Cover Story

Days Are Over

Any unconstitutional move by any one of the institutions would have disastrous effects on the security, internal stability, economy and international standing of Pakistan.

By Naghmana A. Hashmi | August 2023

20 is an election year in Pakistan with speculations rife whether the elections would be held at all by October as enshrined in the Constitution or the country should brace for another long and controlled caretaker government. The air is full of expectations and uncertainty, mixed with fear of election engineering amidst increasing political polarisation, uncertain economic future, politicised and compromised institutions, rising poverty, prowling food insecurity and imminent fear of further climate change damages. Not to forget the anxiety over ever rising resurgence of terrorism, particularly perpetrated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other disgruntled elements encouraged by our detractors, particularly in our neighbourhood.

Politics has already consumed half of 2023 and will certainly consume the remaining time. With a big question mark on the authenticity of the forthcoming election, irrespective of the electoral outcome, some degree of social unrest and protests will occur further attenuating the already fragile nature of democracy in our country. With the resurgence of cult politics and populism, the largely illiterate electorate and negatively brainwashed youth, the era of sane debate based on logic and reasoning and consideration of each party’s manifesto on its merit are now a far cry in Pakistan.

If in the run up to the elections, unmanageable civil disturbance leads to further deterioration of the political uncertainty and serious law-and-order situation, the risk of election being postponed cannot be ruled out. Such an eventuality would lead to further political polarization and politicization of institutions. Not to forget the negative effect that would have on the already fledgling economic situation. Pakistan’s economy is currently trapped in low growth, high inflation and unemployment, falling investment, excessive fiscal deficits, and a deteriorating external balance position. Political uncertainty will further aggravate the precarious economic situation.

Predicting election results based on opinion polls, considered analysis and examination of given realities is always a daunting task in Pakistan in view of the hidden influences, considerations and meandering in elections by extra constitutional forces. However, according to political analysts, both local and foreign, a vague consensus is emerging suggesting that the current ruling coalition of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) could retain power through its parliamentary majority will remain modest, keeping political stability fragile. Although what is required in Pakistan today as a result of the 2023 elections is a rejuvenated government spearheaded by a single party or a strong alliance of two or three leading parties with targeted specific and updated manifesto and a solid plan of action.

A critical element in determining the results of the 2023 election would be the election turnout ratio. Should the turnout ratio exceed the traditional average turnout ratio, which has remained low and has never reached the high it did in the 1973 elections, the results would be more acceptable and credible. It should also be admitted that the people of Pakistan, though largely illiterate, are today much more politically educated and enlightened as compared to what they were in the past. Besides the political circus unfolding in the country for the last two has once again ignited the interest of the general public with emotions running high on all sides. The public is eagerly waiting for the 2023 general elections and do not want to miss out on their chance to get their desired candidate to win the elections. The forthcoming general elections, therefore, carry great importance in terms of bringing a sustainable political set-up and silencing the clamour of inter-institutional clashes.

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