With elections for Pakistan’s National Assembly and all provincial assemblies one month away, most Pakistanis are concerned whether or not the elections will be free and fair, how much pre-poll rigging, or re-engineering will take place and how deeply will the omnipresent establishment be involved.
In a recent piece, Pakistani analyst and editor of The Daily Times talks about three fault-lines ailing Pakistan. The first: “concerns the intensified battle between Nawaz-Maryam duo and the permanent establishment that includes the judicial arm of the state. This tug of war has influenced political events in the past five years. Nawaz lost his office and the ability to contest elections. But he remains relevant and the PML-N’s electoral machine survives despite the ignonimous ouster of its leader.”
The second is: “the pushback from Nawaz and his strong electoral base in central Punjab has resonated on social media. No longer can we view Pakistan from the lens of a single, undiluted power centre deciding or vetoing over political affairs. … Even in the mainstream media, many a journalist has been defiant.”
Third “relates to the infighting within PTI ranks that has further dwindled the image of a ‘winning’ party. Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen, the two titans of Imran Khan, have made their tussle public. Those familiar with the ‘inside’ dynamics of power-play have indicated that there may be doubts about the ability of PTI to form the government or Imran Khan to deliver the goods, i.e. getting rid of brand Nawaz Sharif from Punjab’s electoral landscape.”
According to Rumi traditional political engineering or re-engineering may not work this time round in Pakistan. “The standard conspiracy theories aside, there seems to be a cul de sac ahead. And here is why. With the accountability courts trying to deal with cases against the Sharif family in a ‘speedy’ manner, a conviction of elder Sharif may be on the cards. If Nawaz is convicted and is in jail, his daughter on the streets is a prospect not too attractive. With both father and daughter in jail and Kulsoom Nawaz in critical condition, this may even increase the sympathy wave among the PMLN voter base. Of course, all of these scenarios are conjectures at this stage. It may just be the case that the Punjab’s local, electoral players may switch to the winning ‘arrangement’ in the weeks to come.”
In the end Rumi appeals for “a fair poll that allows a level playing field to all political parties. The caretakers and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must ensure that.”