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OpinionsThe pre-election situation in Pakistan is reminiscent of previous stage-managed events

The pre-election situation in Pakistan is reminiscent of previous stage-managed events


In a country beset by crises, voters continue to be drawn to the imprisoned Imran Khan

By Tirthankar Mitra

Pakistan will hold general elections on February 8 to choose a new Parliament. However, the lead-up to the reckoning day has been a dull affair, sharing some notable parallels and diverging from similar past political events.

Certain newbies to the ring feel that there is a sense of mystery about the outcome of the election. Contrarily, conventional wisdom has ruled out any chance of change, believing that it is already known what will happen in the election and that it is not exactly a piece of cake.

Interestingly, the same political groups are involved. Some are reincarnations of previous ones; some are put together by defectors, while others are led by well-known personalities. Interventions by the Establishment not to restrict to the one political party mimics the past. If it is PTI this time, it was PML-N in the last election; the election campaign wears the familiar issueless character too.

Time for the changes now; the elections are being held in the backdrop of the most serious economic crisis Pakistan has ever faced. The populace which includes the voters are worse off than ever before as the rise of living costs, joblessness and increased poverty level continues.

Power shortages have worsened the situation. One has awaited the result of the battle of the ballot box to find out whom the voters attribute their economic plight to. Polarised political atmosphere is not new to Pakistan before any elections. But its extent today is unprecedented dividing people and society along strongly partisan lines making tolerance of political opponents lower than the last election.

Debate is debased after a toxic injection in political discussions .The election campaign is on in an subdued tone which is in a contrast to the festive mood of previous polls in Pakistan.

More than 40 per cent of Pakistanis have pointed out the missing banners and posters in their neighbourhood, if the public opinion survey by Gallup and Gilani is anything to go by. Only one in five has been canvassed by party nominees in door to door campaigns.

There is a marked rise in the number of young voters, a reflection of the country's population structure. Number of young voters have risen to 57 million as compared to more than 46 million in 2018. Being tech savvy, the young voters are likely to support parties which are most adept at social media campaigns.

Social media campaigning seems to be the order of the day in which the PTI campaign has surged ahead of others. It seems the denial of the election symbol by Election Commission of Pakistan has made PTI nominees take up untested campaign methods the effectiveness of which would be seen after the election.

The authorities response to PTI's AI driven campaign is to shut down social media from time to time. So a censorship of sorts is being clamped before elections, a practice which is likely to find takers in near and far away lands. Orchestrated internet “outages” are ascribed to technical reasons. The dearth of policy issues seems to be connected with the past.

In a break from the past, a far higher number of independents have joined the electoral fray than ever before in and provincial assemblies. It is the highest in Pakistan's electoral history where 3205 nominees are in the fray for 266 general National Assembly seats.

More than 8000 candidates are contesting for half their number of seats in the provincial assemblies. The reason behind the higher number of independent candidates is arguably the denial of symbols to PTI candidates.

It may be mentioned that independents can join any party sans legal constraints. This is a significant factor as no party is likely to win a clear majority and will need allies for a coalition government. Now comes the verdict of a 10 year prison term for Imran Khan in the cipher case. It comes on top of a three year prison term that the 71 year old former prime minister is already serving.

In , a far larger number of voters have been known to be swayed off their feet by sympathy factor triggered by the assassination of a prime minister. It remains to be seen whether voters in Pakistan react in a similar manner to the imprisonment verdict of the man who had made the country proud again and again in the field of . (IPA Service)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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