The need for early elections amidst Pakistan’s political chaos

The need for early elections amidst Pakistan’s political chaos
5 min read
28 May, 2022
As political tensions continue to rise and divisions amongst the people worsen in Pakistan, Ifra Javed explains why calling an early general election may defuse the current situation.
Imran Khan is likely to be relentless in his demand for a fresh mandate, and the most intelligent solution in favour of the citizens right now is to move for general elections, writes Ifra Javed.

Pakistan’s political chaos continues to aggravate, with both Imran Khan and Shehbaz Sharif refusing to concede defeat, and the collateral damage are the unknowing citizens.

The last few weeks have confirmed what most, who lived through the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s previous regimes, had already known; the Sharifs are not only alleged to be corrupt but are also incompetent. PM Shehbaz Sharif was well aware of Pakistan’s struggling economy when he orchestrated a plan to join forces with Asif Ali Zardari to overthrow Khan’s government using a no-confidence motion, and despite his claims to have plans to fix the economic situation, we are witnessing a sharp decline.

Seeing the current events unfold begs the question of Sharif’s real motive to come back to power, and the answer is glaringly obvious for those who wish to see it. PM Sharif had been charged with a money laundering case worth over $65 million, and was ironically inaugurated on the same day as his scheduled court appointment.

Being in power gives the self-serving Sharif family a much easier route to obtaining a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in case the court decision goes south. This Ordinance has been previously used to provide amnesty to politicians involved in corruption allegations, money laundering and more.

''The consequences of this inflation will be faced by the most vulnerable sections of society. We must build a more sustainable economic model that does not rely on continued assistance from the IMF or one that further crushes the working class only to prop up the elite who perpetually enjoys an unregulated advantage.''

Additionally, if the bill containing changes made to the National Bureau of Accountability (NAB) Ordinance is passed by the senate after receiving a majority vote in the National Assembly, it would offer further cushioning against corruption charges faced by many who currently sit in the cabinet. If history has taught us anything, it's that the Sharifs excel at devising an intricate exit strategy.

This week the situation turned dire.

The ousted PM led his workers and supporters to the streets of Islamabad for a sit-in until the government hears his demands and calls for an early election.

Days before the march was supposed to proceed, the government ordered illegal warrant-less raids on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and their houses. Multiple stories of manhandling, trespassing, and private property destruction came to the fore — an intimidation tactic used by the Sharif government to hinder the workers from continuing with the march.

Two days later, a horde of people left along with various political workers from cities across Punjab, but the Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, threatened to deal with these protestors using force or legal action.

The state deployed police troops and set up obstructions in multiple locations to, once again, inhibit the protestors. Unarmed protestors were baton charged and attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protestors witnessed a complete disregard from the police for the many women and children in attendance.

At the same time, a crowd that had gathered in Karachi in solidarity with those marching was met with the same fate as those in Punjab. Reports of straight firing at protestors came forward, and participants also posted videos of collected bullets.

This level of state repression is usually reserved for extremist organisations, but was administered against families over political rivalry.

The shelling and violence from the state institutions continued throughout the day, in complete violation of the Supreme Court orders to refrain from these attacks. The SC also demanded the protestors remain within allotted grounds, but Khan chose a different location, again in defiance of the orders. Eventually, Khan disbanded the sit-in but threatened to return if demands are not met.

Many who had rightly opposed Khan in the past for allowing authoritarian practices during his regime were left to sympathise with the police officers who had been injured after some protestors fought back and set a number of trees on fire.

Rather than dealing with the dire economic situation, PM Shehbaz’s party is more interested in quelling dissent against his government and shutting down questions about how he came into power. What was intended as a peaceful demonstration, has unfortunately turned bloody — two PTI supporters, and a police constable have already lost their lives.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), that only months ago was holding protests against the economic failure of the state and rising inflation and commodity prices, is now facing the brunt of public displeasure after they recently had to resort to raising fuel prices.

Perspectives

As expected, the consequences of this inflation will be faced by the most vulnerable sections of society. We must build a more sustainable economic model that does not rely on continued assistance from the IMF or one that further crushes the working class only to prop up the elite who perpetually enjoy an unregulated advantage.

The political divide in the country right now is unequivocal; even though the sit-in has been called off for now, Khan is likely to be relentless in his demand for a fresh mandate, and the most intelligent solution in favour of the citizens right now is to move for general elections.

Election dates are yet to be announced, but preparations to manoeuvre election results are already underway as the Sharif government scraps Khan’s bill to introduce electronic voting machines.

Pakistan has a history of various stakeholders using their institutional power to impact election outcomes, it would be interesting to note how the newly proposed changes would influence the results.

As weeks pass, people grow more and more disgruntled with the Sharif government. PDM’s violent, fascist and authoritarian tactics have raised many questions about what’s to follow.

All eyes are on PM Shehbaz Sharif to take a decisive stance, but it seems the younger of the two Sharif brothers is relying solely on guidance from the convicted Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif. The two met in London earlier this month, along with several key cabinet members to decide the fate of the country.

If Pakistan’s principal decision-making is hailing from London and not Islamabad, maybe Khan’s ‘imported government’ narrative is not too far off.

Ifra Javed is a London School of Economics graduate, currently working as a researcher and lecturer at the Lahore School of Economics.

Follow her on Twitter: @Ifra_J

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff, or the author's employer.