The general election , scheduled from 25 July, 2018 in Pakistan, is going to be a most clamorous and violent election in the history of Pakistan. The writings are already on the wall. The stage is now set for an extremely dangerous and bloody general election, the main roles being played by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, his younger brother and President of PML-N party Shahbaz and of course, Imran Khan the ex- cricket hero and strong contender for the PM post. The unseen back stage manager of this drama is the Pakistan Army who holds all the strings of this puppet show.
Nawaz’s dramatic re- entry to Pakistan just before the elections and the well- orchestrated surrender to Pak authorities, have created ripples in the already fragile political scenario of Pakistan.
Events unfolding in Pakistan
Nawaz Sharif was disqualified to be the Prime Minister by the Supreme Court last year in the Panama Papers case. After the SC ousted him in July 2017, the court banned him from heading PML- N party founded by him. His brother Shahbaz who was the Punjab province CM, became party president though Nawaz remains the power behind the throne. Since a host of his allies have been either disqualified by the courts or face corruption charges.
Nawaz Shariff and Maryam were later convicted on 6 July, 2018 in the Evenfield properties case linked to the Shariff family’s ownership of four luxury flats in London. Shariff and Maryam were sentenced to 10 and 7 years respectively by the supreme court. The family also faces two more corruption cases in the accountability court – Al- Azizia Steel mills and Flagship investments- in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding off- shore assets.
Nawaz Shariff’s return with Maryam to face a ten year prison sentence is perceived as a high-stakes gamble to galvanise their beleaguered party, ahead of the July 25 general election. Sharif hopes to shake up the election race marred by accusations that Pakistan’s powerful military operating behind the scenes to skew the contest in favour of ‘Imran Khan’, who has described Nawaz as a “criminal who deserves no support”.
Shahbaz managed to take out a huge rally to receive Nawaz on his home-coming prior to his arrest, despite the imposition of Section 144 which bars the assembly of more than 5 people. Nawaz Shariff’s supporters were stopped at Airport and they clashed with the riot control police. Around 1500 supporters of Nawaz along with his brother Shahbaz and few national leaders were arrested under 7-ATA( Anti Terrorism Act) and various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. Police Officers are complainants in all there FIRs. This move has been predicted to disqualify many leaders of the PML- N from contesting the ensuing elections. Nawaz and daughter Maryam have been lodged in the high security Adiala Jail in Rawalindi as ‘B’ class VIP prisoners on 13 July 2018.
Troubled Nation prior to General Elections
In an attempt to create a panic situation in Pakistan ahead of general elections, terrorist groups have engineered major suicide bomber attacks at 2 election rallies killing more than 130 people including a senior nationalist leader and at least 200 severely injured. Militants created blasts at a rally taken out by Baluchistan Awami Party( BAP), targeting Siraj Raisani in Mastung area in the troubled Balochistan Province. The ‘Islamic State’ terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack. About 16-20 kilograms of explosives were used for the attacks. The attack came hours after a bomb hit a rally of ‘Akram Khan Durrani’ of Mutahida Majlis Amal( MMA), an alliance of religious party, including Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam- Fazal( JUL-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami, in Bannu area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. It’s interesting to note that Durrani is contesting the July 25 elections against Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf Chief, Imran Khan.
Care taker President Mamnoon Hussain and PM Nasirul Mulk condemned the barbaric attacks, though the government claimed that terrorism had been wiped out from Pakistan. On Monday, in a separate incident a suicide bomber killed Awami National Party ( ANP) leader and candidate in the elections, Haroon Bilour and 19 others at an election rally in Peshawar city. Pakistan Tehreek- e- Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the ANP rally.
The election cauldron of Pakistan is boiling with violence, mutual mistrust and hatred among political parties and terrorist groups. Who is stirring the soup? The answer is obvious. The omnipotent unseen power in Pakistan- The Pak Army. Nawaz Shariff has taken a risky decision to come back to Pakistan at this juncture and get arrested hoping to ride on the sympathy wave, as a desperate attempt to win over the voters of Pakistan. But he may be taking a huge risk by staking everything in this gamble, including his life. The next fort-night is critical and could be a game changer affecting the future of Pakistan. Hence the General Election of Pakistan is a most significant event for India too, determining our future diplomatic relationship with the trouble-torn nation.