General election or chaos | By Tariq Aqil

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General election or chaos

THE raging fires of a political crisis continue to haunt the people of Pakistan. The country may not be on the verge of an economic collapse but there is no denying the fact that an economic crisis has the country in its vicious grip since the last many years and this catastrophic economic upheaval has the potential to cause major social unrest in Pakistan leading to chaos and political fragmentation on a monumental scale.

Imran Khan has finally crossed the redline in spite of reservations and objections from the PML-Q and his own party he has now dissolved the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and the KP.

The PML-N and the PPP have both graciously accepted the decision of the PTI and both parties have instructed their workers to gird their loins for the inevitable general election.

It is now an open secret that the hybrid regime of the PTI headed by Imran Khan was imposed on the country by the powerful military establishment and the moment they removed their blessings the entire edifice of the Imran rule came tumbling down like a house of cards.

Since after the general elections of 2018 the country has been in desperate need of a fair, free and transparent general election.

The reality is that only an elected Govt.or a coalition of some parties will be capable of tackling the serious economic and political challenges that this country is facing today.

Without a fresh mandate and renewed public confidence and trust there is no possible way to move forward with a renewed pledge to tackle the multitude of problems we are faced with.

A new govt. with a fresh mandate is no guarantee that will solve the thorny problems but they will certainly be in a position to tackle these problems in the way wanted by their electorate or otherwise be booted out for not performing or engaging in bad governance again.

Throughout our political history we have seen many civilian governments installed by the all-powerful military establishment, civilian government that danced to the tune of the military masters who did not feel accountable to their voters and remained in power as long as they satisfied the power behind the throne and were least pushed about public welfare.

Imran Khan’s popularity graph started going south during the last days of his rule and finally took a nose dive during the successful vote of no confidence tabled against him.

With the rule of the PDM government, the popularity of Imran Khan got a new lease on life and inexplicably started to rise again.

This renewed popularity is not due to his personal charisma but due to the false and concocted story of an international conspiracy of regime change.

His renewed appeal took the fancy of his fanatic followers on his anti-military stance and his continued attacks on his former mentor General Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

Imran Khan very adroitly managed to convince his supporters that his bad governance and poor performance was entirely due to the control of the military establishment and he cannot be blamed for any shortcomings during his almost four years in power.

The PML-N and the PPP both now need to distance themselves from the comfortable umbrella of the military Establishment that is something almost all political parties have come to use in the past including the PTI with their rosy promises of an Islamic State and the utopian dream of Riasat-i-Madina.

About time that all political leaders learn to stand on their own feet without the helpful crutches of the military establishment, claims of the military being neutral and not interfering in politics are yet to be proved.

The establishment in Pakistan is very fond of being the fountainhead of all power and control may not be very willing or ready to relinquish control so easily.

The military in Pakistan was genuinely neutral in the elections of 1971 conducted under a military regime and now there is a dire and pressing need that in the next general election no form of political engineering should be adopted as was done in the 1980s by forming the IJI to keep the PPP from gaining power.

The army needs to cleanse itself of the stigma of the 2018 elections and the follies of 2022 and hopefully the new leadership of the army are well aware of all past follies and will make sure that those idiocies are not repeated for the greater good of the country and the nation.

Imran Khan’s past performance is proof that even now he will refuse to accept the result of any elections if it does not result in a clean sweep for his party. We have witnessed his antics in 2013 and 2014.

We could again see some sort of an alliance between the religious fanatics and the PTI as seen during the partnership of Maulana Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan to topple the elected government of the day.

Holding a general election in 2023 will be no different, the Kaptaan of the PTI will not accept defeat but this time with no backing of the military Establishment he will not have the capacity to destabilise an elected government.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.