By: Saleem Kakar
Amidst anticipation and scrutiny, Pakistan’s recent election has garnered international attention, raising questions about the country’s political trajectory and stability. Many thinktanks and political analysts have underscored the unprecedented intervention of Pakistan’s powerful military in favor of specific candidate, casting doubts on the credibility of the electoral process. Against the backdrop of the nation’s tumultuous history, marked by military rule and political upheavals, the electoral contest unfolded amidst heightened tensions and widespread skepticism. For more than half a century, especially since the establishment of Pakistan back in 1947, the country has grappled with alternating periods of mil itary rule and civilian governance, with the military exerting significant influence behind the scenes. Henceforth, many observers metaphorically argue that every government in the world has an armed force that oversees issues related to security and military while Pakistan happens to be an armed force that owns a civilian government apparently aimed at meeting the satisfaction of the establishment. The elections on February 8th represented the third democratic transition between civilian governments in Pakistan’s history, underscoring the nation’s enduring struggle for political stability and democratic consolidation. Moreover, the abrupt removal of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2022, amid allegations of military interference, precipitated a protracted political crisis that continues to reverberate across the country. The campaign season leading up to the election has been marked by unprecedented levels of political repression and intimidation, with widespread crackdowns on dissenting voices and opposition parties. Supporters of Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have faced harassment and arrests by Pakistani security forces, further undermining the credibility of the electoral process. Against this backdrop, many Pakistanis have voiced concerns that the election is predetermined which means it’s not an election but a selection – reflecting a broader sentiment of disillusionment and disenchantment with the political establishment. In this term, the electoral landscape is dominated by three main political parties: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is widely expected to emerge victorious, buoyed by its longstanding political influence and establishment’s support. However, the election outcome still remains uncertain, with implications for Pakistan’s economic stability, security, and regional dynamics. Against the backdrop of economic challenges, security threats, and regional tensions, the stakes of Pakistan’s election are high. The incoming government will inherit a myriad of pressing issues, including economic turmoil, widespread insecurity, and strained relations with neighboring countries. Moreover, Pakistan’s role in the broader regional context, particularly in relation to Afghanistan and the Islamic Emirateled government, adds another layer of complexity to the electoral calculus. Finally, security concerns loom large over the electoral process, with recent attacks targeting election-related activities underscoring the volatile nature of Pakistan’s security landscape. The authorities have heightened security measures, designating polling stations as ‘sensitive’ or ‘most sensitive’ and deploying the military to ensure safety. Despite these efforts, concerns persist about the integrity and fairness of the election, with the potential for post-election unrest and challenges to the legitimacy of the outcome.