While the formal announcement of the results of the July 25 elections in Pakistan appears to be indefinitely delayed, and charges of rigging fill the air, the nation former cricket star and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), seen as the preferred choice of the all-powerful military, is on course to be Pakistan’s next Prime Minister.
At a pre-dawn press conference, the Election Commission rejected charges of rigging. This would suggest that the mind of Pakistan’s Deep State is made up, and no amount of poll petitions or street protests will change the outcome the military appears to have worked toward.
It is possible Mr Khan may have emerged with the largest number of parliamentary seats even without the help of the establishment. His popularity in some parts of the country, especially among younger voters who have long been disenchanted with the political class, widely viewed as self-serving, was not in serious doubt.
But the overt interest taken by the military in promoting the PTI and its leader — a phenomenon that was internationally noted — places the 2018 election in the tainted category. It did not at all appear to be free or fair.
The judiciary was first used to dismiss sitting PM Nawaz Shairf last year, and then to jail him just days before the election, handicapping his party. So-called “electable” politicians from the two mainstream parties — Mr Sharif’s PML(N) and the PPP — were armtwisted to defect to the PTI on the eve of the election. The media was browbeaten to present its case in a slanted manner.
In Pakistan, the first normal transfer of power from one civilian government to another was in 2013. The present case is being spoken of as the second. But in light of the active interest taken by the Army in promoting Mr Khan’s ambition, this description appears exaggerated.
More than 400 candidates from extremist and terrorist outfits were in the fray under newly-created banners as a part of the military’s effort to “mainstream” religious fanaticism in Pakistan’s political system. As a category, they appear to have been rejected by the electorate. Pakistan’s voters have generally shown good sense and not allowed religious elements to run away with the vote. This is a lesson for all in South Asia. Of course, the rejection of the religious extremists doesn’t mean they will have less of a voice when Mr Khan is the Army-backed civilian leader.
The deepening of political chaos, to compound economic anarchy, appears to be on the cards. Mr Khan will be the first elected PM from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa belt. He is thought to favour the Taliban. As such, Pakistan’s use of violence in Afghanistan could see an uptick. Its policy of confrontation and infiltration in Kashmir is also likely to be preserved unless, against all odds, he reverses course to be seen as his own man, which he was on the cricket field....