New Delhi: Pakistan is holding its 12th national general elections today on February 8, to elect a new government amid multiple crises. The country of 241 million people, which possesses nuclear weapons, faces political and economic turmoil, as well as the threat of terrorism. The outcome of the elections will have implications for Pakistan’s relations with India, its neighbour and rival.
The main contenders in the Pakistan elections are Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). PML-N is expected to be the largest party, followed by PPP, PTI, and other parties.
Imran Khan, the former prime minister, is still in prison, while Nawaz Sharif is seen as the frontrunner for the top job. PTI is running without its famous cricket ‘bat’ symbol, after the Supreme Court confirmed the election commission’s decision to take it away.
How India Views Pakistan Elections?
India, which is also heading for its Lok Sabha elections by May, could pose more problems for Pakistan’s new government if the Narendra Modi-led government wins a strong majority. New Delhi has been keeping a close watch on its neighbour’s activities before the elections, especially the role of the Pakistan Army in picking the next prime minister.
India has repeatedly expressed its worries about Pakistan’s continued support for terrorism, leading the Narendra Modi-led government to take a tougher approach on national security issues.
Army’s Blessing For Nawaz Sharif
The Pakistan Army’s sway over the country’s politics is well-known, with accusations of election rigging to favour its chosen candidates. In the 2018 elections, the Pakistan Army effectively “picked” Imran Khan, a former cricket star-turned-politician, to replace Nawaz Sharif as the leader of the PML(N).
Imran Khan became the prime minister after Nawaz Sharif’s conviction, but Nawaz Sharif was later allowed to leave the country, and came back in October 2023, when all of a sudden all the cases against him disappeared. Experts have suggested that this time, Nawaz Sharif has the army’s support.
In the Pakistan election 2024, Pakistan Army chief general Asim Munir will strengthen his control over the political leadership of the country. The elections are important as for the first time in Pakistan’s history, the popularity of a civilian leader (Imran Khan) challenged the army’s dominance.
Experts’ Take On Pak Elections
Former Indian diplomat KP Fabian has said that the elections in Pakistan will be neither free nor fair, and that the real power will be held by the army chief. He said that whoever becomes prime minister, the army chief will have the final say. He also said that Pakistan is in deep disarray politically, economically, and socially because of terrorism.
He criticised the imprisonment of Imran Khan and his wife, saying that the charges against him do not stand scrutiny. He also said that the justice system in Pakistan has disappeared.
Meanwhile, Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria has said that the elections are the most predictable and the most rigged, because the army is manipulating the process to get the government it wants. He said that it is widely expected that Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N party will be the army’s choice. He said that this is fairly accurate.