Pakistan election: Military’s clout overshadows polls

Feb 6, 2024



common belief in Pakistan The thing about the general elections to be held on February 8 is that the results have already been decided. Several Pakistanis who spoke to DW say the powerful military establishment wants to retain former Prime Minister Imran KHANPakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is out of power at any cost.
Islamabad resident Aliya Durrani said, “I am not planning to cast my vote. I support Imran Khan and he is not eligible to contest the elections. So I am not interested in these elections.”
Khan, perhaps Pakistan's most popular politician, has been barred from standing in the election. He has been sentenced to several years in prison in several cases related to corruption and leaking of government secrets. But opinion polls have put his PTI party ahead of its main rivals – three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan People's Party headed by late former prime minister Benazir's son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Bhutto.
Harris Khaliq, secretary general of the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that PTI is “undoubtedly a major popular party” in Pakistan.
“If the elections are held in a free and fair manner, PTI will win most of the seats in Parliament from big cities. But I do not think they will win the elections. Therefore, this propaganda on social media is a bit exaggerated, Khan Its popularity is a bit exaggerated,” Khaliq underlined.
Khan had differences with the army
At the center of the upcoming elections is a popular former prime minister challenging the military generals' tight grip on power.
In 2018, Khan's opponents had accused the military establishment of paving the way for his office. But when Khan had to oust the government due to a no-confidence vote in April 2022, tensions increased between him and the generals. Khan blamed the military – which has collectively ruled Pakistan for more than three decades – for orchestrating the vote.
Khan also alleged that the US colluded with the military and his rival political parties to remove him from the post of prime minister, a claim Washington has categorically denied.
Following a year-long standoff with the military, Khan's supporters took to the streets across the country to protest his arrest. The protests turned violent. Some rioters began attacking military facilities and vandalizing army residential areas.
“I believe [the riots] There was a feeling of public and workers [party activists], I believe it was not managed well and has brought about a major change in the political landscape of Pakistan,'' Shahryar Riaz, a PTI official in Rawalpindi city, admitted in an interview with DW.
The events, dubbed the “May 9 riots”, appeared to be a line in the sand and a sign of a much-changed relationship with the Muslim-majority country's powerful military.
In the months following the riots, authorities began prosecuting suspected protesters, including PTI members, in military courts. A large number of senior and mid-level party officials of PTI announced their resignation and extended their support to the army.
“PTI was already building a story when Khan was removed through a no-confidence vote. On May 9, we found that there was a planned attack on the state.” [retired] Brigadier Waqar Hasan Khan told DW.
In recent weeks, there have been reports that potential PTI candidates have been barred from submitting nomination papers and that the Supreme Court has barred the party from using its iconic cricket bat election symbol.
These events have made the upcoming elections highly controversial, with Khan's allies and some analysts alleging pre-election rigging.
Harris Khaliq said, “Elections should be conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner. Whoever is elected should take decisions that will positively impact the livelihood of the people.”
Iqra Rafiq, who works in a beauty salon, said she wanted elections to be held freely so that the country's next prime minister would be chosen “as per the wishes of the people”.
Noreen ShamsA journalist from Karachi said that Pakistan's entire history is full of “engineered” elections.
“What is happening now also happened in the last elections. Those who were the favorites of the regime are now the villains; those who were the villains in 2018 (former PM Sharif) are now their favourites,” he told DW.
Shams said, Pakistan has always had a mixed government, in which elected representatives of the people share power with the army.
what happens next?
However, the upcoming elections are not just about the popularity of a party or politician; As Pakistan grapples with a severe financial crisis, high inflation, unemployment and environmental disasters, there is a lot at stake.
Some people are concerned that the general public is so focused on trying to get their own needs met that they have no interest in the upcoming elections.
saira khan“It doesn't matter who comes to power,” said a school teacher in Islamabad.
Khan said, “Whoever comes to power needs to bring political stability in the country, and that is not possible without developing trust among the public. So, elections are important, but I don't think it will make much of a difference.” Will have to.”
In the current scenario, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a strong contender for victory in the elections to be held on February 8. His Pakistan Muslim League party argues that the country's economy and politics cannot afford the PTI's return to power.
“Khan and his party have completely exposed their mentality. They will never allow Pakistan's institutions to function independently. They spent a lot of time in both the opposition and the government but they have shown deep hatred.” [security] The institutions are launching verbal attacks and resorting to physical attacks,” Tariq Fazal Chaudharya Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) official told DW.
In the events leading up to, and after, May 9, 2023, the country's powerful military apparently withdrew its support from PTI, but this could not stop popular support for Imran Khan. It is not clear who will rule the country after the elections, but it is clear that whichever party does so will have to confront the army.
If it is the PTI – and they are unable or unwilling to repair their poor relationship with the military – the country will likely once again enter volatile political territory.
(Content courtesy: DW News)



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