Come July 27 and Pakistan will have its general election for the third time in its history. The Election commission of Pakistan apprehends violence during election. To avert it around 20,000 polling stations have been put under the ‘most sensitive’ category.
Over 105 million voters will exercise their franchise to select their candidates for 342 National Assembly seats. The magic number to form the government is 172 . Simultaneously, four Provincial Assemblies will also go to poll on the same date.
Signals are Pakistan will have a hung parliament. A triangular contest between PML-N, PTI and PPP (former president Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan's Peoples Party) is likely to throw up a fractured verdict . The straight contest will mainly be between the ruling PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz) and cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan's PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), say political observer in Pakistan.
In the past history of Pakistan , elections had been held with the military's covert and overt support to local parties and independents . There will be no change in the Pak military mindset. Intriguingly, this time the ISI election cell has devised a strategy by forming Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam and Muthida Majlis-e- Amal (MMA), a conglomerate of five religious organisations, revived recently to contest election unanimously. Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), will contest on Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) platform. JuD's political group Milli Muslim League party (MML) could not get registered with the election commission. The new hardliner Barelvi Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (BTLP) and Laskar-e-Jhangvi, are in the fray to legitimise themselves through the political process and then using that legitimacy to promote more fundamentalist causes.
Pakistan army efforts are on to bring Imran Khan's PTI and Asif Zardari's PPP closer to each other to dent the vote bank of PML-N not only in Punjab province but in Sindh also.
Saraiki National Party (SNP) president Abdul Majeed Kanjoo told this journalist, " our party has decided to boycott the election because these elections are not in the interest of Saraikstan issue.” However, SNP like-minded parties Balochistan Nationalist Party, Pakhtoonkhwa Mili Awami Party of Mahmood Khan Achakzai and National Party of asil Bizanjo have extended support to PML-N . MQM of Altaf Hussain , Awami Workers Party in Lahore headed by Farooq Tariq, have decided to boycott these elections.
As an astute politician ,Nawaz Sharif's master stroke at elections time was very calculated to take anti establishment posture to expose political rival parties nexus with the army. He held the Pakistan army responsible for the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 known as 26/11 and involvement in political affairs. The influence of the Pakistan army directly or indirectly has always been aimed at to keep civil administration on tenterhooks for their existence. Nawaz Sharif's charges were further strengthened when former Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg spilled the beans before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) . He revealed how the then ISI chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani dragged the military into "political engineering" ahead of the 1990 elections and an estimated Rs148 crores were distributed among politicians to manoeuvre the 1990 elections . Beg also revealed General Durrani’s close connection with Pakistan People’s Party's top leadership.
In his written confessional statement, Beg said "in October 1993, when Benazir Bhutto returned to power, she offered ambassadorship to Durrani in Germany, and before proceeding to Germany he discussed the Game Plan with her.
After former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s political stature was demolished by the Supreme Court in July,2017 on the charges of Pannama corruption, Pakistan further dipped into political vortex . Since Nawaz's removal , his party became vociferous against military and civil establishments blaming them as a gang of conspirators to reduce the power of his party.
In spite of court rulings against PML-N on various charges, his party even won recently held by-elections which proved his powerful command. So much so in the Senate Elections held on 3 March 2018, PML-N came out as the largest party winning 15 of the 52 seats . PML-N contested as Independents candidates, because the Election Commission had frozen PML-N party symbol on the direction of court orders. But the Election Commission has restored PML-N its original party symbol of '"Lion" for general elections.
PTI has decided to put 173 candidates for National Assembly and 290 for provincial assembly seats. Chances of Imran Khan to become Prime Minister seem bleak. He has been trapped in controversies. But his party PTI may turn out to be the second largest national party in 2018 because of youth following .The youth voters are the fastest growing population in Pakistan. Imran Khan can bag a good ten million popular votes easily. In case PTI is short of required number to form the government , it will have alliance with PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehreek,) PPML ( All Pakistan Muslim League) AML ( Awami Muslim League ), JI ( JammatIslami) and PSP ( Pak Sarzameen Party)
Nawaz Sharif is hitting left and right at the core ideology of the army. He has described them as “a state within the state”. He has exposed judges and mullahs too. Sharif is hopeful to gain power again. His PML-N may emerge as a single largest party.