Political Captain of Pakistan

In post poll scenario, if he tries to mend himself or undoes the Army’s dictates, he will risk to be shown the same place which former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in today

By Shankar Kumar

By August 14 which happens to be Pakistan’s Independence Day, Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned politician who heads Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will be sworn-in as the Prime Minister. Though he will be running a government in support with independents or smaller parties, it is less likely that he will not complete five-year term in office as he is being backed by Pakistan’s powerful cliques like Army and ISI. It should be remembered that these two institutions, which form a ‘deep state’ in Pakistan, worked hard to ensure that the results of the July 25 National Assembly elections went in favour of Imran Khan-headed party. For this, tools like booth rigging, a usual spectacle in semi-dictatorial or full dictatorial regimes of the world, were applied by Pakistan’s deep state.

Pre-poll opinion poll surveys had showed Imran Khan as a dark horse, but it was the Pakistan Muslim League-N which was projected as a major winner in the National Assembly polls for 272 seats. But since democracy in Pakistan runs under Army’s bayonet, there was no question of poll verdict coming through ballots cast in good faith with large public participation. In the ham-handed election, only 51.85 per cent turnout was recorded. The PML, the Pakistan Peoples Party and others lodged complaints with the country’s Election Commission, stating that their polling agents and supporters were forcibly removed from the booths.

The European Union monitoring team which arrived in Pakistan to observe the National Assembly polls expressed its unhappiness over the way the election was conducted in the country. “Although there were several legal provisions aimed at ensuring a level field, we have concluded that there was a lack of quality and opportunity,” Michael Gahler, Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission was quoted by Pakistani Daily Dawn as saying in a press conference in Islamabad on July 27. Several Pakistani watchers described the just concluded National Assembly polls as the dirtiest ever election in Pakistan’s history. They can’t be wronged on their assessment, given that the campaign was full of vitriol and abuse. Even on the Election Day violence hit many places in the country. In Balochistan, dozens of people were killed in the terrorists’ triggered bombings.

For Pakistan, where the Army uses civil administration as a mask to continue with its dirty game, there is hardly an institution which is not subservient to its dictates. In that condition to expect that the Election Commission will act on complaints against rigging is like music to the buffalo. That ensures that the Army’s blue-eyed boy Imran Khan and his party PTI remain unchallenged in the lead position in Pakistan’s murky political condition. Pakistan “cricket’s greatest playboy,” whose tall, dark and handsome image, according to the London Evening Standard, led to him being “a favourite with women during his cricketing career,” will not do anything–on domestic or foreign affairs front–without the Army’s bidding. In that condition to expect that Pakistan under Imran Khan will behave differently than Nawaz Sharif or his predecessors will be foolhardy. The PTI’s manifesto and the party leaders’ comment against India and Kashmir during campaigning are proof that Imran will not able to shatter the pact with the country’s Army. Imran himself indulged in slurs and innuendoes during the campaigning. He castigated Nawaz Sharif for being soft towards India and friendly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the post poll scenario, if he tries to mend himself or undoes the Army’s dictates, he will risk to be shown the same place which former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in today. To stay on Prime Ministerial chair, he will have to bear with home grown terrorists and jehadis like Hafiz Sayeed, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Masood Azhar and others. Even if they come in the way of his dream of “Naya Pakistan,” he will not be able to weed them out as they are used as external fronts by the Army and ISI in their deal with India and Afghanistan.

Similarly, it will be very difficult to presume that he will go against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The $62 billion project will place Pakistan in the same situation in which Sri Lankans are currently; they are not able to finance the loans they have taken from China for the development of several infra projects, including Hambantota port. Failing to provide loan, Colombo has given the port on 99 years lease to China. It is seen by foreign watchers as Sri Lanka’s compromise with its sovereignty. Pakistan is moving towards the same direction, they feel. Earlier, several Pakistani lawmakers raised questions on the viability of the CPEC project. They suspected that the project would throw Pakistan in the deep marsh of debts and would one day even play with Independence of the country. However, the Army which is milking money out of the controversial CPEC project, will not be enamoured to any suggestion that goes against the multi-billion project which connects China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port crisscrossing Gilgit-Baltistan area of occupied Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and other areas.

Nor will Imran Khan be effective in his handling with the US. Terrorism is the key reason to bring a gulf between the two erstwhile allies. Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and Jammat-ud-Dawa head Hafiz Saeed on whose head the US has placed a $10 million bounty, is constantly being encouraged to indulge in his nefarious anti-India, anti-US activities. The Mumbai attack mastermind backed Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek was allowed to participate in the election. Though all 50 candidates, who were fielded by Hafiz Saeed, lost their deposits in the election, the development shocked the world. This was seen as an attempt by Pakistani terrorists and jihadi elements to grab power. In this background, how the PTI chief will implement his ‘Naya Pakistan’ dream and how he will lure in investments to make his country South Asia’s new economic powerhouse is a million dollar question. But then in the Pakistan opposition parties’ noise against the Army’s devious role in the controversial election, there remained a fact that Sharif family’s influence on Punjab remained un-shattered. PML-N has secured the largest number of seat in the provincial election in Punjab, thereby, puncturing the Army’s all-out war to hit at Sharif family’s political stake in the largest province of the country.