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  Opinion   Edit  07 Feb 2024  AA Edit | Pak votes but Army calls shots

AA Edit | Pak votes but Army calls shots

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 8, 2024, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Feb 8, 2024, 12:00 am IST

Amidst allegations of electoral manipulation and military influence, Pakistan's 2024 elections highlight challenges to democratic processes

Pakistan election commission staff pack a bag with election materials at a distribution center in Karachi. (Image: AFP)
 Pakistan election commission staff pack a bag with election materials at a distribution center in Karachi. (Image: AFP)

To paraphrase Josef Stalin, the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do. It may have never rung truer than in 2024, the global year of elections in which democracy has been under threat like never before.

The moderns have gone way beyond Stalin’s critique of elections. Take Pakistan, for instance, which is one of three countries going to the polls this year with at least one major opposition leader in jail - Bangladesh was one and Russia will soon be another.

In Pakistan, it is not in the counting of votes that the predetermination of election results lies as much as in who is allowed to contest, a fact determined by the courts but with the Army brass, the real power behind the throne, calling the shots.

The unprecedented legal action against one former Prime Minister in Imran Khan — four convictions with concurrent sentences, 150 legal cases and a cramped cell in Adila Jail — as opposed to the pardons that another former PM, Nawaz Sharif, has received, giving ample indication of what the results will be in the February 8 general elections to the National Assembly.

It is not the plight of the common people, among whom are 127 million voters, that will be in focus as they grapple with 24 per cent inflation in an economy that is in tatters and was rescued recently by Saudi Arabia and China, besides the IMF.

In the grip of an eternal power crisis that affects everyone’s lives, most Pakistanis are said to be fed up with the unending political fracas and hardly believe things will be any different this time, with militancy also contributing to a permanent unsettled feeling.  There are 44 parties in the fray, including Imran Khan’s PTI, but there is as much a fear of low voter turnout as there is of vote rigging.

Nawaz Sharif’s PML(N), with ally Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s PPP, is in pole position and at least India may not mind such a result too much as there is every chance of Nawaz Sharif being amenable to mend frosty relations with a neighbour, though he would need the Army’s endorsement before making any peace overtures.

The man who will wield the winner’s chequered flag is Gen. Asim Munir, Pakistan Army chief who was heading the ISI when he was dethroned by Imran Khan, a deed still unforgiven and which has catalysed these events facilitating the return of Nawaz Sharif.

Tags: imran khan, pakistan elections 2024, nawaz sharif, bilawal bhutto-zardari