Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pakistan Elections 2018: PTI Prevails Over Corrupt Dynastic Political Elite

Millions of passionate young men and women enthusiastically voted for Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf led by cricket legend Imran Khan to help PTI win against corrupt dynastic political parties in July 25, 2018 elections. Scores of dynastic politicians lost their legislative seats in this election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces. This election came to represent a generational shift in many families in which parents reliably voted for the “electables” based on biradries (clans) and feudal affiliations but the children voted for PTI. It is a resounding rejection of old feudal politics in large parts of the country. The only exception to this shift is probably rural Sindh where the dynastic Pakistan Peoples' Party gained seats.

Young Electorate:

Pakistan's 46 million young voters of ages 18-36 years, up from 41 million in 2013, made the biggest impact on the outcome of the elections this year, according to data from the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan Voter Population by Age Groups. Source: Dawn
The enthusiasm of PTI's young supporters was on full display at many large PTI pre-election rallies addressed by Imran Khan. These rallies set a new standard  with lots of lighting, singing, music and dancing by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls across Pakistan.

Smartphones and Social Media:

Thousands of smartphone wielding young voters were seen following the politicians around while streaming live footage of what a newspaper report described as "something extraordinary: angry voters asking their elected representatives what have they done for them lately".  Here's an excerpt of a report by South China Morning Post (SCMP):

“Where were you during the last five years?” they ask (Sikandar Hayat) Bosan, complaining about the poor state of roads in the area. An aide can be heard pleading that the leader is feeling unwell. To be held accountable in such a public manner is virtually unheard of for most Pakistani politicians, especially in rural areas where many of the videos have been filmed. There feudal landowners, village elders and religious leaders have for decades been elected unopposed. Many are known to use their power over residents to bend them to their will."

Pakistan Political Parties' Trend in 1970-2018 Elections 

"Electables" Swept Away:

PTI's "Naya Pakistan" campaign inspired the voters to sweep away scores of "electables", dynastic feudal politicians who used to easily win elections at all levels in Pakistan. Among the prominent "electables" who lost are former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Voters also rejected several "electables" who joined PTI just before the elections to improve their chances of winning. These include Nazar Gondal, Firdos Ashiq Awan, Raza Hayat Hiraj and Nadeem Afzal Chan.

Many top leaders and former ministers also lost. The list of losers includes:

1.Ch Nisar Ali Khan
2. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
3. Tariq Fazal Ch
4. Talal Chaudhey
5. Abid Sher Ali
6. Khawaja Saad Rafique
7. Rana Afzal
8. Awais Leghari
9. Qadir Baloch
10. Ameer Muqam
11. Asfandyar Wali
12. Ghulam Bilour
13. Moulana Fazal ur Rehman
14. Akram Durrani
15. Siraj ul Haq
16. Aftab Sherpao
17. Mehmood Achackzai
18. Qamar Zaman Kaira
19. Yousaf Raza Gilani
20. Nazar Gondal
21. Nadeem Afzal Chan
22. Raza Hayat Hiraj
23. Firdaus Ashiq Awan
24. Farooq Sattar
25. Mustafa Kamal
26. Raza Haroon
27. Zulifqar Mirza
28. Naheed Khan
29. Ijaz Ul Haq

Conspiracy Theories:

Media coverage of Pakistan's July 25, 2018 elections has been dominated by conspiracy theories alleging "orchestration" of the election process by Pakistan's "Deep State".

A recent episode of BBC's Hardtalk with Dawn Group's CEO showed that such allegations fail to withstand any serious scrutiny. The "orchestration" conspiracy theory challenges credulity by asking you to believe that everything starting with Panama Papers leak by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was managed by Pakistani intelligence agencies to oust Pakistan's ex prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Wide reporting of open criticism of the military and the judiciary by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui shows that the "worst ever media censorship" charge is not credible.

While it is possible that the Pakistani military "establishment" attempted to influence the outcome of the elections, there is scant evidence of "orchestration" as alleged by Hameed Haroon of Dawn Media Group and others. While the military is a key player and has the ability to tip the scales to some extent, it lacks the capacity to determine the outcome of the elections. In the end, it's the voters who decide the winners and losers.


PTI has achieved a historic win because of the millions of young men and women came out to enthusiastically support and vote for Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf candidates on July 25, 2018.  It has swept away many of the corrupt and dynastic "electables" and brought to the fore a new crop of leaders in Pakistan.  There is new hope in Pakistan but these new leaders face many challenges starting with the economy being hurt by a serious balance of payments crisis. PTI will need to move quickly to address these and other challenges to begin to meet the huge expectations of their passionate but impatient supporters of "Naya Pakistan".

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Monis R. said...

Excellent write-up. Would be great if you could add that Pakistani voters overwhelmingly rejected right wing Islamist parties MMA and TLP and perhaps the early impact on economic indicators (PSX gains and rupee appreciation against the dollar).

Here's what I wrote in Facebook earlier:

Why Pakistan's 2018 Elections Were So Important

This election marked the second consecutive democratic civilian transition of power in Pakistan after a dictatorial rule. Bhutto's PPP and Sharif's PML-N previously served four terms each ping-ponging between themselves and performing miserably each time. Imran's PTI win is the first time in 50+ years that Pakistan has had a third party win elections by a non-dynastic popular candidate, breaking the PPP-PML-N spell. The people of Pakistan also clearly rejected the religious right/extreme parties MMA and TLP which barely won any seats.

Imran Khan is the people's choice. His victory was predicted by most polls before the elections. This is huge for Pakistan's democratic journey. He's not corrupt like most of our recent prime ministers. He's visionary and articulate. He's focused on all the right things. Imran's speech delivered tremendous hope: for the first time ever the rupee gained Rs 6.50 against the US dollar in 3 days. Pakistan's stock market capitalisation grew by Rs 200 billion — the PSX was up 1,565 points signaling positive reception by the business community.

Congratulations Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Monis: "Would be great if you could add that Pakistani voters overwhelmingly rejected right wing Islamist parties MMA and TLP "

Thanks for your great inputs.

I’ll write another post specifically highlighting the defeat of the religious right

Ahmad F. said...


The phase after the Pakistani elections will therefore be important in shaping not only the contours of the China-Pakistan relationship, but also strategic competition in South Asia in the coming years. If the new PTI-led government demonstrates its willingness and capacity to focus on a serious economic agenda, there is still an opening to address the problems with CPEC, which China certainly does not believe to be insurmountable. Imran Khan’s victory speech set the right tone, but China will be keen to test its mettle, given some of the reservations that Beijing retains about its experiences with the PTI in recent years. Privately, the Chinese side has also made it clear that there is scope to renegotiate the terms of the CPEC projects themselves if it makes political and economic sense to do so. But if Beijing sees an extended period of political infighting ahead and has to navigate another round of bad press surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative, general reassurances of friendship and commitment to CPEC will not overcome the perceptions that Pakistan is unable to channel the requisite energy into making a success of their flagship connectivity endeavor.

The consequences of a CPEC slowdown would go beyond the economic. The fundamentals of the security relationship are not going to change, and we are not going to see China regularly throwing Pakistan under the bus for India’s sake. But CPEC was supposed to be the vehicle by which the broader relationship would be placed on a higher footing and better insulated from shifts in Chinese dealings with India. With that came greater expectations, demands, and pressures from China. And there was always a risk that if those expectations were not fulfilled, we would see a reversion to the pre-2013 version of the relationship with a thin economic veneer on top, also tinged with greater Chinese wariness about placing too many chips on Pakistan again.

In the short term, such a recalibration might even help to stabilize security dynamics in the region. Deepening Sino-Pakistani ties were one of the factors accelerating South Asia’s geopolitical competition. But a drift in relations would also mean the weakening of a rare effort – however flawed –to promote an economically-driven agenda for Pakistan rather than being resigned to the usual political and military proclivities determining the future of the country and the region.

Riaz Haq said...


I disagree with Andrew Small.

The one constant in successive Pakistani governments, both civilian and military, has been the policy of close ties with China.

And Pakistan Army is the chief backer and guarantor of CPEC.

Riaz Haq said...

#China-#Pakistan ties, #CPEC #economic corridor will endure - Global Times

The Election Commission of Pakistan announced Friday that the Movement for Justice Party, led by former cricket hero Imran Khan, has won most seats in the election. Pakistan is about to face its second power transfer between civilian governments in its 71-year history. As an emerging power and third political force outside of Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Movement for Justice Party will hold power for the first time.

Given that power transfer in other countries has sometimes led to a temporary change of attitude toward Chinese investment, some Western media have been hyping the topic of whether a similar change would take place in Pakistan. Some have made wild guesses over whether Khan would adjust Pakistan's China policy.

All Chinese scholars interviewed by the Global Times expressed firm confidence in China-Pakistan ties. They believe China and Pakistan's all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation has lived up to its name, and the conditions that help foster this special relationship have not changed with the rise of Khan and his party. Supporting China-Pakistan relations remains a key pillar of Pakistan's diplomacy.

Movement for Justice Party's victory is a major political event in Pakistan. There had been other political oscillations in the country, but Beijing never interfered in Islamabad's domestic politics. China-Pakistan relations always transcend political changes within Pakistan.

As for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), there have never been any political trials against it in Pakistan. A consensus has been formed that the corridor is a mega project that benefits both countries. Discussions about the project are technical and never meant to pose strategic obstacles.

Khan reportedly said he appreciated the CPEC and that his nation can learn from China's crackdown on corruption and poverty alleviation efforts.

The CPEC has a strategic significance for both countries and will bring strong impetus to Pakistan's economic development. Western speculation about Pakistan's "debt issue" is not a technical analysis but political hype, a move to drive a wedge between Beijing and Islamabad.

China and Pakistan are carefully assessing relevant debt issues related to bilateral cooperation so that the debts will be kept within a controllable range. The two countries enjoy a high level of mutual trust and their coordination has been active and close. These factors fundamentally assure smooth bilateral cooperation.

Analysts believe Khan's challenges come mainly from domestic sectors. The most urgent issues include domestic extremism, economic development, a population boom and a water crisis. Economic development is obviously the key to solving other problems. China is Pakistan's most reliable friend in its initiative to strive for stability and prosperity. China's overall support to Pakistan is irreplaceable.

Few Western media are friendly and fair toward Pakistan. Smearing Pakistan's reputation and China-Pakistan relations is all too natural for them. They barely said anything positive about the CPEC and this attitude will hardly change in the future.

The economic corridor will not be built in one day. China and Pakistan should ignore those comments and there is no need to get upset. We should continue carrying out our work, implement the plan in accordance with reality, make sure our work fits both countries' interest and plays a constructive role in regional prosperity.

Pakistan's development was often disturbed by turmoil but its destiny will not always be sluggish. Development will once again become the main theme of the country which needs support from infrastructure. With the recession of extremism in South Asia, the future of CPEC is bright and it will be the new bond between Beijing and Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

#American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns against #IMF bailout for #Pakistan that aids #China. #PTI #CPEC

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Monday that any potential International Monetary Fund bailout for Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.

In an interview with CNBC television, Pompeo said the United States looked forward to engagement with the government of Pakistan’s expected new prime minister, Imran Khan, but said there was “no rationale” for a bailout that pays off Chinese loans to Pakistan.

“Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” Pompeo said. “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” Pompeo said.

The Financial Times reported on Sunday that senior Pakistani finance officials were drawing up options for Khan to seek an IMF bailout of up to $12 billion.

An IMF spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that we have so far not received a request for a Fund arrangement from Pakistan and that we have not had discussions with the authorities about any possible intentions.”

Rashid A. said...

PTI member, A.Q. Khan Kundi, who ran independently in Karachi, lost badly. His response to my email.

Why are you surprised? I told the RO that as an independent candidate we don’t have resources to place counting agents so his staff should ensure our votes are properly counted. But in the end they failed. Our votes are stolen and given to someone else because there was no one to protect it on our behalf. I am visiting my constituency to thank all those people that supported us. Everywhere I go people tell me on the street they voted for us. I am not saying we were winning but we expected five thousand votes and those are no stolen from us

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Our votes are stolen and given to someone else because there was no one to protect it on our behalf. "

There's an unfortunate tradition of sore losers refusing to accept their electoral losses.

Three different independent observer missions from Commonwealth, EU and FAFEN have rejected such allegations of organized systemic rigging favoring specific candidates or parties.

Here's Commonwealth observer Sy Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner in India :

Here's FAFEN:

Here's EU:

Non-PTI candidates won in more than half of the districts being disputed.

Sikandar N. said...

Rashid saheb, You should have also asked why PTI did not give him a party ticket?

The theory that the entire Election Commission staff, over 80,000 plus workers, and over 300,000 soldiers deployed at 80,000 plus polling stations "secretly" conspired to favor a particular party sounds very "scientific" and very "logical". Moreover, PPP won more seats at the national and provincial levels compared to the elections in 2013. Darn, the confused conspirators could not tell between the vote for the winning party and PPP! How can they be so stupid? Not only that, the army which favors the mullahs and mullah parties could not save them from the record low wins? Not only that, the "establishment" paid off all the international and domestic observers, who were in thousands, monitoring the elections, declared that the elections were fair and transparent. The pious and honest Mullah Fazl ur Rehman could not even save his own seat. This is too much, indeed.

While we are at it the entire judiciary and the entire military conspired to create the Panama scandal that eventually landed the Sharifs in jail.There are conspiracies underway to put the Zaradaris and the the remaining Sharif clan to Adiala. Unlike Trump, the conspirators do not believe in separating families.

Anyone else care to add to these very creative theories. The only problem is that these are not very "creative".

I am trying to find for the bridge I sold last time!

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Labbaik ate into the support base of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asking voters in campaign speeches to choose between their love of the prophet and Mr. Sharif’s party."

This election confirmed that Pakistanis do not support religious parties in elections.

The biggest victim of TLP was MMA, the alliance of religious parties that fared poorly in the elections. Top MMA leaders Maulana Fazalur Rehman of JUI and Sirajul Haq of JI did not win any of the seats they contested.

Together, all religious parties including TLP and MMA received about 8% of the total votes cast, a fraction of the votes received by each of the mainstream parties like PTI, PMLN and PPP.

TLP won a total of only two seats....both in Sindh Assembly from Karachi. MMA got a combined total of 11 seats in national and provincial legislatures

Riaz Haq said...

Despite the participation of 12 religious parties in the electoral battle this year, the far-right groups managed to secure only 5,203,285 (9.58 per cent) of the total 54,319,922 votes polled across the country as most of them saw a decline in their vote bank when compared to the 2013 general election.

The highest votes in favour of religious parties were cast in Punjab (2,704,856 votes) but that contributed to only 7.98pc of the province’s overall vote bank — the lowest among all provinces — as per the preliminary results released by the Election Commission of Pakis­tan. As compared to Punjab, their performance was better in Sindh where the religious parties rece­ived 1,116,644 votes (10.57pc of the total votes polled). However, religiously-motivated groups dominated the electoral space in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where nine parties collectively secured 18.84pc of the votes polled, followed by Balochistan (16.78pc).

The recently revived Mut­tahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) — an alliance of various religious parties headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F and the Jamaat-i-Islami — managed to secure 12 seats with 2.5 million votes for the National Assembly. Earlier in 2002, the MMA had emerged as the country’s third largest party with 3.1 million votes and 59 of its candidates had won. The alliance disintegrated when the JI boycotted the 2008 general elections. The JUI-F, however, took part in them. The JUI-F secured 760,000 votes in 2008 and 1.4 million votes in the 2013 general elections, while the JI had secured 960,000 votes in 2013.

Dominate electoral space in KP by securing 18.8pc votes

Similarly, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Nazryati-Pakistan managed to bag 34,170 votes as compared to 1,030,98 votes in 2013. Another religious party that did not leave an impact on the electoral battleground was Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (Noorani) that received 22,918 votes in contrast to 67,966 votes in 2013.

The Majlis Wahdatul Mus­limeen — which received 41,520 votes last time — managed to only get 19,597 votes this time. The Sunni Ittehad Council also witnessed a significant drop in its popularity as it received 5,939 votes only as compared to 37,732 votes in 2013.

While old religious groups failed to make their presence felt this time, new splinter groups p roved otherwise.

On an unexpected front, the newly formed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — led by clerics of the Barelvi sect — emerged as the top fifth party which received 2,234,138 votes for the National Assembly, outranking major parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Awami National Party among others.

Although the TLP did not secure a seat in the lower house of parliament, its 178 NA and over 500 provincial assembly candidates contesting elections across the country contributed significantly to its vote bank. The party bagged the most votes in Punjab (1,887,419) where it was the only party that had fielded over 100 candidates from the 117 constituencies of the province. The TLP also managed to govern Punjab’s religious poll bank as its votes make up 69pc of the total votes given to religious parties (2,704,856) in the region. In Sindh, the party candidates gave prominent leaders like Dr Farooq Sattar of MQM-P and PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari a run for their money.

In NA-246 (Karachi South-1), TLP’s candidate Ahmed secured over 3,000 more votes than the PPP chairman whereas in NA-247 (Karachi South-2), the party’s candidate secured second position and beat Dr Sattar by a margin of over 500 votes.

The TLP notched up two seats in the provincial assembly — one from Lyari’s PS-107 and the other from PS-115 (Baldia Town). It also beat the five-party alliance MMA in Karachi, hijacking the Barelvi vote bank further.

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Labbaik ate into the support base of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asking voters in campaign speeches to choose between their love of the prophet and Mr. Sharif’s party."

This election confirmed that Pakistanis do not support religious parties in elections.

The biggest victim of TLP was MMA, the alliance of religious parties that fared poorly in the elections. Top MMA leaders Maulana Fazalur Rehman of JUI and Sirajul Haq of JI did not win any of the seats they contested.

Together, all religious parties including TLP and MMA received less than 10% (less than 8% in Punjab) of the total votes cast, a fraction of the votes received by each of the mainstream parties like PTI, PMLN and PPP.

TLP won a total of only two seats....both in Sindh Assembly from Karachi. MMA got a combined total of 11 seats in national and provincial legislatures

Riaz Haq said...

Former cricketer Imran Khan led party has won enough seats to form a strong coalition government.

This election result is positive for market sentiment.

Near and long-term economic concerns remain.

Pakistan election note
The much-anticipated National Assembly elections were held across Pakistan on 25th July 2018, and as expected, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf [PTI] party has emerged victorious with the party winning a higher-than-expected number of seats. With the PTI winning 116 of the National Assembly seats out of the 272 up for contest amongst the major political parties, it is well placed to form the next government, along with the help of smaller political parties and independent candidates to get to the 137 simple majority mark, which would make Imran Khan the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. This result is a much-needed relief for the country and the stock market as it would be a strong coalition government with one party [PTI] having a majority of the seats.

Earlier expectations were of the PTI winning anywhere between 85 and 95 seats which would have meant that it would have most likely needed greater support from potential coalition partners, and this would have portrayed the coalition as weak. Therefore, the current setup of the PTI having the majority in the coalition it forms will be viewed as effective and be able to have a stronger footing while implementing economic policies.

The PTI victory does not come as a surprise, given the anti-corruption platform, which it has gained on, especially over the past year after the ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif amid the fallout of the "Panama Papers" scandal which weakened the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) PML [N] in run up to the elections and which is the main opposing party to the PTI.

The PTI has gained strength on an anti-corruption platform, given that its leader, Imran Khan, has a much cleaner image than the leaders of the other major political parties. Therefore, it would not be surprising if the senior leadership of the PTI takes measures to bring in greater accountability within the system as well as take steps to reduce unaccounted wealth. Besides this, the PTI has also focused on social issues, and we could therefore see more thrust towards healthcare, education, and low-cost housing-based initiatives, as well as more support for the agricultural sector.

From an economic perspective, the PTI will most likely appoint Asad Umar as the next Finance Minister who has a private sector background with his last role being the CEO of conglomerate Engro Corporation. ....

What is the outlook for the economy?
The macro economic situation for the country has deteriorated over the past year as the current account deficit has widened to 5.7% of GDP in the financial year ending June 2018, which has led to a reduction of foreign exchange reserves with import cover of just over 2 months, while export growth and foreign remittances have not fully helped plug the gap in the current account as imports have grown at a much faster pace over the past 12-18 months. The reason for the increase in imports is two-fold. The execution of the CPEC projects, most of which are power projects, has led to a surge in machinery imports, while the higher oil prices over the past year have also pressured the current account as Pakistan is a net energy importer. Though the current account deficit has widened, we would like to add that the CPEC-based power projects will be important to overcome the power deficit in the country and help improve productivity as the lack of power has been cutting 1-2% from Pakistan's GDP growth rate.

Riaz Haq said...

Former cricketer Imran Khan led party has won enough seats to form a strong coalition government.

This election result is positive for market sentiment.

Near and long-term economic concerns remain.

Since 2018 was also an election year the outgoing government loosened its fiscal stance towards higher expenditure in order to satisfy various voter bases, and this has led to a higher-than-expected fiscal deficit. Given the situation that the new government will find itself in, it is widely expected to request the IMF for a loan programme, and this amount could be in the range of USD 10 billion due to the upcoming financing needs of the country.

The growing current account deficit and declining foreign exchange reserves have already led to a greater than 20% depreciation of the Pakistani Rupee (PKR) since December 2017, while the Central Bank has raised benchmark interest rates by 175 basis points so far this year. In all likelihood, we will see interest rates rise further this year as the Central Bank tries to contain the impact of higher commodity prices on inflation as well as rein in demand, while some more weakness can be seen in the PKR in order to reduce the pressure on the current account.

If the IMF loan program goes through, it would most likely require the new government to implement reforms linked to reduction of subsidies, reform of the power sector, increase in the tax base, privatisation of state-owned entities and reduction in government expenditure. All in all, with constraints on further government spending, higher interest rates, as well as a weaker PKR, final demand is expected to soften going forward leading to a slowdown in GDP growth.

What is the impact on the stock market, and what are our views on Pakistan going forward?
Both the political and economic uncertainties over the past year have already had a negative impact on markets as well as valuations. The KSE-100 Index has lost 31% in USD terms from its high in May 2017, while the trailing 12-month P/E of the index at 10.2x is now at a large discount to most markets in the region. It appears the worst of the political and economic issues have been priced in, and from a political perspective, we should have a stable government, while from an economic standpoint, there will be more to be done to stabilise the current economy, and until we have policy measures such as an IMF program in place, economic uncertainty may continue.

Further, as mentioned above, economic growth would possibly slow down due to higher interest rates, a weaker PKR, and measures put in place by the IMF to cut government spending.

Riaz Haq said...

Former cricketer Imran Khan led party has won enough seats to form a strong coalition government.

This election result is positive for market sentiment.

Near and long-term economic concerns remain.

AFC Asia Frontier Fund's outlook on Pakistan
Overall, given these issues above, we think most negatives have been factored into valuations, but with growth expected to slow down in FY 2019, there may not be any major trigger which can lead to a significant rally in the stock market. Hence, since we have already reduced the fund's exposure to Pakistan over the past six months, going forward, we expect to maintain our current exposure and look for bottom-up opportunities as valuations appear attractive in sectors such as banking, cement, and oil & gas.

Investors can gain exposure to Pakistan via an ETF such as the Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF (PAK) or through the London listed GDR's of OGDC (Oil & Gas Development Corp.), UBL (United Bank), and Lucky Cement.

You can view our Senior Investment Analyst Ruchir Desai's views which appeared on Bloomberg on 25th July 2018 here.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Rashid A. said...

My take:

TLP was launched to break NS vote bank. And it succeeded. It had amazing success in siphoning votes away in several (13) constituencies.. A party that was launched only a year ago is able to snatch 2 seats is incredible. It is better than even IK’s record.

MMA was not defeated by TLP. It was by PTI. TLP is Barelvi Group, MMA is not, it is mostly Deobandi group. To divide JUIF vote IK had supported JUIS (father of Taliban, Sami-ul l-Haq of Akora Khattak), and his Madrassa System with money from the KPK budget.

And TLP had actively campaigned against PMLN, not against PTI, because PTI had “reformed” its ways and supported Faizabad Dharna, and cunningly, blamed the Govt. for the Oath change, even though Rana Zafrul Haq report had documented that PTI was part of the committee that approved the amendment and furthermore, PTI opposed the motion to correct that amendment. So TLP was very happy with PTI.

As for how many votes these religious parties get, they have never garnered much votes by themselves, their value lies in coercing, intimidating, and dividing, and hence politicians of all kind, pay homage to these religious extremists parties. Neither NS, IK, or AZ has the courage to stand up to these bullies. (Abbasi received ASWJ support, so did 64 PTI candidate abd 39 Independents).

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "TLP was launched to break NS vote bank. And it succeeded. It had amazing success in siphoning votes away in several (13) constituencies.. "

The following analysis shows PMLN could have added another 5 seats. Would that make a significant enough difference to PTI's seat count as the single largest party?
The answer is NO!

Effect of TLP on PMLN
(What if PMLN got 60% of TLP votes and PTI got 40% of TLP Votes)
Constituency PTI PMLN TLP Actual Winner PMLN + 60% of TLP votes
NA-87 165618 157453 44130 PTI PMLN
NA-108 112740 111529 8075 PTI PMLN
NA-118 63818 61413 49345 PTI PMLN
NA-131 84313 83633 9780 PTI PMLN
NA-140 124621 124385 15500 PTI PMLN

There seems to be a lot of controversy regarding TLP and it’s effect on PMLN’s vote bank. According to the stats, if most (60%) of TLP voters had voted for PMLN, PMLN would have won 5 extra seats.

Riaz Haq said...

Ex #Indian chief election commissioner Sy Quraishi on #PakistanElection2018: "We observed that candidates from across parties and independents were able to campaign freely and peacefully....We found the electoral system quite robust". via @IndianExpress

We observed that candidates from across parties and independents were able to campaign freely and peacefully. Maybe we arrived too late, by which time the games were already played. The overall security situation was tense, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan, where terrorist attacks in the preceding weeks claimed more than 170 lives, including of three candidates. However, the parties were able to organise their rallies freely as per Election Rules 2017. A lot of negative and abusive campaigning was initially reported but after the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) stern action under the model code, most people fell in line.

We found the electoral system quite robust, with a substantially reformed legal framework consisting of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Elections Act, 2017 and Election Rules, 2017, which has led to a greater autonomy of the ECP, including financial autonomy, power to make rules and punish for contempt, and to deregister or delist an existing political party. Officials deputed for election duties have now been brought under the ECP’s disciplinary control.


Polling day passed off peacefully much to everyone’s relief. There was a 53 per cent turnout, significantly higher than the 48 per cent in 2013.

Unlike India, the counting in Pakistan is done at the polling station itself immediately after polling closes. There were several questions raised about the counting. Some parties alleged that the polling agents were not allowed to observe the counting from close up. Some complained that their agents were thrown out of the stations. There were allegations that Form 45 (result sheet) was neither given to polling agents nor pasted on the wall of the PS. The ECP denied the first allegation clarifying that only those agents who were in excess of one per party were asked to leave. It, however, admitted to several instances of the second allegation and promised to take action. The ECP also admitted the failure of the Result Transmission System because it had not been pilot tested adequately. The foreign minister, whom we met, attributed this, in a lighter vein, to the failure of the British technology on which the app was based.

The elections were closely observed by a huge force of volunteers of civil society led by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) and Trust for Democracy Education and Accountability, besides international observers from the EU, Commonwealth and several diplomats. FAFEN deployed 19,683 citizen observers (including 5,846 women) at more than 65,000 polling stations (almost 80 per cent of the total). Most observers were satisfied with arrangements and conduct of elections. The Commonwealth group commended the ECP for a laudable job in the short time it had to implement its mandate for holding transparent elections on schedule. It regarded the General Election 2018 as an important milestone in strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

34-year-old Wazir Zada of #PTI will be the first member of the #Kalash community to become a lawmaker. July 25 was a big night for #minorities in #Pakistan. 3 Hindu candidates of the #PPPP were elected from the #Sindh province. #PakistanElection2018

More women than ever were on the ballot nationwide. Several transgender persons contested on general parliamentary seats. July 25 was also a big night for minorities in Pakistan. Three Hindu candidates of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) were elected from the Sindh province. While over in three small villages – Bamboreet, Bareer and Ramboor - nestled in the Hindu Kush mountains in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, celebrations have been ongoing for many days now. Men and women dance to loud music in their colourful attires. And why shouldn’t there be revelries. One of their own, a young man named Wazir Zada has made history.

The 34-year-old will be the first member of the Kalash community to become a lawmaker.

Before Pakistan went to vote, Zada’s name was proposed for the minority seat in the provincial assembly by Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf. His name is second on the list of priority in an assembly where the PTI has secured a big win, picking up 66 general seats from the province, out of 99.

The Kalash community practises an ancient polytheistic religion and speaks Dardic. They are considered one of the oldest and smallest indigenous communities in the country.

Last year, the government-run National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) warned in a report that the Kalash population has dwindled over the years and now hovers around 4,000 due to forced conversions and other threats.

Zada was born to a working-class family in Kalash. He completed his matriculation and college from Chitral, before joining the University of Peshawar for a masters in political science. After his education, he began working as a social worker and activist in his area.

He first joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, a relatively lesser-known party then, in 2008. Once an MPA, Zada says he hopes to bring more “development and prosperity to the people of Kalash.” While the majority of the population in the three villages is that of Muslims, he plans to promote and highlight his tribe’s culture and history.

“I am thankful to Imran Khan, who gave me this opportunity,” he told “Before this the people of Kalash only voted in the elections, but they were never heard from after. Now, our voice will reach every home.”

Riaz Haq said...

Imran: The Inevitable | OPEN Magazine. "In (Imran) Khan’s journey is a very remarkable manifestation of the motto of Aitchison College, his alma mater in Lahore: ‘Perseverance Commands Success.’ " #ImranKhan #PTI #PakistanElections2018

1982 ON A ROAD SOMEWHERE in Leeds, UK, driving with a friend, a song slowly filled up the fast- moving car. Silently, rapt, he listened to the song. For the rest of the journey, he played the song on what is today known as a loop.

2018 Thirty-six years later, Imran Khan still loves the Lata Mangeshkar song, Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh (‘An odd story is this’). Not many songs seem as apt as this one to encapsulate the story of Imran Khan’s life as the hauntingly beautiful lyric, ‘Kahaan shuru kahaan khatam (Where does it start, where does it finish).’

From an Oxford-educated, devastatingly handsome man, a legendary cricketer, to the prime minister-designate of Pakistan, Imran Khan has come a long way. Khan is probably the only sportsman in the history of sports whose career trajectory is marked with so much variation that it is like reading a multi-volume epic journey of a protagonist who, humanly flawed, weakened by constant obstacles, marches on, undeterred, fearless, single-mindedly focused on that distant, barely visible light at the end.

Retired from cricket in 1992; involved in his philanthropic work since 1990 to build the first-ever cancer hospital in Pakistan that would provide free treatment to patients from underprivileged backgrounds; construction of an international university for students from low-income families in Mianwali, his backward, primitive hometown in Punjab; construction of cancer hospitals in Peshawar and Karachi; fund-raising for his cancer hospitals in Pakistan and among the Pakistani diaspora globally, Khan created milestones and went beyond them. Political success, nevertheless, remained as elusive as sunlight in Iceland.

1996-2018 Khan’s journey in politics is of good intentions, apparent cluelessness of grassroots political realities, lack of support on all levels, repetitive rhetoric, unworkable dreams. Khan’s journey is that of persistence, a singular focus, a never-say-die spirit, falling, getting up, learning, adapting, gaining the public’s confidence, awakening a hitherto politically unaware class, swapping his image of an international cricketer and a flamboyant heartbreaker for that of a political icon for young Pakistanis uniting in passion to do good for Pakistan. Khan never cared for personal wealth, and he remained financially incorruptible. On July 25th, 2018, he won the elections.

In Khan’s journey is a very remarkable manifestation of the motto of Aitchison College, his alma mater in Lahore: ‘Perseverance Commands Success.’

On July 26th, 2018, in his thank-you address to the nation, Pakistan and the world saw Imran Khan the politician turn into a statesman. In that speech, which was humble, expansive, large-hearted, humane and human, conciliatory and farsighted, Khan, composed, dignified, appeared to accept with grace the huge honour his nation had bestowed on him, fully aware of the huge responsibility that came with that honour.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is literally a movement for justice, which was established to work on the principle of ‘justice based on an independent, credible judicial system’. Having faced electoral annihilation in the 1997 elections, won one seat in 2002, boycotted the 2008 elections, and secured 31 seats in 2013, the PTI won the 2018 elections with 115 seats, defeating Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N (64) and Asif Zardari’s PPP (43). Amidst the noise of alleged pre-election manipulation by the establishment- judiciary nexus; the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif from his third-time prime ministership; and the July 6th, 2018, sentences of Sharif, his daughter, Maryam, and his son-in-law Captain (Retd) Mohammad Safdar, and their jailing, the elections took place as scheduled.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan free, fair and transparent polls saw no-holds-barred debates, brutal criticism of government: #India's ex chief #election commissioner Sy Quraishi. #PakistanElections2018

Former Chief Election Commissioner dispels allegations of malpractice in Pakistan’s election, saying most complaints were of pre-poll rigging.
The election in Pakistan in July was free and fair, except for procedural issues, says former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi, who was in Islamabad and Rawalpindi as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group.

How was your experience as an international observer of the general election in Pakistan?
It was an interesting and unusual experience. We have been to many countries observing elections, but Pakistan was a different experience as it had a special significance. I went there as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group, which is always headed by a former Head of State. This time, it was the former Head of State of Nigeria. In all, 15 members from different Commonwealth countries went to different cities in two-member teams. to Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Serious allegations of rigging and manipulation have been made by political parties in Pakistan, including the PML-N and PPP.
We heard delegations from all major political parties, the media, civil society and human rights groups to know their views. Almost all of them mentioned about pre-poll rigging. They mentioned about three main allegations — that many leaders were being made to shift loyalties through coercive or persuasive measures, the Army was being deployed in a big way and that media freedom was being curtailed.

What were your findings on these allegations?
Shifting loyalties is more a part of political engineering, than rigging. It can be through horse-trading, which happens elsewhere also. As we do not have any proof, we will never know what the exact reasons were. The media delegation complained about indirect pressure, but these were months ahead of polls. While we were there, we found no-holds-barred debates, often brutal criticism of the establishment, which never gave the impression of any censorship. Then self-censorship was alleged. Anyhow, in no way we could have cross-checked the veracity of allegations.

We kept an eye on Army deployments. A total of 3.71 lakh soldiers as against 4.49 lakh policemen were deployed. A major objection was to deployments inside polling stations, given that 40% of soldiers were reservists (retired) and the suspicion was that, now being a civilian, they could be affiliated to political parties. We talked to the Army spokesperson and the Chief Election Commissioner. They said in the 2013 polls, the Army was deployed outside 71,000 booths, but many complaints of rigging inside were received. Therefore, this time, deployments were also made inside polling stations, but under an overall command of the presiding officers.

How did Army personnel deployed at polling stations function under the Election Commission?
The responsibility of soldiers deployed inside polling stations was to report any malpractice to the presiding officer and if he did not act, the matter had to be reported to a superior Army officer, who would convey the same to the respective senior Election Commission official. Therefore, they were always under the Commission. Also, we found that the army also did not have any role in the transmission of results from polling stations, where ballot papers are counted in Pakistan.

Therefore, contrary to the allegations of rigging, the elections were free and fair?
The first person to complain about any malpractice is a polling agent. We all interacted with polling agents and asked if there were any such complaints. There were none … that is the best certification.

I myself interacted with about 200 polling agents at 70 booths. We all compared notes and found the same everywhere.

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #Pakistan's first lawmaker of #African descent raises hopes for #Sidi community. Sidis descended from #slaves brought to #India from East #Africa by #Portuguese. Their ancestors were also soldiers, traders, pearl divers, #Muslim pilgrims.

Pakistan is set to have its first ever lawmaker of African descent, raising the profile of a small and mostly poor community that has been in the region for centuries.

Tanzeela Qambrani, 39, was nominated by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to a women's reserved seat in the regional parliament of southern Sindh province.

She hopes her nomination after last month's election will help wash away the stigma attached to the Sidi community, the local name for the ethnic African population concentrated in the coastal regions of Makran and Sindh.

"As a tiny minority lost in the midst of local populations, we have struggled to preserve our African roots and cultural expression, but I look forward to the day when the name Sidi will evoke respect, not contempt," Ms Qambrani, whose ancestors came from Tanzania, told the BBC.

Many Sidis are believed to be descended from slaves brought to India from East Africa by the Portuguese. Historians say their ancestors were also soldiers, traders, pearl divers and Muslim pilgrims.

They enjoyed senior positions during the Mughal empire but faced discrimination under British colonial rule.

Estimates put their population in Pakistan in the tens of thousands. They are well-integrated but keep alive some traditions, including an annual festival that blends Islamic mysticism, crocodiles and singing in a blend of Swahili and a local language called Baluchi.

Sidi communities also live in the Indian states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

The Sidis dominate the Lyari district of Karachi and have been staunch supporters of the PPP, now chaired by Benazir Bhutto's son, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto.

However, no Sidi had ever made it to parliament until Mr Bhutto Zardari nominated Ms Qambrani for the reserved seat.

"Just as Columbus discovered America, Bilawal has discovered Sidis," said Ms Qambrani, whose great-grandparents came to Sindh from Tanzania.

The PPP came third in the recent general election, which was won by former cricketer Imran Khan's PTI party. However the PPP again won the most seats in the Sindh provincial assembly.

Can Imran Khan change Pakistan?
Ms Qambrani, a computer science postgraduate with three children, hails from the coastal area of Badin. Her father, Abdul Bari, was a lawyer while her mother is a retired school teacher.

Her family has kept its African connections alive; one of her sisters was married in Tanzania, while another has a husband from Ghana.

"When my sister married a Ghanaian husband, local youths and guests from Ghana put on such a show in our neighbourhood," she said.

"They danced those typical Sidi steps to the Mogo drumbeat which they say comes from Ghana but which we've traditionally played in our homes. You couldn't tell a Sidi dancer apart from an African."

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Ata ur Rahman: #Pakistan: a new beginning. After a decade of loot and plunder by successive democratic governments, there is finally hope that Pakistan will embark on the road to progress. #PTI #ImranKhan #NayaPakistan

The massive loans taken by the last two governments have placed Pakistan in a dire financial situation. Our current account deficit is $18 billion. The value of the rupee declined from Rs60 per dollar to Rs123, whereas the magnitude of foreign loans increased from $37 billion, accumulated over 60 years, to $95 billion – an additional debt of $58 billion in just 10 years. The outstanding rupee debt is Rs4 trillion, which the new government will need to rollover during the coming months. Around 190 Public Sector Enterprises have lost a huge sum of Rs1.1 trillion, and we have lost some Rs3.7 trillion over the last three years.

The former finance minister has escaped the clutches of the law and taken refuge in the UK. He needs to be brought back through Interpol and given exemplary punishment, if found guilty of looting public funds. The former prime minister languishes in jail for massive corruption and misuse of public funds. Imran Khan has emerged as a knight in shining armour after relentlessly struggling against corrupt rulers for 22 years. His speech was full of wisdom and humility – it came straight from the heart and proved that Pakistan finally has a leader who is a visionary, and is honest and committed.

The vast amounts of looted public funds have been accumulated abroad, while thousands of Pakistanis are committing suicide due to abject poverty. The answer lies in implementing a punishment system such as that of China, Thailand, Morocco, Philippines, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and Vietnam. Such trials should be carried out by military courts, as the normal justice system cannot work against such a powerful mafia. The murder of late Justice Nizam Ahmed is a reminder of what can happen to judges. Plea bargaining should not be allowed, except for commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment, with Class C jail facilities, only if all looted funds are brought back.

One of the most important tasks that lie ahead for the new government is revamping the judicial system. Some out-of-the-box thinking may have to be done to make this possible. The system can be improved by hiring several thousand new judges on contractual basis from a lot of qualified lawyers. They should be given the mandate to decide all new cases within three months. Those who fail this test should be fired. The backlog of cases must be cleared within 24 months. This can be done; all it requires is will. It will also be an appropriate justification to the name of the party in power -- Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Pakistan’s wealth lies in its 100 million people below the age of 20. So our action plan must primarily focus on unleashing their potential, so that Pakistan can transition into a knowledge-based economy. Achieving this will require funds. The fastest way to generate funding is by introducing projects in the agriculture sector. Providing access to water through building dams and lining canals, reducing water wastage and using biotechnology to improve crop yield and disease-resistance should be given the highest priority.

The mushrooming of substandard universities has promoted mediocrity and contributed to the joblessness of poorly prepared ‘qualified’ graduates. This must stop. Our focus should be on sending our brightest students to top universities abroad. They must then be attracted back through research grants, jobs on arrival, and their salaries must be tripled as per the tenure track system. This system, introduced in 2005, must be made mandatory for all new faculty inductions so that there exists a mechanism for weeding out non-productive faculty through international evaluation.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Ata ur Rahman: #Pakistan: a new beginning. After a decade of loot and plunder by successive democratic governments, there is finally hope that Pakistan will embark on the road to progress. #PTI #ImranKhan #NayaPakistan

There is a huge scope in several sectors of our economy. These include information technology, mineral processing, electronics, engineering goods, value-added agriculture etc. The projects to be undertaken in each sector have already been shortlisted in a 320-page document prepared as a result of intense consultations with thousands of stakeholders through a ‘foresight’ exercise carried out under my supervision during 2004-2006, and approved by the cabinet in 2007. These now need to be picked up and implemented upon.

To make rapid progress, Pakistan needs to focus on projects which can create jobs and thereby alleviate poverty. The motto of the new government must be ‘Jobs, Jobs and Jobs’. To make this happen, agricultural development and industrialisation has to be our focus. To promote manufacturing in high value-added fields, technical training, education, science, technology and innovation (TESTI) should be a priority. The autonomy of the federal HEC must be restored, and the body must be fully supported to discharge its function independently of the Ministry of Education. Some of our best universities should be transformed into ‘research universities’ and some of our best research institutes developed into centres of excellence. To promote innovation and entrepreneurship, every university should establish a Science Park for the incubation of new companies. The vice chancellors of all universities should be screened and those who appear to be academically and administratively weak should be removed, with a better person being appointed in their place.

School and college education needs to be completely revamped. A Lower Education Commission could be formed that is independent of ministries and reports directly to the PM on the same lines as the HEC, so that a coordinated nationwide strategy for improving school-level education can be developed. Similarly, the provincial HECs need to be disbanded as they are duplicating the functions of the federal HEC, and the higher education departments in each province should be given the task of uplifting colleges.

The new cabinet must not contain any politicians. It should be composed of respected technocrats, each a specialist in their relevant discipline. All federal secretaries should be replaced by top experts, and each ministry should have think tanks which comprise experts from within Pakistan and abroad. These should then advise the federal ministries. The same should be done at the provincial level.

The clock is ticking. Secretaries should be required to be in office at 8am sharp and the ministries should function till 5pm each day, including on Saturdays. National holidays should be cancelled except for one day each for Eid and Muharram. If people want to celebrate Kashmir or Iqbal days, then that week’s Sunday should be declared a working day and the salary for that day should be donated to the relevant cause. Destiny has provided a wonderful opportunity to Pakistan through a dynamic, honest and sincere leader in the form of Imran Khan. We should all gather round to support him.

The writer is the former chairman of the HEC, and president of the Network of Academies of Science of OIC

Countries (NASIC).

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani elections are flawed, but poor rural voters are taking control

Shandana Khan Mohmand
Research Fellow, Governance Team, Institute of Development Studies

The Pakistani electorate is widely thought of as deeply polarised, having dug in its heels behind one or the other of the largest competing parties. But this is a largely urban phenomenon. Most of Pakistan’s voters – about 65% – live in rural areas and are far less inclined to identify with political parties than their urban counterparts. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about politics – they turn up in sizeable numbers to vote during elections (in recent local government elections, they even exceeded those in urban areas). So, without a strong identification with political parties and their agendas, why do they vote in such reliable numbers?

With very little research available to explain this, it’s not surprising that all kinds of stereotypes abound. Two ideas in particular have become entrenched: on the one hand, that rural voters are effectively electoral cannon fodder – unthinking, uneducated, ignorant and coerced by enduring feudal lords – and on the other, that they simply sell their votes to the highest bidder.

The truth is rather more complicated. While there are indeed some voters who are coerced or others who will happily sell their vote, my research shows that a majority of rural voters know the value of their vote and wield it quite strategically in an increasingly competitive environment.

Keep them guessing
In my forthcoming book, Crafty Oligarchs, Savvy Voters: Democracy Under Inequality in Rural Pakistan, I looked in detail at the politics of 35 villages in Punjab, the political heartland of the country, and found that these sorts of explanations don’t capture social and agrarian changes in Pakistan’s rural areas.

Local landlords, who often play a role as local power-brokers, can no longer wait at home for supplicants to come to them. Instead, they’re obliged to regularly canvass voters on the doorstep. On top of this, they’re faced with ever more demands from myriad groups of voters, very few of which relate to money: requests for greater action against absent teachers and doctors, for a veterinary hospital, for road repairs and, most often, for street paving and drainage systems. The landlords then put these demands to national and provincial politicians. Some are met, others not – and should they fail, the local landlords could lose votes in future elections.

One local landlord, worried about losing votes, explained to me that “it is important to think about what is good for the constituency, and to focus on who can provide it. This is the primary basis upon which political support is decided.” To cobble together this support, local landlords have had to change how they interact with poorer voters.

In some villages, emerging political leaders from poorer groups are demanding a seat at the negotiating table whenever politicians come through on the campaign trail. They believe – rightly – that they are better able to represent their own needs than their wealthier village leaders. A common strategy is for voters to put pressure on competing landlords aligned with different parties, and to keep them guessing about whom the voters support until the bitter end.

Armed with this strategy, rural voters can milk elections for all they’re worth. And that goes some way towards explaining why so many of Pakistan’s voters describe themselves as “undecided” in pre-election polling.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani elections are flawed, but poor rural voters are taking control

Shandana Khan Mohmand
Research Fellow, Governance Team, Institute of Development Studies

Bottom-up power
Some local landlords seem to be getting the hang of this. One political organiser who represented the poorest groups in his village told me that landlords had now learned to “speak our language”. Another suggested that democracy had made landlords humbler in their interactions with voters. Under these circumstances, politics is a matter of negotiation rather than coercion or ideology.

So far, no single political party has locked these votes up. What matters to rural voters isn’t the political party their elected representatives belong to, but whether their representatives are close to power and are able to provide goods and services.

This pattern of voting has two major implications. First, it means the collective interests of the rural poor are not projected upwards in national politics. While negotiations between voters and local leaders – and between these leaders and politicians – meet voter demands on an ad hoc basis, voter interests never become the subject of public policy that can respond to their needs as a whole. Second, this bottom-up model forces Pakistan’s political parties to compete by attracting “electable” politicians – endlessly manipulable and malleable by non-elected institutions – who come together not to strengthen their parties, but to win elections.

For parties to be able to survive such pressures, and to be able to sustain democracy in the process, they must organise and build core support bases of their own amongst rural voters, represent their interests when in power, and effectively provide public services in order to further reduce the relevance of local notables.

Pakistan’s teetering democracy is far from ideal, and the 2018 election may well have raised more questions than it has settled. But regular competitive elections mean that poorer voters’ votes and voices matter to elites – a situation that has few parallels within Pakistan’s extremely unequal socio-economic order.

Riaz Haq said...

The minority women taking on Pakistan's political elite to campaign for better health

hen Sunita Parmar Menghwar became frustrated at the lack of health care, water and education in her corner of Pakistan, she had little hope existing politicians would improve things.

Believing her community had been neglected and betrayed by the political elite, she decided instead to take matters into her own hands, and stand for election herself.

For people like Mrs Parmar, Pakistan's politics is not an easy world to enter.

As well as a Hindu woman in a country that is 96 per cent Muslim, she is also one of Pakistan's 40 so-called scheduled castes – those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy who are known in neighbouring India as dalits, or untouchables.

In a country where politics is often the preserve of a dynastic elite or the sport of feudal landowners, to contest an open seat as a minority woman is almost unheard of.

Undaunted, the 39-year-old from Tharparkar last month joined a handful of women from similar castes and religious minorities elsewhere in the country, trying to get elected onto Pakistan's provincial or national assemblies.

While their numbers were small and none of the independent candidates were elected, the very fact they even stood, often to improve health and education, has been described as a milestone by campaigners.

“I took this stand for the people of Tharparkar, for the people of my ‘status’,” she told the Telegraph.

“Because they don’t have representatives to voice their concerns. Thar has always been ruled by the feudal class, but they have given us nothing. They only visit us during election time to collect votes. They give money in exchange for votes, and people accept it out of greed. And then they leave.”

“Our people don’t realise the importance of their vote – they sell themselves. The people of Thar do not have roads, water to drink, hospitals, schools – the basic necessities of life.”

Pakistan's minorities have this year seen the first election of a female, scheduled caste Hindu senator, Krishna Kumari Kohli. At the time of her election she vowed to work for the “empowerment of women, their health, and education”.

Pakistan's assembly has 70 seats reserved for minorities and women, but the general election also saw the first election of a Hindu politician to a general seat, Mahesh Kumar Malan.

Seema Maheshwari, a human rights activist in Sindh, said the fact many of the 10 minority women had stood for general seats as independents in the rural parts of the province or in the port of Karachi was a “sea change”.

She said it was sign of growing confidence among women. She said: “We can see that not only male persons, but also female persons can stand. Women think they are adults, they are citizens, they are also human beings.”

Basic healthcare, clean water and education were often the core of their election demands.

The Thar desert in Sindh province is one of the most deprived parts of the country and its residents are largely Hindu.

Mrs Parmar, a university graduate from the local city of Mithi, said: “In particular, I would like to open a hospital that has a gynecology department, with all the equipment and tools for delivery, so women don’t have to travel far. The way it is in other places. Many women die during child birth.

Riaz Haq said...

'Much Like #Brazil, #Pakistan's left has destroyed itself – and this is how'. #Ideology alone is not enough unless it is followed up with meaningful action. #PPP #ANP #PTI #PMLN

As the once unthinkable happens in Brazil and far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro takes the helm, one would think that the self-combustion of its leftist parties would serve as a stark warning to counterparts across the globe. However, this seems to just be the continuation of a larger trend that saw Israel elect Netanyahu, India elect Modi and the US elect Trump.

In a similar vein, elections in Pakistan saw its leftist parties, once a formidable force, relegated to an afterthought as Imran Khan’s centre-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) surged in the polls.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the largest self-proclaimed progressive party in the country, saw its vote bank all but disappear nationwide, except for its provincial stronghold of Sindh, where it rules through the patronage of influential feudal families.

After decades of empty rhetoric, chronic mismanagement and perceptions of institutional corruption on a massive scale, supporters abandoned the party in droves, flocking to the PTI, which offered accountability and change. Only the most ardent of Bhutto loyalists remain supportive outside of Sindh.

Take for instance the nutrition crisis in Thar, where countless children died from preventable diseases, and levels of malnutrition were at times comparable with those in Chad or Niger. Under the PPP’s rule, the situation only deteriorated with time, with the local administration proving inept at providing food, water and aid. Not even extensive coverage in the national media could get the PPP to up its game, and all that people received were empty platitudes and no action. They did, however, announce that those villages would get free wifi, which was clearly a priority for residents without basic necessities.

For all its lofty progressive rhetoric, the PPP is a party built on the back of feudalism – akin to modern slavery. Feudal lords, or Waderas, as they are known in Sindh, are notorious for flouting the rule of law and often consider themselves untouchable, as the state institutions turn a blind eye to their activities. Such is the perception amongst the general populace that a song parodying the excess of feudal culture called Waderai Ka Baita (Son of Feudal) by comedian Ali Gul Pir was an overnight success and turned him into a household name.

A clip of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar, visiting the prison cell of Shahrukh Jatoi, a member of an influential feudal family, guilty of murdering a police officer’s son, expressing his anger at the favourable facilities illegally being provided to him went viral recently. The sight of Jatoi smirking while the Chief Justice lambasted the jail officials caused tremendous outrage in a country where there often seems to be no accountability for the rich and politically connected.


The Pakistani left is crying out for representation but there are no credible contenders. Jibran Nasir, an independent candidate who won widespread acclaim for never backing down in his fight for Ahmadi rights, and to a lesser extent Ammar Rashid of the tiny Awami Workers Party, do show great promise but lack any significant political clout.

Riaz Haq said...

#ImranKhan Takes on #Corruption in #Pakistan. Plans to introduce #Whistleblower law with reward of 20% on recovered assets. #PTI #PMLN #PPP #NawazSharif #Zardari @Diplomat_APAC

Throughout his campaigns over the years, Imran Khan, now Pakistan’s prime minister, has always commented on his intention to carry out an intensive anti-corruption drive once in power. Pledging “strict accountability” and a crackdown against “the people who looted this country,” Khan visualized an extensive anti-corruption campaign. Finally, with his recent election, the time seems to have arrived, as unprecedented measures are being taken along with the announcement of a new “whistleblower law” to help end financial crimes.

For starters, an Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) has been established with its headquarters based in the prime minister’s office in Islamabad to retrieve monies or hidden assets overseas. Comprised of bank officials as well as representatives from all the government intelligence agencies, this unit aims to target high-level corruption in the initial phase. Getting details of illegal foreign bank accounts within the country, the ARU has special powers to access any kind of information from any department within seven days. Although it is not possible to gauge the exact amount of stolen wealth or aggregate value of ill-gotten overseas properties at this point, the unit will likely present more precise projections in the coming months.

Second, a law to facilitate and reward whistleblowers has been unveiled recently. Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Khan outlined the new incentive, saying, “The law will invite countrymen to identify the corrupt and [whistleblowers will] get 20 percent of the ill-gotten money and assets recovered from such people.” The award of 20 percent from ill-gotten stashes of wealth is aimed at actively motivating close business partners, associates, or employees of powerful kingpins to alert the authorities of financial wrongdoing.

Ostensibly, the remainder (80 percent) of the recovered funds would be used to ease Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis as well as its debts. Recovering funds as quickly as possible is a dire need for the cash-strapped government. In the coming days, a draft of the new law is likely to be presented before parliament for passage as a bill and further stipulations would be added to protect whistleblowers to increase their confidence in coming forward.

As Pakistan’s financial crisis gets worse, the government constantly highlights that rampant, uncontrolled corruption from the highest to the lowest tiers of society and government is a key factor responsible for its predicament. Trying to regain the confidence of foreign investors and business partners alike, the fledgling government has had to find new methods and exert all its resources to get back stolen funds. In the meantime, Pakistan’s budget deficit climbs and foreign exchange reserves are depleting fast. Staving off a balance of payments crisis requires a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as all other options have failed.

The Pakistani government has request help from various foreign governments in recovering corruption proceeds. Agreeing to cooperate, the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently announced a joint declaration along with the Pakistani law minister. Titled “U.K.-Pakistan Justice and Accountability Partnership,” it enumerates that both governments would track corruption and restart a bilateral prisoner transfer process so that the corrupt can brought back to face the courts in Pakistan. Khan has also requested the UAE to help identify Pakistanis who have acquired properties worth billions of dollars in the Emirates and hastened the signing of a bilateral treaty with Switzerland for the exchange of information. Taking fast-track measures to retrieve nearly $2 billion that has been traced overseas by various culprits, details of over 10,000 properties in England and Dubai have also been compiled.

Riaz Haq said...

Crystal-gazing #Pakistan. A silent revolution by #technology-enabled, #socialmedia-savvy demographically young Pakistan is underway. This tsunami needs to be harnessed as its tremendous energy only can make #NayaPakistan. #youth #PTI | The Express Tribune

The genesis of Pakistan, and by extension most of South Asia’s political culture can be traced to the non-consolidation of state per se. The Mughal system of governance and its resource mobilisation was based upon an exploitative lagaan or rent system, wherein the peasant-farmer paid a rent to noble landlord/empire for tilling the land, as land belonged to the emperor. The nexus of landlord/nobility and officials morphed into a predatory elite or ashhrafiyya. Under the British, this elite willingly served the Company and later the Crown; and was replaced — as and when needed — by ashhrafiyya created through British land titles and other largesse. The present day “who is who” in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh belongs to this legacy elite, manipulating power to keep a stranglehold on state


First, as previously suggested, massive investment in ‘quality education’, land reforms and preferential economic development of less developed areas would help untangle this Gordian knot of paradoxes, ironing-out competing influences.

Second, reform is seldom voluntary and has to be enforced through “agents of change”, identified and put in place by successive regimes and consistently followed — by injecting binding commitments — across the political spectrum. These agents work overtime to bring the desired change by harnessing sociological and political undercurrents. The erstwhile “Five Years Plan” is a good idea. Education, health, infrastructure, industry and economic development, as some agents of change, should remain the areas of attention and investment by the government without wasting time, effort and energy in self-consuming rhetorical battles of accusations and counter accusations.

Third, a silent revolution from below by the IT-enabled, social media-savvy demographically young Pakistan is underway. It is everywhere. This tsunami needs to be harnessed ingenuously and proactively as its tremendous energy only can make Naya Pakistan; replacing the tired, the senile and the prudent with innovative, young, bold and energetic leadership. This revolution will redefine class relations ripping the ashhrafiyya apart. Opportunities in the post-corona world are countless for the right and ready and despite challenges, Jinnah’s Pakistan can bounce back.

Riaz Haq said...

Which way is the Pakistan Democratic Movement going?

by Prof Rasul Bakhsh Rais

The two major dynastic parties— the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan People’s Party are concerned that if Khan continues to stabilize and devise strategies for reforms, which he is set to roll out in the coming months, he may win the next election. If that happens, it will end dynastic elite politics, as staying in the political wilderness could cause splits, defections and fragmentation.

The leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 political parties that include religious, ethnic and two major national parties, have been holding rallies in different parts of the country in an effort to bring down the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The question is why, why now, and by what means can the opposition remove an elected government?

In the parliamentary system that Pakistan practices, the executive or the prime minister can stay in power as long as he enjoys the confidence of the house, while the Parliament is elected for five years. They cannot exercise the option of ‘no-confidence’ or in-house change because the numbers game cannot work in their favor.

Khan’s party has the support of allies to sustain a comfortable majority, and is even in a position to break parliamentarians away from opposition parties, if and when it requires. Never has it been a problem for any government in the past to beat back opposition offensives within the parliament.

Even when a government might lose its majority by defections from its ranks or when the governing coalitions split, the system leaves the prime minister in an advantageous position, with the powers to dissolve the assemblies and call for fresh elections. This is exactly what the opposition parties seem to be struggling for— fresh, free and fair elections.

There are no signs and no compelling reasons in the present circumstances for the government to call for midterm elections; the government has two and a half years more to complete its tenure. So why can’t opposition parties wait for the next elections, is the six-million-dollar question.

Prime Minister Imran Khan says there are some foreign powers that don’t want to see stability, strength and progress in some Muslim countries, and that Pakistan is one of them. He sees their hand behind the opposition movement. But governments in the past have spun such conspiracy theories to discredit opposition parties or movements.

Riaz Haq said...

3 Myths About ‘Un-Governable’ Pakistan
Pakistan needs to be saved from those that rule it, and especially from those want to rule it forever.

By Hussain Nadim

Calls to improve Pakistan’s image from that of a weak economy with rising extremism and corruption to a stable, internationally responsible and progressive nation are often raised in the country’s policy making circles. However, what is conveniently ignored is that Pakistan’s ruling elite has coproduced this fragility/failed state narrative to perpetuate its hold over power. Having worked in the Pakistani policy sector for over a decade, I would like to dispel three deeply-imbedded myths about Pakistan, specific to governance.

Myth #1: Pakistan is Impossible to Govern:

For decades, Pakistan’s ruling elite has justified its poor performance by claiming that it is a country that is hard to govern and whose people are “jaahil” (savages). “It is not us but you,” is the message that the ruling elite has fed the public and also transmitted to foreign countries about Pakistan to achieve short-term personal objectives over long-term national goals. After the Cold War, this messaging included a new line of narrative, pitching Pakistan as a country with a deep level of Islamist extremism that only the “moderate minded” ruling elite could help keep at bay.

The truth is that Pakistanis are easy to govern, they have very basic demands. You cut the gas, they turn to using wood. You cut electricity, they sleep on rooftops. They have little expectations from the government beyond the primitive life needs.

As for extremism, it is less to do with Islam or the public at large and more to do with how the ruling elite sowed and cultivated the seeds of religious and ethnic extremism to pursue its domestic political and geopolitical interests, especially during the Cold War.

The Pakistani ruling elite adopted a fear-based governance model instead of a rule of law-based governance. This facilitated the flow of foreign funds into the country and secured international political support to its supposedly “liberal minded” rulers so they may “de-radicalize” the “extremist” masses.

The latest in the line of fear-based and victim-driven narrative is pitching the 140-million strong youth of the country as a “ticking time-bomb,” instead of presenting them as a game-changer to the global community in the digitalized world.

Pakistan is neither an impossible country to govern nor are the people inherently extremist. It is those in power that have hijacked the system for decades and have forced a functioning country into a dysfunctional state, keeping it deliberately on a brink of failure. It is this state of brink that creates a hyper sense of fear and victimhood, providing the ruling elite leverage with actors at home and abroad.

Myth #2: It is the Incompetence:

There is only so much that the ruling elite can blame Pakistan or its people for being hard to govern, especially 70 years after it emerged an independent country. Incompetence is simply a narrative to mask and perpetuate deep corruption.

The incompetence myth played well, both at home and abroad. It has convinced the public at home and the foreign audience that a moderate/liberal minded incompetent government is better than a worst-case scenario of an Iran like “Islamist takeover” of the country. But this begs a question; how is it that the same ruling elite that is so incompetent in governance of the state is internationally competent when it comes to its private businesses?


Myth #3: The System is Complicated and Broken:

The ruling elite also uses the myth of a dysfunctional and broken system to continue its power grab on the state. The narrative on “broken system” helps the ruling elite buy sympathy and time from the public to undertake the pipedream of “reforms” and also touches the right chords with foreign powers to secure technical assistance in capacity building projects and development aid.

Riaz Haq said...

G. Parthasarathy, Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, wants India to "Reset Ties with Pakistan".

PAKISTAN’S political families have drawn their wealth primarily from agricultural properties. Land reform was never even considered. The ownership of agricultural lands now continues largely in the hands of politically influential families. Pakistan’s Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto drew his wealth from his lands in Sind, even as he professed socialistic leanings. His grandson Bilal Bhutto, and son-in-law Asif Ali Zardari, who lead the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, belong to today’s rural aristocracy in Sind. The Sharifs, who originally resided in Kashmir, moved to Punjab, where the patriarch (Nawaz Sharif’s father) settled down, and set up a steel industry. The industry was duly sold and the Sharifs now possess a $300-million sugar industry.

Shehbaz Sharif has always behaved as the younger brother, who obediently followed his elder brother’s wishes. But unlike Nawaz, who has run afoul of the army, Shehbaz has maintained a good professional relationship with the army. It, therefore, had no doubts while backing his bid to succeed the mercurial Imran Khan.

Nawaz has an ambitious and bright daughter, Maryam. Shehbaz has an equally ambitious son Hamza, who has been catapulted to the position of CM of Punjab. Maryam is information minister in Shehbaz’s Cabinet.


Pakistan’s economic problems have been marked by acute shortages in its foreign exchange reserves, necessitating constant use of a begging bowl, to be filled by donations from Arab states. Pakistan’s GDP has fallen drastically from $315 billion to $292 billion in the past four years. Its foreign exchange reserves have been falling, despite large doses of foreign aid. Foreign exchange reserves, which stood at $18.8 billion in August 2021, fell to $14.9 billion in February 2022. Pakistan has depended on doles from Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Imran Khan, however, was getting ready to join an Islamic grouping being set up by Malaysia and Turkey, obviously to challenge Saudi Arabia. An infuriated Saudi Crown Prince Salman, backed by UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Zayed, turned the economic screws on Pakistan.


India should continue its diplomatic and economic pressures on Pakistan till Rawalpindi dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism on territory under its control, in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. In the meantime, New Delhi should establish a credible back-channel to discuss ways to move ahead for establishing a normal relationship with Pakistan. As a first step, ambassadors have to be appointed to take charge soon. Much will, however, depend on whether Pakistan continues supporting terrorism. One hopes Pakistan remembers the old adage that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. We can, in due course, even restore bus and air services while having a normal people-to-people relationship. India can even consider a phased restoration of SAARC if Pakistan fully implements the provisions of the SAARC Free Trade Agreement. The ball is in Pakistan’s court.

Riaz Haq said...

Ch Aitzaz Ahsan


Video clip of Aitaza Ahsan showing him describing Nawaz Sharif as a fugitive criminal appearing on Pakistan TV and directing the PMLN government of Shahbaz Sharif on running the country.

Aitazaz is also critical of the fact that Salman Shahbaz Sharif, another fugitive from Pakistani law, participating in official meetings in Saudi Arabia.

Riaz Haq said...

Maryam Nawaz Sharif's leaked audios of conversation with her uncle PM Shahbaz Sharif:

The first clip purportedly features a conversation between PML-N Vice President Maryam and the premier about Miftah, who has reportedly faced criticism from within the party for taking tough economic measures.

The PML-N vice president has publicly stated that she does not agree with the decision to hike petrol and electricity prices, saying she did not own such decisions, whether her party was in government or not.

"He doesn't take responsibility [...] says strange things on TV which people make fun of him for [...] he doesn't know what he is doing," the voice said to be Maryam's says in the alleged clip.

"He clearly cut corners," the voice said to be PM Shehbaz's is heard as saying.

"Uncle, he doesn't know what he is doing," Maryam purportedly says, as she wishes for the return of PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar.

Former finance minister Dar is set to return to the country next week to facilitate PM Shehbaz on the economic front.

The second clip allegedly concerns a conversation between the premier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Law Minister Azam Tarar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq about the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the lower house of parliament.

A third clip purportedly features a conversation between Maryam and PM Shehbaz regarding the return of former army chief retired Gen Pervez Mushar­raf.

The former military ruler’s family publicly confirmed in June that he was “going through a difficult stage" where recovery was not possible while Inter-Services Pub­lic Relations (ISPR) Director Gen­eral Maj Gen Babar Iftik­har said Mushar­raf's family was in contact with the military regarding his planned return.

Discussing this in the alleged clip, the voice alleged to be Maryam's can be heard saying that she "sees this coming", adding that she said the same to Nawaz in a phone call.

"I told him to tweet this. He listened to me immediately," the PML-N vice president allegedly says, adding that the move was "opposed" by several people. She allegedly reasons that showing "magnanimity" in this situation would help the government save face.

She said that there was nothing in the leaks that was similar to the "anti-Pakistan conspiracy of Shaukat Tarin", referring to the audio clips attributed to Tarin regarding the International Monetary Fund programme.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah appeared to play down the matter while speaking on Geo News show "Naya Pakistan", saying that nothing definitive could be said about the prime minister house’s security being breached until the leaks were investigated.

"I don't think we should take them so seriously since this is so common," he added.

“If the probe proves that it’s not safe to talk in the prime minister house and somebody has done this [spying] arrangement, then it’s really serious but it is inappropriate to say this without proof.”

Sanaullah did not reject the content of the audios, instead, saying that the current setup's "good governance" was reflected through them.

He also said that the prime minister had taken notice of the leaks and would consult his cabinet on the issue tomorrow, adding that the matter would be sorted out in the next few days.

On the leak where Maryam could allegedly be heard criticising the finance minister, the interior minister said expression of opinion was allowed in democratic and political systems, adding that Ismail was criticised by outsiders so it made no difference if Maryam or some others in the PML-N did so as well.

"What was wrong if Maryam said some of his decisions cost us politically."

Sanaullah also seemingly blamed the finance minister for the recent high fuel adjustment charges, asking why they couldn't have been spread over a period of months.

Riaz Haq said...

The Assassination Attempt on Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Could Push Pakistan to the Brink

How bad will things get? It’s the question everyone in Pakistan is asking following Thursday’s shooting of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as the cricketing icon led a march on Islamabad to demand snap elections that could return him to power.

Khan, 70, was wounded in the shin when a gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon on his convoy of lorries and cars in the Wazirabad district in the east of Punjab province, the sound of gunfire crackling through a chorus of “Allah-Hoo,” a popular religious song, that was blaring through loudspeakers. One supporter was killed and seven more injured in the apparent assassination attempt, according to Punjab police. Khan has since undergone surgery on his leg and is said to be recovering well.

Protests have erupted across the South Asian nation of 230 million in response to the attack—which Khan blamed on a conspiracy between the government and Pakistan’s powerful military—with demonstrators blocking main roads and, in a marked escalation from previous flare-ups, even haranguing senior military figures.

“The political situation in Pakistan has been a powder keg for months,” says Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “This attack could be what causes the powder keg to explode if calmer minds don’t prevail.”

In a statement issued through Asad Umar, secretary-general of Khan’s centrist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the former Prime Minister accused Pakistan’s current leader Shahbaz Sharif alongside interior minister ​​Rana Sanaullah and director of counterintelligence Major General Faisal Naseer for orchestrating the attack. “I have prior information about the attack and I demand all three should be removed from their position. If they are not removed we will call a country-wide protest,” Umar said on Khan’s behalf, according to The Times.

Sharif of the center-right PML-N—also a brother of Khan’s longtime nemesis Nawaz Sharif—has denied involvement and released a statement on Thursday condemning the attack. The alleged assailant was apprehended at the scene and police released a video confession of a disheveled man alleging that he wanted to “kill Imran Khan because he claims prophethood by comparing himself with prophets.”

However, neither Khan nor his supporters accept that this was a lone gunman. Asked whether he believes Sharif was behind the attack, Fawad Chaudhry, former Information Minister for the PTI, tells TIME: “Of course, they were openly threatening Khan.” In response, some pro-PML-N supporters have accused the PTI of a false flag attack to boost Khan’s popularity.

Pakistan is no stranger to political violence. In 1951, its first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was shot dead at a gathering. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 in a gun and bomb attack during an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi. Following her death, Khan penned an op-ed for the U.K. Telegraph newspaper with the unfortunate headline: “Benazir Bhutto Has Only Herself to Blame.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Assassination Attempt on Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Could Push Pakistan to the Brink

It’s unlikely that Khan will feel the same way about his own narrow escape. The PTI has become increasingly swathed in a victim complex following Khan’s ouster in a parliamentary no confidence vote in April, after a dozen lawmakers from his party defected in part over his embrace of Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow on Feb. 23 at the outbreak of the Russian President’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Khan has since raged—without evidence—about a U.S.-sponsored plot to unseat him. Social media teems with PTI supporters alleging that Thursday’s assassination attempt was a foreign plot to destabilize Pakistan. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement condemning the attack, calling on “all parties to refrain from violence, harassment, and intimidation.”

That appears a vain hope. Pakistani politics has become increasingly nasty and vindictive, with several top PTI figures arrested and intimidated over recent months, while Khan himself has been slapped with various charges—including terrorism, over comments deemed threatening he made to the judge and senior policeman responsible for the arrest of an aide—that he claims are politically motivated. In the meantime, the nuclear-armed nation has been blighted by runaway inflation that reached 26% in October and floods that inundated one-third of the country, claimed over 1,700 lives, and caused an estimated $40 billion in damage. “It’s striking that given Pakistan’s economic crisis, given these terrible floods, the government has continued to target Khan and its supporters with retributive politics,” says Kugelman.

Still, Khan was guilty of needlessly antagonistic behavior before his own toppling, denouncing political rivals as “traitors” and taunting the powerful military—which has ruled Pakistan for half its 75-year existence—as “neutrals,” in a sardonic reference to their historical role as kingmaker. Last week, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt. Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum gave an unprecedented press conference—the first time the head of Pakistan’s spy agency has ever addressed the media—during which he accused Khan of duplicitously negotiating with the military at night while denouncing them during the day.

By feeding into Khan’s victim narrative, the attack undeniably boosts his ambitions of returning to power. Although Sharif does not constitutionally have to hold elections until August, millions taking to the street may force his hand. Khan’s party has gained seven seats in recent by-elections and has the political momentum behind him. But Pakistan’s elections commission in October also disqualified Khan from holding office for five years, amid allegations he sold state gifts and concealed personal assets—charges he denies. Even if Khan could run, who would win any such contest “really depends on who can mobilize the people,” says Samina Yasmeen, director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia. “At the moment, it’s heavily in favor of Imran Khan.”

Not that Pakistan’s problems would be over should Khan return to power. His first term was blighted by entrenched polarization and economic mismanagement compounded by global headwinds like the pandemic and soaring oil prices. And Khan’s injury also raises the stakes for his opponents since he would have no shortage of axes to grind were he back in office. The military, whose support was crucial to bring Khan to power in 2018, has already said that it would back Sharif’s government in case of widespread unrest. That is exactly what looks in store. “Let’s say people demonstrate a lot, there’s a lot of disturbances and political violence, would the military shoot at people?” asks Yasmeen. “The moment that happens it becomes a very different picture.”