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Pakistani generals in spotlight after Khan's PTI party wins

Pakistani generals in spotlight after Khan's PTI party wins

 


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Four days after a shocking election result shook Pakistan's establishment, all eyes are on the powerful generals who have long been seen as the ultimate arbiters of politics in that country.

Their influence, constant in this country since independence in 1947, suddenly appears in doubt according to supporters of the imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Candidates backed by the former leader won more seats in last week's general election than any other political bloc, posing a remarkable challenge to the establishment that seemed determined to suppress them.

Khan's party is unlikely to be able to form a government as its candidates did not secure an absolute majority and other parties are unlikely to ally with it. They also all ran as independents and will be at a disadvantage in the complex seat allocation process that is expected to favor the party of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharifs.

Pakistan stunned as former PM Khans' party outperforms in elections

But the widespread perception among many Pakistanis that Khan's party, the Justice Movement (known as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI), is the real winner of last Thursday's election, which could have profound implications on the delicate balance between the Pakistani military and the military. civil leaders of the country.

For many of Khan's supporters, their vote was as much about sending an anti-establishment message as it was about supporting the imprisoned former prime minister. It is now clear that there is great anger against the establishment's open and constant interference in civil affairs, an interference that has only grown over the years because there has been no of firm political consensus against this interference, wrote the Pakistani newspaper Dawn in a post-election editorial.

After Khan clashed with the military two years ago, Pakistani officials virtually dismantled his party. Many of its leaders have been arrested, including Khan, who has been convicted so far in three separate cases, and party offices were raided the week of the election.

The key question now is how the establishment will respond to its unprecedented failure to sideline the party politically: by further repressing Khan and his allies, or by trying to reconcile with the former prime minister they supported in the past?

The Pakistani military, however, is no stranger to challenges from civilian leaders and the public. He has weathered serious political storms in the past and emerged more emboldened and with a seemingly even tighter grip on politics.

Some political leaders will always be ready to stand with the establishment and enjoy power, said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political analyst. This electoral result constitutes a serious setback for the establishment, but it will ultimately prevail, as in the past.

However, the Pakistani establishment may also be underestimating the growing cynicism and anger in crisis-ridden middle-class neighborhoods, which tend to be bastions of support for Khan, a nationalist politician advocating a European-style welfare state based on Islamic values.

Even though Khan has failed to deliver on many of his core promises, as even some of his supporters acknowledge, the former prime minister's appeal could intensify if the next government excludes Khan's allies and fails to to stimulate economic growth.

A weak coalition government is not good news for Pakistan's economy, which is still in intensive care, said Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

For many of Khan's supporters, last week's elections are as much a reason for resignation as for hope.

We are witnessing a revolution, said Shakir, 29, who did not want to give his last name because he works for a ministry. But he warned that if Khan's party fails to come to power following this vote, fury could ultimately give way to despair and apathy. So no one will come and vote in the next elections.

Rarely have anti-establishment attitudes been so widespread and expressed so publicly as in the days following the vote. Objections to the voting process were raised across the political spectrum, and one candidate from a smaller, traditionally military-aligned party even objected to his own election victory, saying he was seen unfairly allocated a seat in the Provincial Assembly which should have gone to his PTI. supported opponent.

Standing next to a shopping mall in Islamabad, Kashaf Mumtaz, a 26-year-old marketing freelancer, and Shehzadi Najaf, a 23-year-old medical student, said it was clear to them that Khan's party would not be allowed to return to power anytime soon. .

But they still came to vote for his candidates. We wanted to make it difficult for the establishment, Najaf said.

Both complained that the country's military-dominated political system has neglected younger generations of Pakistani voters, continuing to promote politicians such as Sharif, 74, who ran on a platform pro-business that has remained largely the same over the past three decades.

Mumtaz and Najaf pointed to long delays in vote counting as another symptom of the country's political flaws. As PTI-backed candidates appeared to take a large lead Thursday evening in unofficial polls released by media outlets, the counting suddenly appeared to slow, sparking allegations of electoral fraud and questions from international observers that remain largely unanswered. It took three days for the final provisional count to be announced.

If the army had backed down and not intervened when it became clear that the PTI-sponsored independents were doing well, I think it would have been a big boost for the army in the eyes of the Pakistani population , said Michael Kugelman, South Asia analyst at the Wilson Center.

But many Pakistanis feel the military has suffered a major blow, he said.

Sources

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2/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/12/pakistan-generals-elections-imran-khan/

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