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Uncertainty in Pakistan

Atmosphere heats up after allegations of election rigging
12:00 AM Feb 20, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
uncertainty in pakistan
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EVEN after the National Assembly elections were held in neighboring Pakistan on February 8 after a year-long violence and political instability, the situation there remains quite unclear. The public has not given a majority to any one party. Independents who contested the elections with the support of Imran Khan's party PTI have won the maximum number of seats and his party is alleging large-scale rigging in the elections.

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After this, the Election Commission had to announce the formation of a committee to investigate it. In such a situation, there is uncertainty about the formation of the government by the alliance of Zardari-Bhutto's party PPP and four other parties under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif a few days ago.

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It was decided in the agreement of the six parties that Shahbaz Sharif would be the PM candidate of the group while PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari will be candidate for the President post. But after this, suddenly the jailed chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former PM Imran Khan announced to field former minister Omar Ayub for the post of PM, who is from the family of former President Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

The news came that some ISI officers have met Imran Khan in jail and some 'deal' has been struck between them. Meanwhile, on February 19, PPP announced that Asif Ali Zardari would be their presidential candidate. Despite all these incidents, it is certain that the Pakistan Army would prefer a non Imran Khan government and may support the coalition led by Sharif.

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At a time when it seemed that the government was about to be formed, all this happened which made the situation unclear. The Election Commission of Pakistan has asked the committee formed to investigate the allegations of rigging to submit its report within three days.

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If the army is determined to bring Sharif's coalition to power, then the allegations of election rigging in this report will be rejected and the government will be formed. But if the allegations of rigging are proved true, the matter will become interesting. In such a situation, the lottery of Imran Khan's party can also open.

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Former Prime Minister and PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif on February 13 claimed majority along with six parties to form the government and declared his brother Shehbaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate while Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ) chief Asif Ali Zardari's name emerged as the presidential candidate.

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However, on 17 February, an alleged statement by him surfaced in which he was reported to have said that the Zardari-Bhutto family was difficult to work with. The most interesting incident in all this incident was that ISI people met Imran Khan in Adiala jail and it is believed that a 'deal' was struck between them, only after which Imran declared Omar Ayub as the PM candidate.

After this, PML (N) spokesperson Maryam made a tweet in which she said that PML-N and PPP have formed alliance with Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), IPP (Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have decided to form a coalition government at the Centre.

In the National Assembly elections held on February 8 in Pakistan, the public did not give a majority to anyone. There are contests for a total of 265 seats in this election, in which the support of 133 winning members is necessary for any one party or coalition to form the government. In the elections, Nawaz Sharif's PML (N) got 75 seats, Bhutto-Zardari's PPP got 54 seats and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui's MQM (P) got 17 seats. Maximum 93 Imran supported independents have won but they have not won as a party.

Apart from him, 26 other candidates from smaller parties have won. Sharif's party has claimed the support of 152 candidates, which includes 146 from PML(N), PPP and MQM(P) together, besides six candidates from PML(Q), IPP and BAP. In such a situation, it seemed that the formation of a government in Pakistan under the leadership of Sharif was certain, but suddenly a situation of confusion was created.

When Nawaz Sharif had announced this alliance, he had also announced his daughter Maryam Nawaz as the chief ministerial candidate in Punjab province. There is no doubt that Maryam will become the national face of Sharif's party PML (N) in the coming years. But amidst the uncertainty, the situation is still not clear even if he becomes the Chief Minister.

There is little possibility that a government will be formed in Pakistan without the consent of the army. Army Chief Asim Munir is considered a staunch opponent of Imran Khan. But if the reports of ISI officers meeting Imran Khan in jail are true then the matter becomes interesting because it is unthinkable that ISI would have met Imran without the consent of the army.

However, Nawaz Sharif has always been a staunch opponent of military interference in politics. Coincidentally, if Sharif had announced the formation of his party's government, it was because he was getting the support of Army Chief Asim Munir. Munir does not want Imran Khan to return to power under any circumstances.

In this way, any government that comes to power with the help of an army taking a different stance will face many challenges in the coming months. Not only will the dilapidated economy,

unemployment and inflation be a challenge for Shahbaz Sharif, but he will also have to go through difficult times regarding relations with India because Asim Munir is considered to be the Army Chief who has a very aggressive stance on Kashmir. According to the information of this journalist, after the formation of the government in Pakistan, the session of the National Assembly can start from February 29.

It is very interesting that Bhutto-Zardari's party PPP does not want to be seen with the Sharif brothers even after forming an alliance with them. Neither does she want to show herself as a supporter of the army, nor as a supporter of Sharif's party. Not only this, she has not said anything special against Imran Khan.

It is believed that Bilawal Bhutto wants to maintain the independent identity of the party. He feels that if he is a PML (N) hanger-on, his image can cause great harm to his party. It has become clear from these election results that at present the people of Pakistan do not want to give complete majority to any one party. Many experts believe that the army also plays a role in this, which never wants to allow the formation of an all-powerful government.

By Rakesh Rocky

Rakesh Rocky is a Delhi based senior journalist.

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