The outcome of 11th general elections in Pakistan brought confusion to the entire country. All political parties have rejected the election results by accusing the deep state of undermining the people’s mandate in order to install a pro-establishment puppet government, the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI). The PTI has become the country’s largest party by securing the majority of seats in the national and provincial assemblies during the July 2018 elections. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, around 370 thousand army personnel were stationed in every corner of the country to facilitate the peaceful conduction of the elections. It was also one of the most expensive elections in the countries history, costing more than 22 billion rupees (PKR).
Before the election, caretaker federal and provincial governments were established and the army was called to assist the election commission of Pakistan (ECP) due to threats of terrorism , as non-state actors could attempt to sabotage the democratic process. Deadly and mass-scale terror attacks were also carried out during the political parties’ campaign. It is commonly believed that the attacks were an endeavor to corner Pakistan’s left-wing socialist and progressive parties the same way they were sidelined in the previous elections of 2013. Major political parties also blamed state institutions and the caretaker governing system of pre-poll rigging by using ‘lawfare’ as a weapon to secure a win for the PTI. Rival parties have also accused state intelligence agencies for political engineering in favor of Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI.
All ifs and buts aside, political parties went into the elections to avoid the shadow of martial law and dictatorship. Data shows that the total number registered voters was 105.95 million with 59.22 male and 46.73 million female. The ECP had set up 85,058 polling stations with 244,687 polling booths throughout the country. It hired the services of 819,119 polling staffers from different government departments to act as presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers to conduct polls. More than 120 political parties enlisted with the ECP but 95 had fielded their candidates before the contest. Interestingly, the members of some banned religious organizations also took part in the elections of national and provincial assemblies.
The polling process started at 8am and continued until 6pm without a break. The mobile application “Result Transmission System (RTS)” which sends voting result data to the central database of the ECP was introduced with the assistance of National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). As polling ended, the media started their manipulation: most of the TV channels broadcasted extremely biased reporting in favor of Mr. Khan.
As polling ended and the counting began, Pakistan’s mainstream parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) raised questions over the counting process by saying that their polling agents were forcefully pushed outside polling booths. According to the ECP code of conduct, counting must be started in the presence of polling agents. Candidates were not given Form 45, which contains the counting results. Likewise, the online result application software, RTS, proved unsuccessful on the eve of general election, and as a result the ECP failed to give results at the mandatory time; 2am, as mentioned in the 2017 election act. The delay increased confusion over the disputed results.
Despite all of this, the election commission announced official confirmed results on the evening of 28th July. The PTI enjoyed success across the country winning 115 seats in the national assembly, the PML-N took 64 and Pakistan People’s party grabbed 43.
The PTI needs 51 percent to secure government control at the federal level. Nonetheless, Khan is still having trouble securing the prime minister position, his party needs to form a coalition government to make it happen. All parties have rejected the election results except the PTI and the independent candidates. The All parties’ conference (APC) demanded a re-election, if there demands are not met they will not take their oaths. Constitutionally, it is mandatory to elect a Prime Minister within 21 days from polling day; that means by 15th August.
In such a scenario, the PPP is the only hope for addressing the complicated political situation, as it is considered the mother of Pakistani democracy; the party’s leadership was martyred to establish and strengthen democratic norms in the country. That’s why all anti-PTI/ establishment parties have offered premiership to the co-chairman of PPP, Asif Ali Zardari. Truthfully, Zardari is the most seasoned politician of Pakistan, as he returned to the national assembly after completing the first peaceful transfer of power during his presidency from 2008 to 2013. He was the man who made history helping to establish democracy of Pakistan. The PTI has requested the PPP to join the coalition government, but Mr. Zardri refused to make a political alliance with the PTI. Surprisingly, the chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zaradri, during his press conference regarding the rigged elections, announced himself as an opposition leader. He appealed to all political parties to participate in the parliament for sake of the continuity of Pakistani democracy.
The only positive aspect of the current elections was that they provided Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to emerge as an important leader, not only for Pakistan but also for South Asia. Mr. Bilawal decided to bring up the election rigging issue on the floor of parliament rather than in the streets, he also appealed other political parties to remain engaged in parliamentary process.
Another interesting element of Pakistani politics is the number game. All eyes are on Mr. Zardari who is believed to be a master politician that gets things done. Numerically, the PPP can easily make a political alliance, as all parties offered premiership to the PPP to oppose the establishment.
Here are some possible scenarios if we run a number game on possible power plays in Pakistani politics:
Both political alliances are unable to form government as both needed 51 percent of the casted vote of the Member National Assembly. In this scenario, the following parties could play a pivotal role:
Pakistan Muslim League: 4
Muttehida Qaumi Movement: 6
Jamhori Wattan Party: 1
*Pakistani political history suggests that successful independent candidates usually put their weight in favor of the party forming the treasury benches.
At the time of writing this article, the PPP is holding opposition benches in the National Assembly. The PTI has already captured a mandate in the KP assembly like the PPP in Sindh, Whether Balochistan will work with the coalition government and Punjab yet to be decided.