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By the time these lines appear in print, the elections will be just two days away. However, what has emerged as one of the most lacklustre election campaigns in our chequered history, not the least because in public perception perhaps, the result is a foregone conclusion, any remaining doubts on this score can comfortably be laid to rest by the events of the last week or so.

In quick succession, and in an unimaginable judicial hurry, a one, two, three knockout punch has been administered to Imran Khan. In the process, collateral damage of a similar kind has also been inflicted on Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Bushra Bibi.

I refer of course to the three cases in which, respectively, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were handed down jail sentences of 10 years and disqualification from participating in elections or holding public office each in the cipher case, the former premier and his wife were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 0.5 million each in the Toshakhana case, and, in a first in our tainted judicial history, the couple were accorded seven years jail in the Iddat case.

If all this is not enough to take your breath away, you are a better man than I, Gunga Din. The incredibly hurried (and therefore one-sided) proceedings in all these cases are a cause for shame even to our by now hardened hearts at judicial malfeasance. Experts and the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) amongst others have condemned this intrusion into personal marriage law.

Be all that as it may, the purpose behind all these courtroom (inside Adiala Jail) shenanigans is obvious. It is intended, on the very eve of the elections and within a hair’s breadth of the polls to deliver a decisive blow to the political functioning and electoral participation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI).

Although the party may be able to nevertheless mobilise its vote bank on February 8, 2024, reports of two instances of faults in the Election Management System (EMS) have raised hackles regarding the possibility of a rerun of the 2018 vote count in reverse to deny the PTI its place in the sun.

The powers-that-be may be congratulating themselves on this ‘coup’ and complacent about knocking the PTI out of the electoral fray at the ballot box and, if even that fails, leaving the possibility of recourse to EMS manipulation as the fallback position, but all these manoeuvres are likely to achieve is a rise in sympathy for, and the popularity of, Imran Khan. That may well do him and his party not much good in the elections, but in the ensuing dawn after the polls…?

The apathy on display at the popular level regarding the elections may yield a low turnout. Those that do make the effort to cast their vote may be hoping against hope that the PTI’s electoral strength will be recognised and accepted on the one hand, and those who vote for the other parties in the hope of redress of their problems and difficulties on the other. However, both are likely to be disappointed, the former quicker, the latter with the passage of time.

Why such pessimism, you may ask? Because if one is not purblind or wearing blinkers, it should be obvious to even the meanest intelligence that it is the establishment that is calling the shots and no one else, certainly not the electorate. But the establishment, as the track record shows, is only able to play its dominant role thanks to the by now firmly entrenched willingness of the political class as a whole to act as collaborators with the anti-democratic plans of the establishment, in the hope of crumbs from its table. Of course what the political class loses sight of again and again is the inherent contradiction at the heart of all such efforts.

That contradiction is squarely located in the conundrum that even the most willing collaborator, once ensconced in high office, demands power, not merely office, since this is the necessary condition for delivery. If such demands intrude onto the hallowed space occupied since long by our ubiquitous establishment, including foreign and security policies, the result is a quick shuttle to the revolving door of both entry and exit from office. The irony in all this of course is that the collaborator of yesterday is overnight turned into the ‘enemy’ today, while the ‘enemy’ till yesterday is shown the paved path to the hallowed halls of power.

This repeated (by now ad nauseam) exercise has produced a so far silent state crisis that may well explode in our faces sooner or later. Essentially, all these manipulative manoeuvres of the establishment have contributed principally to the fraying if not disintegration and future collapse of state institutions and their credibility.

Hardly any state institution is unaffected by these unwise moves in the interest of maintaining the hold of the establishment, whether it be the judiciary, bureaucracy and, if one may say it without fear of retaliation, the military.

Until and unless the establishment, with the military at its heart, lets go of its malign grip on the political process in the interests, at a minimum, of a credible, genuine parliamentary democracy in which the vote of the citizen is the only deciding factor, Pakistan’s future is, to say the least, gloomy beyond description.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Rashed Rahman

[email protected] , rashed-rahman.blogspot.com

Comments

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KU Feb 06, 2024 09:48am
Our nation is the perfect audience for false hopes and emotional propaganda. The usual money politics with support of establishment will do more of what they do, while we will suffer, but who cares?
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Aamir Feb 06, 2024 12:45pm
The economy has no juice left in it. Sham elections will further create uncertainty. Bad times ahead
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Az_Iz Feb 06, 2024 05:44pm
How legitimate were the elections in Bangladesh?
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