‘Complicated’, ‘entangled’ and capable of inviting serious concern for the sanctity of its democracy is how Urdu media described the recent elections in Pakistan.
Various political analyses and editorials across Urdu outlets expressed deep worry over the fairness of the polls and the legitimacy of the results, while also raising questions on the country’s Election Commission and its role.
In focus is a possible case of rigging. Were the votes won by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-supported candidate Dr. Yasmin Rashid fudged, asked newspapers.
Another major question raised by Urdu media was about the future of the independent candidates backed by the PTI. Will they be given the right to represent their constituencies or will there be some measure of horse-trading? Will manipulative politics take over and will the people’s mandate be compromised?
Some analysts believe that it will not be easy for anyone to get the PTI-backed independent candidates on board to form the government as their immediate demand would be the release of their leader, Imran Khan. A possibility has also been expressed that these winning candidates will never stop milking public sympathy for Imran Khan.
In some analyses, the poll outcome has been linked directly to the popularity of Imran Khan, who is in jail and facing many charges. It is claimed that he put up a strong and successful political fight against the establishment.
However, while many serious questions have been raised on the credibility of the elections due to the delay and sluggishness in the announcement of results, the Election Commission and security agencies are, at once, being lauded for conducting peaceful polls.
And yet, some analysts have referred to the new political situation in Pakistan as an ‘after shock’. To overcome the devastation caused by it will not be easy, they have claimed.
According to Urdu media, the coalition government’s task ahead is riddled with challenges. The biggest one, after the formation of the government, will be to ensure the government’s stability.
Questions on autonomy
Out of the many analyses and editorials of the previous two days in Urdu media, two pertinent questions have been raised by eminent litterateur Zahida Hina. Will the autonomy of the National Assembly that will come into existence as a result of these elections be accepted? Will the prime minister elected by the parliament be able to complete his constitutional term?
The fact is that the future of Pakistan depends on the answers to these two questions.
First, let us look at the Urdu daily Jang which has termed the recently held polls as the biggest elections in the history of the country. In one of its editorials, it said that these elections were held at a time when terrorism is once again raising its head in the country. In view of the perceived terror threat, postponement of the elections was also speculated but with the efforts of the security agencies, voting was conducted peacefully across the country, it said.
Describing the last five years of Pakistan as a phase that saw the worst political crisis, the editorial said that these years have had a deep impact on the country’s economy, resulting in severe inflation. As a result, people took a keen interest in these elections and the process also carried with it a sense of hope, it claimed.
The column further stated that since no party got a majority, the role of independent candidates in the House has become crucial. It also urged all political parties to work together for the betterment of the country.
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A strong government
Many of the newspaper’s analyses refer to electoral transparency and say that its biggest proof is that opposition candidates have received good votes in PML-N’s stronghold Lahore. It has clarified that not all independent winners are PTI supported.
The negative aspect of these results has also been highlighted. It is feared that since no party got the majority, a strong and powerful democratic government will not be formed. Such a government is crucial to handle political instability and save the sinking economy of the country.
Another analysis claimed that Imran Khan was unfairly targeted and thrown behind bars. Had the elections been transparent, Imran would have won with a clear majority, it said. The analyst quoted the international media and claimed that seven out of ten Pakistanis do not have confidence in the transparency of elections. It added that it was like a puppet show which will continue because what happened cannot be termed rigging but a dacoity.
While some analysts believe that the people defeated both capitalistic and tyrannical forces.
Terrorism, law and order
Daily Express has not given any direct opinion on the elections and its results. However, it claimed that the holding of elections has restored people’s trust in democracy. One of its editorials said that in the current situation the party that forms the government should first improve law and order because without crushing terrorism the dream of economic development will not be fulfilled. Emphasising the need for a stable government, the Express wished for a government that provides employment and controls inflation.
Some analyses published in Daily Express praised the Pakistani Army for being the pride of the country as it played a key role in conducting the elections.
There are some concerns for the new government and it is claimed that the situation is rough for the new parliament and the government. Everyone is aware of the gravity of economic crises in the country. “The threat of terrorism is also lurking. It is very important to arrest the group with many faces which is active inside Pakistan,” the paper said.
The newspaper also advocated for carrying forward the democratic process in the country smoothly.
Horse trading and manipulation
It quoted Nawaz Sharif’s offer to all the parties to form a government together. “This Pakistan belongs to all of us. Everyone should come together to get the country out of its difficulties. People’s aspirations should be fulfilled. Only then will we come out of this maelstrom,” it said.
Praising the former PM’s offer, the newspaper commented that although the offer is good and political parties should work together, if a new market of manipulation and trading the support of elected members is opened for the sake of achieving parliamentary supremacy, it will be nothing more than the theft of the mandate.
It added that if the Pakistan Muslim League (N) is able to form the government with the Pakistan People’s Party and other parties, another chapter of the Pakistan Democratic Movement government will be witnessed.
According to the newspaper, this political alliance may have ruled the country for about 16 months before the elections, its performance was nothing to write home about. Be it inflation or unemployment, the country rose on every negative index. Political tension and instability also remained at their peak during this phase. Even after the government collapsed, the coalition parties kept blaming each other for inflation and economic decline and no party readily took responsibility for the decisions of the government.
The newspaper added that the changing trends among voters should worry politicians.
It also put the Election Commission in the dock due to the delay in declaring the election results.
How will a government be formed?
One of Daily Duniya‘s analyses expressed concern over the instability of the incoming government and claimed that if Imran Khan commands a strong hold on the independent members, they will not join the government. Instead they would demand that the charges on their leader should be dropped. They can become a part of the government only if the new government accepts their demand.
But it is widely believed that this matter will create hindrances in the formation of the government. If the independent members choose N (League), the People’s Party will remain in the opposition. However, in this situation the original PTI will not be part of this stratagem and there will be a risk of an unstable government. Imran Khan is a rebel by nature. He is bound to resist and the fate of the new government will continue to hang in the balance.
The analysis also states that these results once again prove that there is nothing in store for religious groups in electoral politics. It has given the credit of peaceful elections to Pakistan Army.
The daily Nawa-e-Waqt has also raised questions on the transparency of the elections and wrote that the atmosphere of political instability currently being created in the country as a result of the polls is also posing a threat to the security and law and order situation of the country. Therefore, there is a need for all stakeholders including the political leadership to come together and decide on a concrete strategy to stabilise the elected assembly.
In some of its analyses, the election results have been described as sympathy for Imran Khan and public anger.
The newspaper also jibed at the current results and the discrepancies in them saying that it seemed to be the work of ‘secret angels’ who cast their votes. These ‘angels’ also took away votes, when convenient, it said.
A democratic protocol
Daily Ausaf also questioned the Election Commission and wrote that it is the responsibility of the political parties to accept their respective situations instead of forming a government through horse trading.
One of its analyses stated that these results will perhaps open the eyes of the establishment. It espoused a democratic way and discouraged the buying out of independent candidates. If this happens, it will be no less than a political revolution. With this, the previous blot of interference in politics by the establishment, that is, the Pakistani Army will be cleaned and democracy will get a chance to flourish, the paper said.
Ausaf also observed that it is important for political parties to keep the democratic protocol in mind and heartily congratulate each other on their victory. In fact, it has strongly advocated for all parties to come together to form the government.
Dawn has also held the incumbent government and the entire state machinery responsible for it and has written that it has already become clear that these elections will not prove to be the solution to the country’s political crisis. Using fear tactics to suppress dissent will likely lead the country to crisis and instability. “It is a shame that such an important opportunity was carelessly wasted,” it said.
In short, Urdu media has expressed various concerns over the results and has also expressed the apprehension that Imran Khan’s PTI may not keep quiet and will likely come out on the streets in protest before the formation of the next government.
Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.