Following the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, a discernible anticipation prevailed among the politically astute regarding the conduct of elections in Pakistan. Even though, the constitutional caretaker government conducted the election, but, it was evident that it failed to ensure a “level playing fields” for all parties. Former Prime Minister Imran’s imprisonment followed by a crackdown on PTI leaders and workers resulted in a tense atmosphere in the election.
The Election Commission of Pakistan strongly complained that they didn’t do justice to them. PTI supporters found themselves compelled to enter the polls as ‘independent candidates,’ devoid of the party’s familiar symbols, and encountered obstacles during campaigning. When Khan put in jail and made him ineligible to contest due to multiple convictions, there was a doubt that PTI’s popularity and increased sympathy might not be exhibited at the ballot box. Consequently, the expectation was that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, would ascend to power, as the most confidante of the military.
Despite the military backing, the darling of General’s realization did not materialize in the Pakistani elections. After facing numerous challenges, Imran’s supporters exhibited remarkable unity and unwavering determination, ultimately securing victory. Although not officially recognized as a party, their confidence in Imran Khan’s leadership is undeniable, at least no single party has attained an outright majority.
While Imran’s supporters secured the majority of seats, Nawaz Sharif, now aligned with the military, the country’s influential and enduring power broker, swiftly moved to initiate a government formation. Discussions have commenced with key figures from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who finished third in the polls. Despite the coalition agreement between these two parties, demonstrating support from winners of other parties is imperative to establish their majority. Consequently, efforts may be made to attract successful independents from outside the PTI fold.
Imran’s party, despite being the single largest, faces obstacles in staking a claim due to the intricacies of the ‘post-poll alliance,’ with preference given to Nawaz Sharif’s party. The final steps in Pakistan’s political landscape will now be orchestrated by the military establishment. Despite the numerical disparity in seats, intervention from Rawalpindi is expected to facilitate the formation of a new alliance under Nawaz Sharif, projecting an appearance of democratic due process. This development further consolidates military control over the government, with the incumbent Prime Minister realizing that the coalition’s longevity is contingent on General Munir’s discretion.
Pakistan confronts a growing security challenge along its borders. Despite historical affiliations with the Afghan Taliban, Islamabad’s relations with Kabul have strained due to cross-border terrorist incidents and the expulsion of numerous Afghan refugees, some of whom had resided in Pakistan for extended periods. Additionally, recent exchanges between Pakistan and Iran involve accusations regarding alleged militant bases on each other’s territory. Furthermore, Islamabad has accused New Delhi of conducting an assassination campaign within its borders, which escalates tensions with its longstanding rival.
The evident reality is that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is poised to escalate its attacks in the aftermath of the elections, aiming to undermine the fragile coalition government. Anticipations suggest that in the coming spring, the TTP will significantly intensify its Pakistan Security Forces campaign, applying pressure on the new government to engage in negotiations and reach an agreement with the militant group.
Despite failing to secure a government formation, the supporters of Imran Khan are lauded for their resilient stance in an election perceived as one-sided against the influence of the powerful military. The West, including the previously criticized United States, now questions the election’s integrity and calls for investigations into alleged interference. The motives behind such actions are unclear, raising skepticism about the authenticity of their ‘value-based’ stance. Changes in positions are evident, with varied perspectives across different countries.
Looking ahead, the political landscape of Pakistan is uncertain, influenced by Western actions and potential shifts in the military’s stance. Amidst this, there are concerns that continuous political turmoil and militant attacks may pose a greater threat to the country’s economy as well as its stability. Definitely, these will affect not only foreign lenders, investors, and commercial partners but also diminish public trust regardless of the political party in power.