Pakistan Army, Nawaz Sharif lose Feb 8 elections

The PTI supporters say derisively that Pakistan’s Army never won any wars but never lost an election.
Keywords: Pakistan, Elections, Military, Conflict, Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, PTI, Army
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Nawaz Sharif had come to the political forefront in the lap of military dictator General Zia ul Haque who made him Punjab Chief Minister in 1986. The Present Pakistan Army chief, General Asim Munir, wanted to go a step further and confer the PM’s post on Sharif in 2024. To ensure smooth sailing for the military and establishment’s `Ladla’, massive pre-poll and post-poll rigging was done.

To this end, all tricks were employed to keep former PM Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) at bay. The Miltablishment ensured that Kaptaan’s `bat’ was stolen, yet his team is reported to have scored a century (with PTI-backed independents having won more than 100 seats). Nawaz’s PNL-N is second with 73 wins and Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP has the third spot with 54 seats in the National Assembly (NA) elections. Others have been shown in most reports as winning a total of 35 seats out of 264 for which voting was held.

The final official numbers have not been released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) even 72 hours after the voting concluded on Thursday at 5 pm. Barrister Gohar Khan, appointed PTI chief by an incarcerated Imran, has said it was time for all political prisoners to be released. This was a healing touch needed by the nation at this moment when voters have expressed their will through voting. He was reacting to Pakistan Army Chief General Asim Munir’s statement that the country needed a healing touch and an end to anarchical politics.

Incidentally, instead of their regular bat symbol (balla), the PTI-backed independents contested under different symbols, like the dolphin, nalka (tap), baingan (brinjal) and chimta (forceps). Yet, this symbol-less party’s candidates have snatched the top position in the NA elections. Anyway one looks at the results, the lack of a clear majority for one party means there will be a coalition government at Islamabad.

At this moment, it is not clear how this coalition will shape up in the coming days and who will lead it. This is despite claims from senior leaders of PML-N that Nawaz Sharif will become PM for the fourth time. President Arif Alvi, appointed by the PTI, may play an important role in the midst of all the massive confusion now prevalent in Pakistan. Alvi issued a cryptic statement on X (formerly Twitter) saying “Let us stop digging after finding ourselves in a hole.’’

Alleging massive post-poll rigging and forgery in the tabulation of results, the PTI and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have planned nationwide protests. Both parties have said that these protests will be held where the “mandate has been stolen’’ by falsified tabulation of votes. In several cases, this tampering was done after illegally expelling the polling agents of various political parties. This post-poll rigging led to many winning candidates being declared losers falsely, they said. The losers who went home at night woke up as winners in the morning and in many constituencies, the number of votes was tallied higher than the total number of votes cast, they alleged.

Consequently, dozens of election results favouring PML-N candidates have been challenged in petitions filed in the Islamabad, Lahore and Sindh high courts by PTI-backed candidates. This has cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the elections.

The PTI has claimed it was in a position to form governments at the Centre), and in the two provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab. This despite massive electoral tampering as people voted in Imran’s name in defiance of the military establishment and its handpicked caretaker government, party leaders said.
The results defied all predictions despite pre-poll and post-poll rigging, many Pakistani journalists said on TV channels. Senior journalist Hamid Mir said the ECP had “completely failed in fulfilling its responsibility” of ensuring the timely release of the election results.
In the 2018 elections to the National Assembly, 52 per cent of voting was recorded but over 70 per cent of people cast their votes this time, per initial estimates. According to some reports, the youth (in the age bracket of 18 to 35 years) seems to have turned out in support of the PTI in large numbers.
In a damning editorial, the leading English daily of Pakistan, Dawn, blamed the caretaker government and the ECP for robbing the elections of their sanctity. “Their actions worsened political polarisation and they did not know when to stop,’’ it said. The editorial was alluding to the blatant partisanship of the ECP and the government directed against the PTI.
Meanwhile, the US, UK, and the European Union (EU) have expressed concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process and urged a probe into reported irregularities. The US and the EU both mentioned allegations of interference, including arrests of activists, and added that claims of irregularities, interference, and fraud should be fully investigated. Before them, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had also expressed concerns about large-scale violence and violation of human rights in Pakistan in the run-up to Thursday’s elections.

On Friday, a government spokesman said that on election day (Thursday, February 8), 16 people had lost their lives in 61 incidents of violence and a day earlier, 28 persons had died in two incidents of terrorism in KP and Balochistan. Dozens of terrorist attacks took place in the lead-up to the general elections, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). These were mostly reported from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan.
It is worth recalling that Sharif’s favourite slogan and call to his supporters at one time was vote ko izzat do (respect the vote/verdict). He did not raise this slogan even once in the present round of elections, be it for the National Assembly or the provincial ones.

The PTI supporters say derisively that Pakistan’s Army never won any wars but never lost an election. However, a decisive electoral defeat has been inflicted to it under General Munir. Another slogan that has become fairly common and widespread is: Yeh jo dahshatgardi hai, iske peecche vardi hai. This saying has gained more credence with these elections.

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Sant Kumar Sharma

Sant Kumar Sharma is a Jammu based journalist.

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