed away . Two of the special invitees , Egypt and Oman, too skipped the meet . This was a diplomatic embarrassment , and that too, because Pakistan had launched a campaign against the G20 meet in what it called “ disputed territory.”
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee , a poet and statesman , had stated that , “ we can change our friends but not the neighbours.” That principle holds true for all times . This also should be a strong motivation and reason for India to understand the new political alignments and environment in Pakistan.