Pakistan Army blatantly meddling in general elections, says former envoy to US Husain Haqqani

Washington: The Pakistan Army, assisted by a partisan judiciary is "blatantly meddling" in the 25 July elections, the country's former top envoy to the US has alleged. Over 12,570 candidates, including a number of hard-line clerics, are contesting the elections to the parliament and four provincial assemblies.

 Pakistan Army blatantly meddling in general elections, says former envoy to US Husain Haqqani

Former Pakistan ambasaador to the US Husain Haqqani. AFP

"More than 100 million Pakistanis will have the chance to cast their ballots in general elections on 25 July, but the vote is already tainted by the blatant meddling of the country's all-powerful military, with a series of assists by a partisan judiciary,” former Pakistani ambassador to US Husain Haqqani wrote in Foreign Policy.

“This interference by what is known locally as the "establishment" ensures that whatever the results will be on election day, the outcome will not rid Pakistan of its chronic instability and poor civil-military relations,” he said. He claimed that the powerful Pakistani military establishment wants to root out two parties—Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)—that have dominated the political scene for the last three decades.

Haqqani alleged that the establishment has orchestrated an elaborate set of legal and political moves to pave the way for the victory of the former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
"The most important of these moves was the removal of Sharif as prime minister one year ago," he said. The elections will transfer power from one civilian government to another for only the second time in Pakistan's history.

The New York Times reported that “This year's election could have been an occasion for Pakistanis to celebrate their democracy. Instead, the campaign has been marred by suppression of the news media, accusations of manipulation by the military, a rise in Islamist extremist candidates and a series of attacks on candidates and campaign offices," Reporters Without Border alleged that Pakistan elections campaign is marred by press freedom violations.

“With just days to go to the elections, we have seen an increase in censorship of the media and an increase in violence against journalists who have dared to cover the election campaign in its entirety,” RSF's Asia-Pacific desk said. “The military's desire to control media coverage is indicative of a refusal to submit to this exercise of democracy. We urge the authorities to allow journalists to practice their profession freely and to cover the course of the elections and the results, whatever they may be,” it said.

There was a sense of uncertainty due to court cases against leading politicians including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif who was convicted and sent to jail for corruption. Sharif, 68, and his daughter Maryam, 44, are serving jail terms of 10 years and 7 years respectively in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, after an accountability court convicted them on 6 July over the family's ownership of four luxury flats in London.

The actions of the anti-corruption watchdog—National Accountability Bureau—have also hampered the campaign of PML-N. Similarly actions by the Federal Investigation Agency against former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in a money laundering case have also been questioned due to their timing. A wave of deadly suicide attacks by militants have also affected the campaign. About 180 people, including three candidates, were killed in these attacks in the past two weeks in the run up to the elections.

Updated Date: Jul 23, 2018 22:26:52 IST