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Monday, February 12, 2024

Pak turmoil and Imran's troubles continue !!

Pakistanis still do not know which party will form their next government or who their next prime minister will be four days after the hotly-contested general elections.

Despite former PM Imran Khan's detention and the many hurdles thrown at his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), independent candidates backed by the party stunned observers by winning 93 National Assembly seats, the most by any party. However it is far, far  short of the 169-seat simple majority required to form Government. There were dozens of parties in the fray but the main contest was among Khan's PTI, whose candidates are running as independents, former three-time premier Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Bilawal Zardari Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

To some in Pakistan, the General elections are a farce -  a major political party, PTI, is being prevented from formal participation, while its leader, a former prime minister has been convicted in three different cases over the last one week alone.  

The Prime minister of Pakistan (Wazīr ē Aʿam)('Grand Vizier'),  is the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Executive authority is vested in the prime minister and his chosen cabinet, despite the president of Pakistan serving as the nominal head of executive. The prime minister is often the leader of the party or the coalition with a majority in the lower house of the Parliament of Pakistan, the National Assembly where he serves as Leader of the House.  

We will improve tax culture. People will pay taxes because they will see that their taxes are being spent on them. We will help farmers, the business community and help the youth to find jobs and develop their skills. Our money will be spent on human development. ~ thus spake this politician  !!  In 2019 Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan asked his Indian counterpart Shri  Narendra Modi to “give peace a chance” and assured him that he “stands by” his words and will “immediately act” if New Delhi provides Islamabad with “actionable intelligence” on the Pulwama attack.

It is turmoil in our neighbourhood Nation that shows animosity all the time, a Nation that shares land borders and chequered history !  .. Not so surprisingly some media in India started saying that India needs to learn from Imran .. .. the reality as always has been far different !  .. what will they have to say now needs to read and printed in Gold.

The fast bowler realised and found that political life is far different than a Cricket pitch as bouncers and beamers keep hurled at him as he stood with no protection. Things are certainly not good for Imran Khan who had been dallying with lies and propaganda against India and now realizes, fuelling Kashmir issue alone will not keep him in Office.  

I remember that Pongal Test in 1980 at Chepauk when Pakistan  toured India.  The star Batsman Zaheer Abbas failed miserably, getting out to Roger Binny;  some Pakis claimed that to be result of black magic ! .. .. Sandip Patil debuted and we so eagerly looked forward to his making runs – glaring at him in the net practice before the commencement of the Test.  Sunil Gavaskar made  166 and Kapil bowled so well – a 7 wicket haul in the 2nd  essay ensured a comfortable 10 wicket victory for India.  Imran Khan ran in long and hard and bowled fast – took 5 wickets too – those days there were rest days the 4th  day -  18th  Jan was a rest day.  Years later, in Feb 1987, Imran captained Pakis and scored a ton, which was overshadowed by a brilliant 123 laced with 18 fours and 2 sixers by local lad Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

Imran Khan  was a successful  Cricketer before entering politics.   One recalls that on that tour of 1983 – Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Sikhandar Bakht, Jallaluddin – repeatedly overstepped as Indian batsmen found the pace and swing too uncomfortable and lost the series badly. After 2 decades of international cricket, Khan   became a fulltime politician. 

In its  long political history, Pakistan  peppered with military coups and martial law, elections 2018 were to be  the second successive transition of power through a constitutional process from one elected government to another. However, political opponents, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and international observers such as the European Union alleged that irregularities and election rigging occurred in many parts of the country, particularly in rural and urban Sindh and Punjab provinces.   Imran Khan defeated their own system and became the PM of Pakistan .. and immediately spit venom .. .. on twitter taking  a potshot at our Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji,  over the cancellation of meeting between India and Pakistan. “Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” he tweeted”. Not so surprisingly some media in India started saying that India needs to learn from Imran .. .. the reality as always is far different !  .. .

The recent times have been very difficult for Imran as there have been one blow after another.  In a blow to  Imran Khan and his party, the former premier and his wife Bushra Bibi   were sentenced to 14 years in jail in the Toshakhana reference. Last month, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a fresh reference against the two in an accountability court for retaining a jewellery set received from Saudi crown prince against an undervalued assessment.

That was Imran’s third conviction, including the one in the cipher case a day earlier.   That verdict came eight days before the February 8 general elections, in which Imran’s PTI contested  without an electoral symbol. A  special court established under the Official Secrets Act sentenced Imran and his foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to 10 years in prison for the breach of state secrets. Previously, he was convicted in a separate Toshakhana case on Aug 5, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.  Imran and Bushra were barred from holding any public office for 10 years and slapped with a fine of Rs787 million each. While the PTI founder was presented during the hearing, his wife did not appear before the court.

If anyone were to think that poll verdicts had given any relief, Pakistan's second and third political blocs have agreed to co-operate after elections in which jailed ex-PM Imran Khan's supporters came first. Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif's PMLN and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's PPP issued a statement saying they planned to work together to bring political stability. If they do form a government, the move would  anger Mr Khan's followers. His PTI party was barred from taking part in the election, so most of its candidates stood as independents.

According to final results, independents won 101 of the National Assembly seats. BBC analysis shows 93 of them went to PTI-backed candidates. That puts them ahead of the PMLN, who won 75, and the PPP, who gained 54. The two parties formed an alliance to oust Mr Khan from power in 2022 and ruled until last August. The Karachi-based MQM party has also made a surprising return in the polls, winning 17 seats, and could play a role in any coalition.

As wrangling continues, independent candidates who did not win have flooded courts with vote-rigging allegations. The result was a surprise as most observers had expected Mr Sharif's party - widely seen as having the powerful military's backing - to win, given Mr Khan had been jailed on charges ranging from corruption to having married illegally and his party was barred from the ballot sheet.

To govern, a candidate has to show they are at the head of a coalition with a simple majority of 169 seats in the National Assembly. Of the National Assembly's 366 seats, 266 are decided by direct voting and 70 are reserved - 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims - and these are allocated according to the strength of each party in the assembly. Under Pakistan's rules, independent candidates are not eligible to be allocated reserved seats in parliament.

So Pakistan continues to be under cloud and Imran .. .. is not in any position of comfort.

With regards – S Sampathkumar
12th Feb 2024 

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