PTI will have a lot of ways to cripple the new government in Pakistan – Niaz Murtaza


Commenting on current political situation in Pakistan, Niaz Murtaza, political economist, UC Berkeley PhD/ex-Fellow and regular op-ed writer in country’s leading and prestigious English daily The Dawn wrote on his X account:

Pakistan can’t move forward and have political stability or economic revival without resolving the issue of Form 45 vs. Form 47 discrepancies. It can’t afford a second rigged regime brought to power dubiously by the establishment after 2018. Thus, it is critical for all stakeholders to show maturity. 

  1. Pak can’t move forward and have political stability or economic revival without resolving the issue of rigging. 
  1. The lead has to come from the military establishment which must end its political interventions. 
  1. The ECP must quickly and transparently recount the results of the contested seats and winners be allowed to form govts. 
  1. Political cases must be withdrawn. 
  1. All political parties must then show maturity and end the cycle of extreme polarization and incompetent governance which has brought us to this crisis. 
  1. Sharifs, Zardaris and Imran must only run their parties and appoint competent persons from their parties who can work constructively with the opposition to rescue Pakistan from the edge of an abyss.

Meanwhile, as Blitz has been looking for expert opinion on Pakistan’s just concluded election, which already has become controversial with allegations of vote rigging, we contacted Niaz Murtaza seeking an interview. Within such a short notice he kindly gave us the interview addressing few key points. Here is the excerpt:

Blitz: Commenting on Pakistan’s elections, in an article in The Dawn, a columnist said, “It was a protest vote against political repression and the status quo. Anti-establishment sentiment was quite palpable”.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi Divisional Commissioner (DC) Liaquat Ali Chatta in a press conference admitting vote rigging said, “We manipulated the vote count, causing candidates who were poised to win by 70,000 votes to only receive 50,000 votes”.

But, Election Commission of Pakistan has refuted Mr. Chatta’s allegations stating – “no official from the commission had instructed him to manipulate the election results”.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faiz Isa demanded evidence to support Liaquat Ali Chatta’s accusations, asserting that they were “baseless without proof”.

Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir dismissed the allegations, describing them as an “attempt to undermine the election’s credibility”.

Senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Rana Sanaullah claimed that Liaquat Ali Chatta, a close friend of his, was “undergoing treatment for mental health issues”.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman called for a thorough investigation into the serious allegations, noting that Mr. Chatta had “failed to provide evidence to support his claims”.

What is your opinion about the allegations of vote rigging?

Niaz Murtaza: There was strong evidence of pre-poll rigging against PTI by the military which was pointed out not just by PTI but credible neutral observers globally and nationally. This included jailing of PTI leaders, forcing others to leave the party, restricting its election campaign and finally withdrawing its election symbol. Despite these tactics, PTI emerged as the largest party but short of outright majority. But PTI is now alleging that the results announced by ECP for about 40 national seats do not tally with the tallies compiled at each polling station for that seat. Such counting happens before each candidate’s agents and neutral observers and is at the end signed by all candidate agents at each polling station. Thus, it is more credible than the consolidated results announced by ECP for each seat. PTI has uploaded its copies of the polling station results for around 40 seats. It is important that this issue be checked by courts. If PTI’s allegations are true, it will have a majority in national assembly. This rigging is over and above the seats it lost due to pre-poll rigging.

Blitz: From the media reports, what we understand, visible and invisible forces are at play in Pakistan in a desperate agenda of burying Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from politics. Mr. Khan has been indicted and convicted in a number of cases, along with his wife – Bushra Bibi almost similarly in the pattern US President Joe Biden is trying to bury his arch rival Donald Trump. When America’s democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of press are at serious controversy and its judiciaries are behaving like political activists, in your opinion, do you think Biden administration may actually take any steps in forcing Pakistan’s caretaker government and their backers from behind the scenes in stopping legal and other forms of harassments targeting Mr. Imran Khan and his party members as well take punitive measures against those responsible for the election rigging?

Niaz Murtaza: The USA State Department has issued a few statements expressing concerns about rigging. But the USA does not have much stake or interest in Pakistan now. In addition, Imran Khan had made unfounded allegations that the Biden govt had it removed through the Pakistan army in 2022 through a vote of no-confidence. Because of that, ties between PTI and USA are tense. Thus, it is unlikely that Biden will do much to force Pakistan to end the rigging against PTI unless there is huge street protests and bloodshed in Pakistan which is unlikely. USA does have leverage over Pakistan as it badly needs a new IMF loan which USA controls.

Blitz: If the ongoing controversy centering the election cannot be resolved, what may happen to Pakistan’s democracy?

Niaz Murtaza: If the current controversy is not resolved immediately, it will lead to continued political instability which will hamper Pakistan’s need for economic revival. Even if PTI does not get its demands immediately, it will have a lot of ways to cripple the new government. Its big numbers in assembly will let it cripple smooth assembly work. Its strong social media teams will unleash huge public pressure against all unpopular reform acts the new regime must take to meet IMF terms.  Its huge expatriate teams will work to poison western minds against the new govt. It will look to exploit fissures between PML-N and establishment.  Thus, political stability and economic revival may remain elusive.


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