Pakistan general elections 2018: Why things are getting murkier as D-day nears

The armed forces, ISI, judiciary, executive, National Accountability Bureau and the EC are at loggerheads, each accusing the other of excesses.

 |  6-minute read |   23-07-2018
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Pakistan seems to be on the brink of a "multiple-organ failure" ahead of the July 25 elections, as its main body parts — the powerful judiciary, the armed forces, the Inter Services Intelligence( ISI), the executive, the National Accountability Bureau and the Election Commission of Pakistan — are at loggerheads, each accusing the other of excesses.

The pre-election scene is charged with tension and fraught with threats of violence with sporadic blasts and targeting of some candidates. Rhetoric has reached fever pitch, which is an ominous sign of uncertainty. Against this backdrop of hostile atmosphere, a fresh salvo was fired on July 22 when the Pakistan Army asked the Supreme Court to take appropriate action against the ISI for its alleged interference in the election process as well as in judiciary, pressurising the chief justice and other judges to get favourable verdicts.

imran_072318125701.jpgImran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), addressing his supporters during a campaign meet in Karachi ahead of general elections. (Credit: Reuters photo)

In a "democratic" set-up, it is hard to conceive that an army is directing the Supreme Court to act, forgetting its locus standi and exceeding its brief.  Such development comes in the wake of specific allegations levelled (July 21) by justice Shaukat Aziz of the Islamabad High Court that the all-powerful ISI was manipulating judicial proceedings in several cases, including that of ousted and incarcerated prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Here, it was further alleged that for hearing, benches were constituted at the express diktat and directions of the ISI. 

Significantly, it was further alleged by justice Shaukat Aziz that the ISI had told the chief justice that the judiciary must ensure that Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and son-in-law Capt Safdar remained confined in the jails at least till the elections are over. This is absolutely bizarre and blatant interference in judicial process. It’s hard to fathom if such practices are in vogue even in some of the African, South American, or Caribbean nations.

By that standard, Pakistan appears most uncivil and backward when it comes to holding an election is concerned.

In an apparent attempt to do some damage-control exercise in the aftermath of such serious allegations by the judge, the army has said it called for action to safeguard the sanctity and credibility of the state institutions. It appears too late now as process of meddling has already begun with involvement of the deep state.

Intriguingly, justice Siddiqui has also claimed that there were clear overtures from the ISI to Siddiqui that he would be made the chief justice of Pakistan in case he complied with the armed forces/ISI.

sharif_072318125716.jpgThe ISI has allegedly 'instructed' the chief justice of Supreme Court not to release Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam till elections are over. (Credit: Reuters file photo)

Meanwhile, the tone and tenor adopted by the various political parties is highly condemnable. To support this argument, we saw Shehbaz Sharif (Nawaz’s brother ) while addressing an election rally, asserted that if the PML( N) comes to power , Pakistan would be made better than India.

The uncharitable statement was highly avoidable. Instead of touching upon multiple election-related domestic issues, Shehbaz Sharif chose to drag India into his party’s campaign trail.

Surprisingly, he also asserted that Indians would come to Wagah border and call Pakistanis their masters. Again, was this remark called for?

The PML (N) can’t use India baiting to score an election victory. There was no worthwhile mention by any contesting party or candidates that terrorism should be contained and tough measures needed to rein in elements like Hafiz Saeed and his ilk. This is particularly imperative as a large group of radical Islamists are in the poll fray who, if voted to power, are likely to transport Pakistan to medieval ages with Sharia and other regressive — primitive polices in place. That’s a dreaded foresight. 

Talking of terror, notorious terror-linked outfits, including the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan under Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Ahle Sunnat Al Jamaat under Maulana Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi , Muttahida Majlise Amal under Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Sirajul Haq and Allama Sajid Naqvi are already in the fray and their hate speeches at the last minute of campaigning are expected to further vitiate the atmosphere.

Not to be left behind in aggressive posturing, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan of the Tehreek-e-Insaf Pakistan thundered on July 22 that all allegations against him and his party that they are being sponsored and propped up by Pakistan’s military establishment, especially the ISI, are unfounded. He also blamed the Indian media and other so-called vested quarters for maligning him by making ongoing allegations that Imran Khan is supported in moral and material terms by the ISI.

Khan conveniently forgets that it's not only the Indian media, but Pakistan’s own print and electronic media seem to have already inferred that he has the blessings of the all powerful ISI.

Things would be clear on July 26, when details of the election results will be known around mid-day.

pakii_072318010751.jpgPakistan has witnessed a series of bombings ahead of elections, thwarting hopes of a peaceful voting on July 25. (Credit: Reuters photo)

Recently in Islamabad, the intelligence chiefs of Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia met to find out ways and means to contain Islamic State-sponsored terror in the region.

The Islamic State in Pakistan's backyard has demonstrated its presence and might by killing more than a dozen people at the Kabul airport on July 22.

Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghan vice-president and a former warlord with strong connections with terror groups, was possibly the target. With next-door neighbour Afghanistan afflicted with IS-backed terror activities of such magnitude, Pakistan remains a fertile target, especially in the wake of elections.

The Taliban and IS affiliates may try and target Pakistan even after the polls. The coming days, therefore, seem highly vulnerable with the general elections barely 48 hours away. 

Also read: How rules were twisted to mainstream Hafiz Saeed's terror outfit in Pakistan politics

 

Writer

Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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