top of page

Pakistan elections stun as PTI emerges leader with no right to form government; By Jai Kumar Verma

Article Courtesy: Aviation & Defence Universe

Image Courtesy: Mint

Article No. 002/2024

Pakistan elections are not only of national and regional interest but have been cynosure of global eyes too. The country despite of being small, politically turbulent and hub of terrorism as agreed upon by the world for decades, still is of importance in world’s geopolitics. The widespread victory of The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) allied, independent candidates particularly from Punjab have surprised not only the opposition parties but also the political pundits.

As per the results of 264 seats announced by the Election Commission, PTI backed independent candidates won 101 seats while 75 candidates of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), 54 candidates of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), 17 candidates of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) won, while rest had gone to smaller parties. PTI workers claim that when the army realised that Imran Khan supporters contesting as independent candidates were winning, the Election Commission started rigging, otherwise PTI would have won 171 seats. PTI workers claimed that during the voting day (8 February) there was mobile blackout, votes were cast in digital darkness. There were long queues, voting shutdowns, poling agents were not only insufficient, but they were inefficient too. Ballot papers were finished in few polling stations, while voting started very late in few polling booths. An election official also reported that the data system was defective, but he was instructed to work with the defective data system. There were attacks on election offices as well as on election officers.

More than six lakh security force personnel were deputed on election duties. Political parties especially PTI workers charged the government with large scale rigging. Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto mentioned in X (former twitter) that mobile phones and internet services should be restored immediately. Eyebrows were raised as serving Lieutenant General Muhammad Munir Afsar replaced the civilian officer and was made Chairman of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) before elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also announced to hold re-elections at few polling stations on 15 February.

As no political party gained majority and PML(N) emerged as single largest party hence Nawaz Sharif authorised his brother Shahbaz Sharif to negotiate with leaders of other political parties. The negotiation started with PPP, but Bilawal Bhutto put very stringent terms and insisted that he wanted to become the Prime Minister. Meanwhile Shahbaz Sharif also met leaders of smaller political parties including MQM. Serious efforts were made to win over the independents as all independents are not from PTI.

According to reports out of 101 independents 71 belongs to PTI and all are not fully loyal to Imran Khan, so they can defect to PML(N) may be because of greed or because of pressure from the army. Three elected independents namely Barrister Aqeel, Raja Khurram Nawaz, and Mian Khan Bugti have announced that they would join PML(N). Pakistan Army has been supporting three times Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (N) who was called from London, acquitted from corruption cases, and projected as the next democratic leader. On the other hand, Imran Khan was imprisoned, his party PTI was not given an election symbol and PTI candidates participated in the electoral process as independent candidates.

PTI leaders allege that Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir does not want Imran Khan or his party, as Khan removed him from the coveted post of ISI Chief and then he put all hurdles so that General Munir does not become Chief of Pakistan Army. Thousands of PTI workers attacked army installations in May last year when Khan was arrested. Later security forces have arrested more than 100 PTI workers.

In the beginning when TV channels started showing the results of Pakistan’s 12th general elections, held on February 8, independent candidates of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were leading. The viewers thought that the public have not complied with the command of mighty Pakistan Army, and it is defeated.

It is interesting to note that President Arif Alvi stated that if Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were used in recently held general elections the country would not have faced the current crisis. Several PTI candidates charged that not only the voting, but counting was also rigged, and they have gone to courts for justice. On the other hand, General Munir stated, “Pakistan’s diverse policy and pluralism will be well-represented by a unified government of all democratic forces imbibed with national purpose. Elections and democracy are means to serve people of Pakistan and not ends in themselves”.

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan Chairman of PTI claimed that his party won 170 seats in the elections and President Alvi should invite PTI to constitute the government. Meanwhile Imran Khan got bail in 12 cases which are linked to attacks on defence installations on 9 May last year. Giving of the bail to Khan in 12 serious cases spawned calculations that because of pressure from the army, some deal occurred between Khan and Sharif. The deal may be that both Khan and Sharif would jointly constitute the government or as Khan allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad same way Sharif would allow Khan to go abroad.

There is also news that Shahbaz Sharif would be Prime Minister and Maryam Nawaz Sharif would be Chief Minister of Punjab. Pakistan army prefers Shahbaz as he is docile and can adjust well not only with army but with opposition leaders too. He also successfully brought some funds from abroad when the countries coffers were nearly empty. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif also wants to install his daughter as Chief Minister of Punjab.

General Munir understands that Khan has biggest following in the country despite him being in prison, his election symbol snatched, and his party members forced not to contest election, the candidates of PTI fought as independents, were able to secure more seats than any other political party and have a public goodwill. Khan and PTI contested the election on the strength of Artificial Intelligence and social media. Hence army may be inclined that PTI joins the government, so the civilian government becomes more acceptable to the masses. However, the chances are remote that General Munir would agree that Imran Khan share the power. Firstly, Imran Khan is rigid and anti-army, secondly USA, China and Saudi Arabia no one likes that Imran Khan should come to power. Thirdly General Munir has personal grudge against Imran Khan.

The army prefers a coalition government as it would be easy to handle. Public is opposing the army which in the past had faced no such open criticism and it claimed to be the saviour of the country. Public is now not raising voice against army but also considers Geneal Munir a weak Chief of Army Staff. The deep state wants a coalition government of PML(N) and PPP as the combined strength of both the parties becomes 129, they need five more members for it talks were held with MQM and other smaller parties. Few independents will also join.

The moot point is that who so ever comes to power has to handle the post-election instability, precarious law and order situation and the economy which is on ventilator. The inflation rate at three-month high is 29.7% in December while it was 29.2% in November. The IMF bailout programme would expire in April hence the newly elected prime minister would have to make a fresh deal with IMF. The inflation is increasing because of weak Pakistani currency and bail out terms of IMF. Pakistani public is suffering and becoming impatient because inflation and rising cost of essential commodities.

Besides economy other important issues include the worsening of law-and-order situation in the country. Islamabad based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) mentioned in its annual report of 2023 that there were about 789 terrorist attacks and counter-terror operations, in which 1,524 persons killed and 1,463 people were injured. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened Pakistan security forces, and it is getting support from Afghan Taliban. TTP is attacking security forces constantly.

Pakistan is also suffering from secessionist movements. The masses of mineral rich Balochistan which is largest province in Pakistan wants to secede. Several secessionist groups have emerged. Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has already attacked and killed several Pakistani security forces personnel. Besides Balochistan, Pashtuns also want Pashtunistan and in this Afghanistan, which does not recognise Durand line, supports them.

Besides internal problems Islamabad’s foreign policy has also become difficult. In recent past Pakistan got lot of loan from China while USA helped Pakistan constantly on economic, military, and other fronts. Now the relations between USA and China have become tense and it is becoming difficult for Islamabad to maintain cordial relations with both. Islamabad relations with Kabul and Tehran are also tense. Recently both Tehran and Islamabad made aerial attacks on other areas while relations between Kabul and Islamabad also became strained because of TTP. Pakistan has always tense relations with India.

In view of above it is clear that the new Prime Minister would have to face problems in plenty, while he has little powers to decide major issues as he would be heading a coalition government. Not to forget that the real power always remains with the army. It would also be difficult for tainted and publicly less supported politicians to take hard decisions to resolve Pakistan’s numerous problems.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at
9 views0 comments


bottom of page