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Hanzala Aman

Naya Pakistan: Democratic handover or military takeover?

Pakistan

Pakistan has just finished its Nation Assembly Elections and it would see only the second democratic handover of the power in 71 years of its inception. This is being seen as the most anticipated one because of the several reasons. Pakistan has fought hard to achieve the peace and security, and democracy is flourishing in the country. This election has seen the involvement of the military, judiciary and intelligence institutions and a new electoral law is in the place. An interesting thing with the new law is the nullification of election results in a constituency where female vote count goes below 10%. Also, many hardline Islamist parties have been mainstreamed after they were allowed by the election commission to contest elections.

 Erstwhile Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – who was ousted by the supreme court in July 2017 on corruption charges and later barred from politics for life- had tried hard to make military subservient to the parliament and his government had repeatedly locked the horns with the military. Panama leaks had helped with the rise of the military–judicial institutional alliance and with a passive electoral engineering to resist PMN-L from coming back to power. Media was also intimidated and attacked by the establishment for criticizing the military role in meddling with the politics. The whole campaign was ruthless and was rattled by violence in which candidates of several parties were targeted. Even Islamic State seems to have had a stake in the elections as it claimed an attack in southwestern Baluchistan province, in which 149 people were killed, including a parliamentary candidate.

 The main opponent in the election and favourite to the establishment was Pakistan Tahrik Insaf (PTI) led by the former star cricketer Imran Khan. The results showed that PTI has won as many as 119- which is few short of a majority, needing only minor coalition to form the government.

Why it matters for India?

During the decades of troubles and insecurity in Pakistan, India too had been affected all along. During the past decade, as Pakistan has gone towards the stability and democracy has grown stronger, India too has seen a relatively calmer phase. Imran Khan, who promised of a “Naya Pakistan”, is expected to swear oath soon. It is none but him who should be taken more seriously than Nawaz Sharif. Not only that he has been allegedly colluding with the military, he is being seen romancing with Islamist leadership in Pakistan. What’s more disturbing is his political trajectory from a liberal politician to a fervent nationalist one. In his visit to India in 2012, which was before previous general elections, he projected himself as a promising leader in which India could have hopes. He talked of limiting military interventions, disengaging from the wars and even seemed willing to acknowledge the evidence of 2008 Mumbai Attacks if he came to power. Fast forward to the campaigns of 2018 election, although he abstained from discussing foreign policies he showed signs of Anti-India sentiments.

As a Prime Minister Elect, Khan has not only vowed to root out corruption and uplift the poor but also projected himself as an iconoclast by swearing to use a modest office instead of a “palace”. In terms of foreign policy, he has already indicated further improving the ties with China and bringing in the investment. This would definitely mean further militarization of CPEC which is definitely against Indian interest. He has put India in the last among the several countries he discussed the foreign policy, which indicates his restraint when it comes to India. He talked about solving the Kashmir issue, claiming the high number of Human Rights Violation from the Indian side. On the issues of terrorism, much tactfully, he demanded of India to relinquish blame game and establish an amicable relationship with other and to fight poverty together. He has long to go to prove that his government is not a pawn for the military establishment and that it is indeed a democratic handover and not a closeted military take over as the world stipulates.

In the coming days when a new government will be formed in our neighbour, we cannot much expect independent talks with the elected government. Khan mentioning Kashmir in his maiden speech further makes it difficult to have a meaningful diplomatic talk. With the new government in Pakistan and India gearing up for the general elections in less than a year, we can but only wait and watch how the relation between the two neighbours would be – amicable or hostile.

 

Disclaimer:

Hanzala Aman is a columnist writing for HW News Network.  The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of HW News Network or any employee thereof. HW News Network makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

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