Pakistan generals under spotlight after Khan’s PTI party wins

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Four days after shocking election results rocked Pakistan’s establishment, all eyes are on the powerful generals who have long been seen as the ultimate arbiters of the country’s politics. this.

Their detention, which has been constant in this country since independence in 1947, suddenly appears in doubt according to the supporters of the former prime minister Imran Khan who was sent to prison. Candidates backed by the former leader won more seats in last week’s general election than any other political bloc, posing a stunning challenge to an establishment that seemed determined to suppress them.

Unlike Khan’s party, it is still able to form a government because its candidates did not get an absolute majority and it is unlikely that other parties will join it. All of them were also running as independents and will be at a disadvantage in the complicated process of seat allocation which is expected to favor the three-term party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan stunned as ex-ruler Khan’s party overperforms in election

But there is a widespread perception among many Pakistanis that Khan’s party, the Movement for Justice (known as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI), was the real winner of last Thursday’s election which could have a major impact on his the delicate balance between Pakistan’s military and the country’s civilian leaders.

For many of Khan’s supporters, their vote was as much about sending an anti-establishment message as it was about supporting the jailed former prime minister. “It is now clear that there is a lot of anger against the establishment’s open and persistent interference in civil affairs – an intervention that has only grown over the years because there has not been a strong political consensus against it.” ,” wrote the Pakistan Dawn newspaper in a subsequent selection. editorial.

After Khan got out of the army two years ago, Pakistani officials all but disbanded his party. Many of its leaders were arrested – including Khan, who has been convicted in three separate cases so far – and the party’s offices were raided in the week of the election.

The key question now is how the establishment will respond to the unprecedented failure to politically dislodge the party: By further cracking down on Khan and his cronies, or by try to reconcile with the former prime minister they supported?

Pakistan’s military is no stranger to challenges from civilian leaders and the public, however. He has weathered bad political storms in the past and re-emerged more determined and with a seemingly tighter grip on politics.

“Some political leaders are always willing to stand with the establishment and enjoy power,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political analyst. the upper hand, as he had done before.

The Pakistani establishment, however, may be underestimating the growing sentiment and anger in distressed middle-class neighborhoods, which tend to support to Khan, a nationalist politician who advocates a European-style welfare state based on Islamic values.

Even if Khan has not delivered on many of his key promises, as even some of his supporters admit, the former prime minister’s appeal could grow further here if the next government closes out of Khan’s alliances and failing to promote economic growth.

“A weak coalition government is not good news for Pakistan’s economy, which is still in the ICU,” said Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States.

For many of Khan’s supporters, last week’s election is as much reason for resignation as it is for hope.

“We are seeing a revolution,” said Shakir, 29, who did not want to give his last name because he works for a government department. But he warned that if Khan’s party does not come to power after this vote, anger could eventually turn to despair and disillusionment. “Then nobody will come out and vote in the next election.”

Anti-establishment sentiment has rarely been more mainstream and more publicly expressed than in the days since the vote. Protests against the voting process were raised across the political spectrum, with one candidate from a smaller, traditionally military-aligned party even contesting his own electoral victory, saying he had won a seat -unfair regional collection that should go to his PTI-. supported opponent.

Standing next to a shopping mall in Islamabad, Kashaf Mumtaz, a 26-year-old marketing worker, and 23-year-old medical student Shehzadi Najaf said it was clear to them that Khan’s party would not be allowed to return to power anytime soon. soon. .

But they still came out to vote for his candidates anyway. “We wanted to make it difficult” for the building, Najaf said.

Both complained that the country’s military-controlled political system has neglected younger generations of Pakistani voters, continuing to elevate politicians such as Sharif, 74, who ran on a platform of an industry that has largely remained the same over the past three decades.

Mumtaz and Najaf pointed to the long delay in voting which counts as another sign of the country’s political flaws. As PTI-backed candidates appeared to be ahead early Thursday evening in unofficial polls released by the media, counting suddenly appeared to be slow, prompting allegations of vote rigging and questions from largely unaddressed international audiences. It took three days for the final provisional count to be announced.

“If the military had stepped back and not intervened when it became clear that PTI-backed independents were doing well, I think that would have been a big boost to the army” in the eyes of the Pakistani public, said Michael Kugelman, a South Asian analyst at the Wilson Center.

“But the perception among many in Pakistan is that the army suffered a major blow,” he said.

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