The recent actions of Pakistan’s military establishment have cast serious doubts over the impartiality and transparency of the upcoming general election in Pakistan on July 25. In the light of startling details of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI’s meddling into civilian and judicial matters revealed by Justice Shaukat Siddiqui, it now seems beyond any doubt that Pakistan’s military has already decided the winners and losers when the voting hasn’t even begun. In view of this blatant pre-poll rigging and mockery of the mandate of Pakistani people, the world must scrutinize this election very closely and must not rush into accepting its results.
The scores of recent events and incidents had already proved it beyond any doubt that Pakistan’s military establishment has decided to make playboy-turned-politician Imran Khan the next prime minister of the country. The recent speech of Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court, in which he revealed the details of how the ISI is coercing the judiciary to penalise political parties and individuals not favoured by the military establishment, it is now firmly established that the upcoming election is anything but fair and transparent.
the upcoming election is merely a farce, a stunt, an exercise at Pakistani tax-payers’ expense to make the next parliament dominated by religious extremists and jihadists.
In order to propel Imran Khan and other religious extremists into power, Pakistan’s military establishments has been actively working in a systematic manner. In the last few months, former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), have been brutally treated through a judiciary that has been forced to coopt with the military establishment. Nawaz Sharif was first deposed as prime minister and then a number of corruption cases were registered against him that eventually led to his recent imprisonment along with his daughter, Mariam Nawaz. Scores of political leaders belonging to PMLN have been forced throughout Pakistan and particularly in Punjab to defect and join Imran Khan’s PTI party. Those who refused to obey the establishment’s wishes have been involved in corruption cases either through judiciary or anti-corruption body, National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
In urban Sindh, Pakistani military agencies have been busy in blatant electoral engineering. Urban Sindh’s major political party, MQM, has been forcibly fragmented into many factions and its head-offices as well as all regional party offices have been demolished or sealed. Thousands of MQM workers have been killed or arrested or have gone missing after being arrested by paramilitary Rangers. Karachi’s population has been cut into half through manipulated census results and political constituencies have seen widespread gerrymandering to benefit the parties favored by military agencies.
Pakistani media are also facing constant threats from the country’s military agencies. Electronic news media have been forced to give prominent coverage to the military establishment’s current blue-eyed boy Imran Khan and the likes, while ignoring those political parties that establishment wants to keep out of election. A number of Pakistani TV news channels have been forced to cancel talk shows hosted by journalists critical of the establishment’s reckless polices and its interference in the political and civilian matters.
The distribution of the Daily Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and the most candid English daily, has been stopped in many areas of the country on the illegal orders of military personnel. Ms Gul Bukhari, a prominent journalist who dared to criticize Pakistani spy agencies’ unlawful activities, was abducted recently in Lahore and interrogated for hours. Mr Taha Siddiqui, another prominent journalist, has been forced to leave the country after receiving death threats from men believed to be belonging to Pakistan’s military agencies. A crackdown against social media activists is also underway in Pakistan.
While this wasn’t enough, Pakistani military agencies are also making a concerted and serious effort to legitimize extremist religious groups and individuals by making them run for parliamentary seats. A number of infamous, violent, venom-spewing religious-extremists are taking part in the upcoming election right under the protection of Pakistan’s military establishment. Most of these groups and individuals are on the United Nations’ and the USA State Department’s list of the banned outfits, yet they are free to run their election campaign in Pakistan. Goons belonging to these outfits are openly intimidating candidates of religious minorities as well as those candidates who believe in tolerance and inclusive policies.
Molana Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the foulmouthed cleric who had paralyzed Pakistani capital city Islamabad for months a few months ago and who recently threatened to wipe off the Netherlands from the face of the earth through a nuclear weapon, is now openly campaigning in Karachi for the candidates belonging to his extremist outfit under the overt protection of Pakistani military personnel. A number of Shittes and Ahmadi candidates have decided to boycott the election due to death threats and constant intimidation by religious extremists.
All these actions are in utter violation of national and international laws and norms as well as all democratic and ethical values. Pakistani people are being disenfranchised by their own military agencies and are being forced to vote for those radical elements who will take Pakistan back into the Stone Age through their vicious, illiterate and mindless ideologies and actions. The international community should not remain silent to these actions and must not accept this election’s results without extreme scrutiny. In fact, the international community must demand fresh election in Pakistan under the supervision of the United Nations and other international bodies.
(The writer is chairman, Voice of Karachi)