Can polls help Pakistan get out of the mess?text_fields
As many as 12.8 crore people of Pakistan have registered in the voters list to 16th National Assembly elections taking place on February 8, 2024—tomorrow. Where 51.7 per cent polled in the 2018, July 25 elections, it is hard to predict voter turnout this time given the chaotic situation prevailing in the nation. It is likely to go up as provincial polls for Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are also happening alongside. As many as 167 small and big political parties have entered the fray. However, the main parties in the arena are Muslim League led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, which was subsequently led by his daughter Benazir Bhutto, and currently jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
The former cricket captain, who pulled off massive victory in the 2018 polls, has been disqualified from contesting. His right-hand man and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also in the same boat as Khan. Navas Sharif, who lived four years in exile in London after having been convicted in the leaked Panama Files corruption cases, is back in the nation and active in polls after a court has given him permission. Young Bilawal Bhutto, who cannot hold candle to his grandfather and mother Benazir Bhutto, is fighting the polls pivoting on the family’s traditional base in Sindh. Other parties on the campaign trail are Maulana Fazlur Rahman's Jamiat-ul-Ulamaye Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami led by Sirajul Haq and the MQM, a dominant party in Karachi. A large number of those contesting in the 266 National Assembly seats are independent candidates. It has to do with the fact that Imran Khan’s party’s election symbol of cricket bat has been banned. Hence the party has fielded only independent candidates.
Established 75 years ago, Pakistan is facing severe political uncertainty and instability different from India; alongside the vast casualties and economic devastation wrought by the 2022 floods, the fifth most populous nation in the world is in struggle. It now takes 277 Pakistan rupees to get one US dollar. The political uncertainty stems mainly from the direct and indirect intervention of military establishment that ruled the country at least half the time of the country’s existence. There is a truth in Imran Khan’s allegation, who came to power riding on popular support in 2018, that he was ousted out of power jointly by military and the US. When he came to power PPP and Nawaz sheriff’s Muslim League alleged that military was behind Imran Khan’s victory. But the military is now apparently moving against him. Though court verdicts have jailed him, enmeshing in 150 cases, there were instances when the Supreme Court acquitted him. His open blaming of army and his supporters’ ransacking army barracks have played into the hands of army generals. Pakistan’s close ties with China and China’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Great Corridor project have irked America who views China as its archrival. On the other hand, America is in strong relationship with Pakistan's main enemy, India. Alongside, the country is beset by unabated bomb blasts being carried out by terrorist outfits. Most recently, the bomb blast near the Iran-Pak border that claimed the lives of Iranian soldiers adversely affected the normal relationship between both nations. Pakistan suffered damages from Iran’s counter attack. Despite both countries recalled diplomats, the situation is returning to normalcy. The elections taking place in Pakistan tomorrow gives no hope for the neigbouring country, which has never experienced a healthy democracy and stable economy, to get out of the mess anytime soon, going by the current situation.