Elections in the neigbourhood

There seems to be no likelihood that the elections will be held anytime soon in Pakistan

Amidst the certainty of former prime minister, Imran Khan, being out of poll fray owing to his jail term and subsequent disqualification by election commission, general elections may be delayed by six to seven months which. It can be attributed to mandatory provision of the constitution to undertake the delimitation of the national assembly and provincial segments based on newly approved census results.

America and India favour stability

Experts say that turmoil in Pakistan may enhance its dependability on China and survival of democracy may discourage China which has entrapped Pakistan in its debt policy through Belt and Road initiative.

Previous Sharif government has been successful in sending Imran to jail and he is now out of poll fray as election commission has disqualified him from contesting election. Now a void has been created in Imran’s party which may make it easy for Sharif Brothers to capture power.

Khan had openly levelled allegations against America and blamed it for his ouster from power though later he took a U turn as his theory did not get international response.

United States keeps army generals in loop and present military set up is not averse to America which is working in tandem with India.

A caretaker government will organize the general elections in Pakistan and new government may adopt reconciliatory attitude towards India and United States.

To checkmate China, it is strategically relevant for India and US to have an elected government in Pakistan though it is a puppet dispensation of army. US CENTCOM Commander General Michael Kurilla recently visited Pakistan and both sides have revived the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS-MOA), a security pact, which expired after 15 years in 2020. Thus, if the US-led West alliance may push for free and fair polls though it seems to be distant possibility yet it will be positive development for India also which wants check on the infiltration of extremists who indulge in violence in Kashmir .

Main contenders

With the closure of the political future of Imran Khan, now the stage is set for Sharif brothers including three-time PM Nawaz Sharif visualizing return to power especially when the military is backing them. Ex PM Shehbaz has already announced that his elder brother will be PM if the party wins the election. The previous government has cleared the path of Nawaz to return to Pakistan after an amendment was passed by senate to limit lawmakers’ disqualification period from life time to five years. Supreme court had punished Nawaz in Al-Azizia corruption case, barred him for life time from contesting elections in 2107. 73 year old, Ex PM has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment. But a new twist came when apex court declared the amendment as null and void but Nawaz will remain unaffected as he has completed required period of five year and law has been made applicable with a retrospective effect.

Besides Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), two main contenders will be in fray which include Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which will vie each other to capture the power. Imran’s party has been rendered rudderless and several senior leaders have left the party after May 9 riots allegedly engineered by Khan. Now PTI will need new leadership to face rivals as chances of Imran to exploit his popularity and sympathy factor have been totally eclipsed.

Bilwal Bhutto, 34, son of late PM, Banazir Bhutto and Chairman of PPP remains in the hunt to ascend to the top who made waves as foreign minister in outgoing Sharif government and perceived as future  premier by many in Pakistan. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have been coalition partners and top leaders enjoy cordial relations but no stone will be left unturned to win the polls which will be fought without a fierce and effective rival, Imran Khan.

Caretaker government

One of the toughest challenges is being faced by a caretaker government headed by pro army incumbent, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar and Pakistan Election Commission which will be expected to hold ‘Free and Fair’ elections; though it seems to be a far cry. The name of Baluchistan Senator, Kakar, a dark horse, popped up from nowhere but his track record exhibits his closeness and patronage by the army. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics had provided provisional data which had been approved by Council of Common Interest (CCI) and the election commission will start the delimitation exercise of 266 constituencies of National Assembly and 593 state assembly segments. The Pakistan national assembly was dissolved on Aug 9 and elections must be completed within 90 days which will be impossible as delimitation exercise will be undertaken by delimitation committees which will take at least five months. The recent legislation permits caretaker government to take policy decision on economic matters hence it will keep track on $3 billion IMF loan and partial release of $1.2 billion which had saved the country from total collapse and economic depression.

Another army backed dispensation

Experts are of confirmed opinion that the army will play a crucial role in upcoming general election and it has stood by previous Shariff government, hence another ‘puppet government’ may be installed in future. It may be recalled that Imran Khan had committed a mountain like blunder when he underestimated the power of the military which has ruled the country for over three decades in the 76-year existence of Pakistan. Khan had headed a ‘puppet government’ himself and his mentor was the ex-army chief Bajwa who also ensured his ouster from power when the former challenged the power of military. Khan overestimated his strength of people's support which proved to be a suicidal act. Khan tried to undermine the authority of current army chief Munir and encouraged attacks on military installations including headquarters on May 9 which proved last nail in his coffin. Now Khan has been put in jail and sentenced in the Toshakhana scam by the previous Sharif government which was obviously possible with the blessings of the army.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) has saved Pakistan from economic collapse hence it needs to have an elected government which will be in the interest of the region and people of this troubled nation.

(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)

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