This Thursday, 128 million Pakistanis are called to the polls, but in all likelihood, less than half will bother to do so. Election day will not be a celebration of democracy, as the campaign has not been, subject to a climate of intimidation. For the umpteenth time, the leadership of the armed forces has slammed its fist on the table, to favor a result in accordance with its interests. In order not to take any risks, the great favorite, the populist former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was imprisoned last August, sixteen months after being expelled from the government palace, in a motion of no confidence sponsored from the top.
Driving home the point, in recent days there have been three sentences against Jan, totaling a sentence of 31 years in prison. Likewise, his Pakistan Justice Movement (PTI), with great influence among young people, has been viciously persecuted and many of his candidates – those who have not been arrested – have had no choice but to present themselves as independents. The symbol of it has also been banned.
To the further disdain of the eternally young and troubled Pakistani democracy, almost all political forces have gladly accepted to dance to the tune of the military march. This design contemplates a fourth term for Nawaz Sharif, at the head of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). To make this possible, a judicial amnesty enabled the timely return of Sharif, who had been a fugitive in London for several years, due to his chronic corruption problems.
His younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, was warming his seat at the head of government, from the motion of no confidence against Imran Jan, in April 2022, until last August, when an interim government took the reins. In the Pakistani model, the government in power is not allowed to cast ballot boxes to save it from the temptation of being punched. But the supposedly provisional government has even allowed itself to put the flag airline, PIA, up for sale, in addition to extending his mandate until the latest sentence against Imran Khan has been promulgated.
The first verdict, 14 years in prison, for putting gifts from foreign governments on sale. Practically an anecdote, in a country where the political class is dedicated to the systematic looting of budgets and public banks. The second, ten years in prison, “for revelation of official secrets,” in reference to a vague mention in a cable from the ambassador in Washington. Although what already borders on the absurd are the seven additional years behind bars “for an illegal wedding”, for not having respected the three-month window from the divorce (from his current wife) to get married.
The anger of the military leadership against the charismatic Imran Khan – whom they had previously used against the two great political families – is not without reason. After being removed as prime minister – a few weeks after his visit to the Kremlin – Jan spent several months mobilizing large crowds, demanding early elections. During a motorized march he received a warning in the form of an attack, with two bullets in the leg.
Far from being daunted, the former captain of the cricket team raised the stakes against the military hierarchy. Last May, when he was finally detained – illegally – some of his supporters did what had never been seen in the history of Pakistan. Loot and burn some military bases and especially residences of high command.
The primacy of civil society is a dispute that the Pakistani political class has never resolved, in three quarters of a century. The athlete Imran Jan, even though he was a product of the most select schools in Lahore, had practically no chance of winning it. Especially when faced with the rest of the parties, eager to share power with the permission of the generals in a return to what they call, without shame, “the Pakistan of old.”
The other major party in the running, the Pakistan People’s Party, with little chance of winning, is led by the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto and grandson of the prime minister executed by the military, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. .
The type of historical burden on our shoulders that Rahul Gandhi, fourth-generation leader of the Congress Party, can perfectly understand in neighboring India. Not in vain, New Delhi continues to be the obsession of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, which, whoever wins, will continue to set the line when it comes to relations with India, China and the United States, as well as politics. nuclear.
The disputed Kashmir is still present in the claims of the Pakistanis, who, however, live for the most part more dependent on making ends meet, gripped by low growth – poorly distributed – and high inflation. To make matters worse, each new loan from the International Monetary Fund – painstakingly negotiated by the country’s bureaucratic and military elite, since their enviable lifestyle depends on it – is accompanied by new cuts to the anemic Pakistani social state. Asking them to vote, so that nothing changes, is asking a lot, even at gunpoint.
The day of reflection leaves 26 dead in two attacks next to political headquarters
Two bomb attacks in the province of Balochistan have left at least 26 dead and 37 injured this Wednesday, a day of reflection in Pakistan. The deadliest device – with a provisional death toll of fourteen – was placed next to the political office of an independent candidate, in the Pishin district. Moments later the second exploded, next to the headquarters of an Islamist political party, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), in Qilla Saifullah, near the Afghan border. Although the attacks have not been claimed, they appear to bear the hallmarks of the Balochistan Liberation Army, a secular secessionist guerrilla. Last month, Iran and Pakistan exceptionally attacked their respective territories, with the pretext of crushing Baluchi armed organizations taking refuge in the neighboring country. Pakistan routinely accuses India of supporting the Beluchi armed struggle, while New Delhi accuses Islamabad of destabilizing the Kashmir Valley by infiltrating terrorists.