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How is Pakistan’s caretaker government going to deliver the election?

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National election in Pakistan after nightfall. Although the actual time of election has already passed. Even so, elections held there under a neutral interim government (which is essentially a caretaker government) will be free, fair and impartial—not even the most optimistic hope. Because, this supposedly neutral interim government is heavily shadowed by the Pakistan Army. It is not possible for the head of government Anwarul Haque Kakar to come out of it and present a beautiful election in his own way.

It is not unknown to anyone that the Pakistan Army has never allowed a fair election in the country since its birth. The only exception to this is the 1970 election. Due to which Bangladesh is independent today. This fear may also drive away the Pakistani military rulers. That is why they can never trust the political leadership of the country. Politicians are always ‘bloody civilians’.

The late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), understood this very well from his experience in 1971. For this reason, he included a neutral interim government system in the 1973 constitution. But did not get time to apply it. Before that, the dictator General Ziaul Haque arranged to hang him on the gallows. Although Bhutto was sent away, General Ziai first implemented the neutral interim government system he had created.

In 2017, this system was made more mature by the then government of the country. But it did not take long to die in the field for what it was intended to do. Pakistan Army did everything possible to bring Imran Khan’s party to power in the 2018 elections by sending off Nawaz Sharif. Whatever their election engineering is called ‘free, fair and impartial’ election, people will forget to laugh.

Almost the same thing is going to happen this time. Anwarul Haque Kakar is the head of the current neutral interim government of Pakistan. He is known to be close to the army. Kakar is an elected member of that country’s Senate from the self-founded Balochistan Awami Party. He has always spoken in the Senate in support of the Army’s operations in Balochistan. Among the various ethnic groups that exist in Balochistan, Kakars are quite influential. It is also convenient for the army to use Kakar as he is not Punjabi or Sindhi. Meanwhile, Imran Khan, his family and party have been silenced. And this work was done by the government of Kakar under the direct guidance of the army.

According to the constitution of Pakistan, the ruling government is supposed to hold national elections within 60-90 days of handing over power. This is the first task Kakar’s unelected neutral interim government has failed to do. Because the real power is not in his hands. It is in the hands of Pindi’s generals. Elections were supposed to be held in Pakistan by November 14. That was three months later. Hence, it is not to be expected that an unelected government, be it a caretaker government, a neutral interim government or junta—by whatever name it is called—will stand the test of time.

And on the other hand, Nawaz Sharif, the ‘phoenix bird’ of Pakistani politics, has returned to glory. Nawaz, who has been Prime Minister of the country three times and never completed his five-year term, is dreaming anew. return from the gallows; Nawaz can only dream of living a luxurious expatriate life in London after his life sentence. But the shadow of the popularity of imprisoned Imran Khan is driving him away. And there are various allegations of Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP. It is difficult to say how much an army can or will support him or his party in these matters. Because, Pakistan Army’s basic philosophy regarding elections is not to let anyone become too powerful. At least in terms of numbers.

Nawaz himself knows that the military rulers from whom he is receiving son-in-law affection today will not take a second to turn their eyes away. But if you think like that, you can’t do politics anymore. So at the same time he is trying to strengthen the ground under his feet by entertaining the army leadership. How many of the 141 seats in the Punjab National Assembly he can take from Imran’s party is the key. Because the jailed and sentenced Imran is now much stronger than the free Imran.

More than 150 cases have been filed against Imran Khan so far. A few cases have been sentenced. 14 years in one of them. Imran’s party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has lost its election symbol, the bat. There was no benefit in going to the Election Commission or the court. Not being is normal in the political reality of Pakistan. As a result, all the candidates of this party have to fight as independent candidates on different symbols. The military rulers have a larger goal. The goal is that if they win as independents, it will be easier to bring the selected members of Imran’s party to their side after the election. Several senior leaders of the party were either in jail or left the party under pressure. As a result, it will be much easier to handle the new ones who will come up – that is the thought of the army rulers. Because the ghost of 1971 has not left their minds.

Representatives are directly elected to the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral parliament. 272 were directly elected to the 342-member National Assembly. Among them 262 are Muslims and 10 are non-Muslims. And 60 and 10 people from minority communities were nominated as women representatives. In this direct election, 141 people came to the National Assembly from Punjab, 61 from Sindh, 45 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 16 from Balochistan. Naturally Punjab and Sindh are more important. But the problem is that there is no such thing as a national team in Pakistan. Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim League dominated Punjab. Although Bilawal’s party is called PPP, the party is mainly confined to Sindh. Although Imran’s PTI is Punjab-centric, its influence is quite good in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Even though Imran himself is a resident of Punjab, he sent it to the nation. As a result, there is an effect of regionalism. But surprisingly, no party in Pakistan has ever tried to increase its influence in Balochistan. There is always influence of regional parties. Along with the monopoly of the army.

The success of these elections held under a neutral interim government depends on voter participation. Voter turnout is all time low in Pakistan. In the last election in 2018, this rate was 51 percent. The lowest was in 57. That is, once the voters realize that the ruler will not be right in their vote, then the vote will be less. As last happened in 2018. Pakistan’s military rulers were desperate to bring Imran’s party to power. They did not try for this. As a result, out of 272 constituencies, 87 constituencies were decided by a margin of less than 1,000 votes. This time the number of young voters between 18-35 years in that country is 47% of the total voters. And everyone thinks that Imran’s popularity is very high among them. Another important fact is that 70 percent of young respondents in the Gallup Pakistan survey said they would go to vote. As a result, Pindi chiefs may not be as easy to play as other times.

Second, no country except Pakistan has a caretaker government or a neutral interim government system. In that country, the head of this interim government has been given the status of Prime Minister. It also emerged that this system was headed by a chief adviser to the caretaker government only in Bangladesh. Countries following the British parliamentary system have many such systems, leaving it in the hands of the rulers. When the date of election is announced there, the party governments fully play the role of interim government. Does not make any decisions outside of the day’s work. Waiting for the next government. The demand to bring back this system is slowly rising in Pakistan as well. Because, except for the 2013 elections, no neutral interim government could give fair and impartial elections to the people of that country. Rather it worked as a tool of the army. In this regard, the court has sometimes been seen as a facilitator. As a result, where the system is controversial, what is the possibility of a fair election? Even assuming for the sake of argument, Kakar’s government will deliver a fair election, what can that government actually do?

  Map of Pakistan.  Photo: CollectedBecause, as a country, the tension between Pakistan and India is going on at the moment. Iran has been added. Taliban rule in Pakistan is also a headache for the country. In the ‘love and hate’ relationship with America, rivalry and dependence with China is at an extreme. More importantly, the country is a nuclear-armed country. In the middle of the country’s broken economy and law and order system, rising prices of goods, lack of freedom of the press, no one can avoid the incidents of disappearances in different places including Balochistan. Due to the loosening of control over social media, it is still possible to know the events suppressed by the government of that country to some extent.

In this situation, the elections that are going to be held on February 8 will never be indicative of the future course of politics in Pakistan. Because the country’s army chief is (unconstitutionally) more powerful than the prime minister. The Pakistan Army will never leave the issue of foreign policy, especially relations with India and America, to the government of that country. Apart from this, there is the issue of facilities for them in the budget.

As a result, what kind of elections will Pakistan give under the neutral interim government? How happy can the people of that country or the world’s democratic people be happy with what they give? In fact, Kakars will come and go, but the back of the rope will be in the hands of General Asim Munir. Wait times will be longer until this system is changed.

Author: Executive Editor, Digital Department, Independent Television


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