Pakistan…elections without Imran Khan

We are days away from hotly contested elections in Pakistan on February 8, which will form a federal parliament and four local parliaments that will govern four Pakistani provinces, home to more than a billion people.

But these elections are being held under very difficult internal, regional and international circumstances – particularly because of the rift between the military, which has ruled the country for more than half the time, which has resulted in strained relations with the leader of the Justice Party Was. , Imran Khan, who was removed from power, then convicted and jailed, which is tradition. It is common in the history of Pakistan between the military and politics for any elected Prime Minister to be strained in the relationship before being dismissed and then deprived of the post. From political action, often accompanied by banishment and exile, except perhaps in the case of Imran Khan, who was imprisoned as well as deprived of political participation.

Imran Khan…absent and present

The sentencing of Insaaf Party leader Imran Khan and his former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to ten years in jail on charges of leaking documents related to state security has sparked anger among the party's supporters and sympathizers. , and the rift between the party, which represents the youth, and the deep state, which is represented by the military, grew, especially since this is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a head of government has been accused of leaking related documents. Has been accused of. State security.

Imran Khan and his Foreign Minister publicly leaked a telegram from the Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, which described a threat to Khan's government, leading to his dismissal and removal from power. And his group began to propagate that the military had ousted him from power under American orders, and given the popularity of the conspiracy theory, particularly in relation to American intervention in Pakistan, which Pakistanis have rejected throughout their short history. Khan's statements have been popular and acceptable, especially among the youth, where they have spread like wildfire.

It seems that the election battle will be between the “Pakistani People's Party” led by Bilawal Bhutto, former foreign minister of Pakistan and son of Benazir Bhutto, and the “Muslim League” party led by Nawaz Sharif, who has returned from the country. London after being banned from political activity for years by a judicial decision.

Perhaps if the document had not been leaked, the issue of accepting US involvement in his removal would not have been at the level it was after the document was leaked, as was the case with most former Pakistani Prime Ministers, including Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. Earlier, America was accused of removing him from power by doing so by the army.

I still remember when Benazir Bhutto told me in a press interview after her second dismissal in 1998: The one who fired her was the American company Unocol, because at that time Bhutto had chosen Unocol instead of Unocol to get the gas expansion project. Argentine company Bridas was given preference. Pipelines from Turkmenistan to areas in Pakistan and India. Afghan.

A few days after this ten-year prison sentence, a 14-year prison sentence was added to his wife Bushra's on charges of selling gifts received from heads of state, which is contrary to laws governing the conduct of senior politicians.

Depriving Imran Khan of political functions, and imprisoning him for ten years, may motivate many Pakistani voters to vote for him, especially among the youth, who would associate his dismissal, deprivation and then imprisonment with him. Sees as clear injustice. Therefore, some do not rule out that they will get success in the elections, while a section of them fear electoral fraud, which may increase political and social tension in the country, which will have a negative impact on the country and its future.

Election war between Sharif and Bhutto

On the eighth of next month, 19 candidates will compete for a federal or local parliamentary seat, the highest percentage in the history of Pakistani elections. In 2017, seventeen candidates competed for one seat, increasing the competition rate by 280% from the 1971 elections.

It seems that the election battle will be between the “Pakistani People's Party” led by Bilawal Bhutto, former foreign minister of Pakistan and son of Benazir Bhutto, and the “Muslim League” party led by Nawaz Sharif, who has returned from the country. London after being banned from political activity for years by a judicial decision.

As for Imran Khan and his “Insaf” party, who are also barred from political activities due to the judicial decision, they participate in the elections through independent candidates' lists, as they compete for seats in the federal parliament. The number of candidates of Imran Khan has reached 236. , hence the percentage of independent candidates increased from 53% to 63% for the current elections. In previous elections, independent candidates had played a role in forming the previous local governments since the 2018 elections, so they were a real egg in this one. Election.

According to Gallup, according to the survey released on January 10, support for Imran Khan declined to 57% from 60% last year, while support for Nawaz Sharif increased from 36% to 52% in the same period. As far as Pakistan People's Party is concerned, its support rate dropped from 36% to 35%.

Nawaz Sharif, who comes from Punjab province, Pakistan's largest province and is most present in the decision-making process, has seen his popularity in the region increase from 57% to 60%, according to the survey. Sharif is 74 years old. aged, and he assumed the presidency of the government for the first time in 1990, and his withdrawal from London seems to have relieved the military, especially since the economic challenge facing Pakistan is greater, and Sharif is more capable of dealing with it than his Looking at the professional background, it is higher than others. If he wins the election, he will be the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the fourth time in his history and the history of Pakistan.

The Supreme Court last October paved the way for his return by acquitting him of the charges he was previously charged with, and lifting his ban on political participation, so he can now return from London and run in the elections. Can lead and perhaps lead. country for the next five years.

The percentage of women's candidature in the current elections decreased compared to previous sessions, as their percentage did not exceed 4.77% of the percentage of candidates, which prevented them from reaching the threshold set by the Election Commission, which is the minimum requirement for There is a limit. Their participation as a candidate is 5%, while women's participation in Imran Khan's party has reached 8%.

As for the youth group, that is between 18-25 years old, the percentage of participation in the 2018 elections decreased from 19% to the participation of the “Justice” party, for example, with 17% of the youth. , while the “People's” Party was even higher, as the percentage reached 18.%, leaving the Nawaz Sharif-led “Muslim League” party's youth participation rate at only 13%.

Youth and faith in the political system

Perhaps the most important thing regarding the youth is not their representation or non-representation in these elections, but rather the apparent decline in confidence in the electoral process, and the political inadequacy they see in political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and today. Imran Khan and before him Benazir Bhutto and other political figures are often victims. Others do not mention the charges leveled against Imran Khan that led to his imprisonment in two cases; First: leaking state secrets, which we talked about, the punishment for which was ten years in prison, and second: receiving gifts from heads of state during his government, then selling them.

This caused the youth supporting him to lose faith in Pakistan's political and electoral system, which would have a serious and perhaps profound impact on Pakistani security and stability.

In a recent opinion poll conducted in Pakistan, in which 2,050 respondents participated, more than 74% of them expressed their trust in the military institution among the eight institutions selected in the survey, while the General Election Commission was the least trusted of them all. Emerged. Eight institutions, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan top the list. It is in second place with a rate of 58%, while political parties are in third place.

Such a survey shows the extent of the failure of the institution that sponsors, conducts and declares general elections. Well, the age of the respondents was between 18 to 35 years. Anyone from the youth group.

pre-poll violence

Many fear a wave of violence that could mar the election process, especially given the repeated violent incidents that followed a few days ago between Imran Khan-led Insaaf Party and Nawaz Sharif-led Muslim League Party. Most of the participating teams were involved. and the Pakistan People's Party led by Bilawal Bhutto, as well as the left-leaning “National People's Party”, in addition to Islamic parties, and several regional parties.

Here, the transitional government overseeing these elections must remain alert to these threats along with the security forces. A candidate from the Imran Khan-led Insaaf Party was killed in the Bajaur tribal area, followed by four supporters. The party had bombed an election event in Sibi area, and this was repeated in Karachi. And also in the North Waziristan tribal region, when an independent candidate was targeted but miraculously survived, and a candidate associated with the “Muslim League”. An assassination attempt was made on Nawaz Sharif led party in Turbat in Balochistan region but he survived, although such incidents are common in Pakistani elections, but fear remains. There remains concern over the potential for its development in Pakistan to deteriorate further.

Internal and external challenges for the next government

The internal reality, especially related to the political system, and the way to deal with the angry supporters of Imran Khan who, apart from economic challenges, mobilize on the Pakistani street every moment to disrupt and obstruct the work and activity of any Pakistani government. Are capable of being. Following the fall of the Pakistani rupee, it is on the list of priorities for challenges for the next Pakistani government. At catastrophic rates, and traders and financiers fear for the fate of their businesses and trades.

Therefore, the arrival of Nawaz Sharif, who comes from this class, can be a message of reassurance not only for him and the Pakistani economy, but also for the global financial and business circles. The International Monetary Fund has projected inflation in Pakistan for the year 2023. While it collapsed to 29.2% after 12.1% the previous year. The size of GDP will increase from 6.1% in 2022 to .5% in 2023, and the international challenge will remain very important and sensitive, in terms of balancing Pakistani relations with China, US, India and Russia, these international and regional powers. In the light of intense competition between them, which has directly or indirectly led to war between them, and thus Pakistan stands in the eye of international storms.

But regardless of who wins the February 8 election, Pakistani foreign policy is part of the military, and they cannot allow any prime minister to reach the red line that Imran crossed on the eve of the invasion. Khan's view of Russia was prominent. Of Ukraine, so the army turned against them. Which led to America's anger at him, and his involvement in the coup, as Imran and his supporters believe. Therefore, any future confrontation between the Army and the Prime Minister of Pakistan is linked to this extreme sensitivity, because the Army sees that they are the guarantee of Pakistan's existence and survival, and such additions are instruments for this guarantee.

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