Viewpoint: Pakistan's dirtiest choice in years

Viewpoint: Pakistan's dirtiest choice in years

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), during a pre-election campaign in Multan on July 22, 2018 slogans and wave flags.Picture copyright
AFP

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PML-N supporters and others accuse the military of wanting to manipulate the elections

The incident on the parliamentary elections in Pakistan on Wednesday was hampered by allegations of predisposition, intimidation and muzzle trimming, writes Gul Bukhari, who was briefly kidnapped in June by masked men in Lahore's army quarters.

Until a few months ago, there were hardly any protest cries in the big cities of the country accusing Pakistan's powerful military of terrorism.

But they arrived in central Lahore on July 13, the day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam returned from London to begin serving their sentences.

Last Friday was the song – "ye jo dehshat gardi hai, ke keishchay wardi hai" ("the military uniform is behind this terrorism") – could be heard on the streets of Rawalpindi, not far from the military headquarters.

In a staggeringly shameless movement, a hearing for a seven-year-old drug case involving Sharif's PML-N party comrade Hanif Abbasi was postponed from August to July 21, and a lifelong prison sentence was imposed on Saturday at 11:30 pm Days before the parliamentary elections to effectively knock him out of the race.

  • Relief after hijacked journalist Gul Bukhari is released
  • Where reporters are exposed to blows, threats and death

Mr. Abbasi was the top candidate in his constituency against Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who served both Gen Zia and General Musharraf's governments, and is an ally of Sharif's arch-rival Imran Khan, who heads the PTI party. Any focus on the case was overshadowed by indignation over the timing of the verdict.

Thousands attended rallies to greet Nawaz Sharif, but the media did not support any of the protests in Lahore or Rawalpindi. Social media, on the other hand, was flooded with pictures, videos and discussions.

Picture copyright
EPA

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Imran Khan is considered the military's favorite

Contrary to the expectations of the establishment, the popularity of Sharif and his party asserted itself after being forced out of office in July last year on corruption charges. His accusations of military interference awakened the imagination of the public.

To counter this, a crackdown against the media was unleashed. Market leader Geo Television was phased out in April and distribution of Pakistan's oldest daily newspaper, Dawn, has been suspended since May.

After months of financial losses, Geo reportedly agreed to the security agency's demands for self-censorship and strict compliance. After this surrender, the entire industry agreed, and none of the media houses ventured to show Sharif's political rallies or the fiery speeches of his daughter.

More about the choice of Pakistan

With the media on their knees, it was left to activists on Twitter and Facebook to continue the fight. The voices here remained squeamish and openly angry at the military-judicial context, accusing them of violating their mandate and preventing voters from waging their will in the parliamentary elections.

The conversation about social media lives and thrives amidst a terrible onslaught of threats and kidnappings. Even journalists have shown themselves in social media on the screens or in the newspaper reports and commentaries, which they can not see.

Mr. Sharif seems to have won this round of battle. As a man who was able to lead a pleasant life in exile, caring for his seriously ill spouse, he returned to Pakistan to face a degree of imprisonment in his struggle for bourgeois domination.

Successive opinion polls, which put him in the spotlight against all opponents, and the backlash of social media show that he has managed to gain sympathy for himself – and anger at attempts at a military-legal context to reshape the political landscape ,

Two days before the election, unexpected public resistance, especially in Punjab, a stronghold of the PML-N and until then a bastion of military power, has led to increased efforts to topple the balance in favor of the favorite of the security camp, Imran Khan.

With dwindling hopes, the public will reject Sharif and embrace the former cricketer, who has become a politician, the courts have been moved to the front lines – the example of Abbasis shock life is a typical example.

Given that dozens of candidates have been disqualified, imprisoned or forced to stand for the PML-N in an atmosphere of terror and harass journalists and social media users, Sharif's party is no longer expected to poll on July 25 to push.

But if his party holds more than 90 of the 272 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, from around 130 in 2013, it could remain the largest party in parliament. This would be seen as a defense of Sharif's open opposition to the military, which has dominated Pakistan for nearly half of its history.

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