GENERAL ELECTIONS AND THE BATTLE OF NARRATIVES!
Recent events in the course of Pakistan’s political affairs have led to the battle of narratives among the divided groups. The general elections seem more of a clash of narratives as the voters have become more aware and interested in their country’s politics. Currently, the most prevalent narratives in the political landscape of our country are corruption, accountability and the involvement of establishment in political engineering.
Narrative 1: Corruption
PML-N uses its own slogan to refute the corruption narrative: ‘vote ko izzat do’ (respect vote). Since the prospect of PML-N forming the next federal government is centered on Punjab, the resonance of this campaign strategy depends on the extent to which Punjab’s undecided voters are dissatisfied with democracy.
The ruling party, PMLN faced extreme troubles after Panama Papers were published in 2016. The documents revealed a list of names of the elite across the globe involved in money laundering, corruption and ownership of overseas companies. The list also highlighted the name of incumbent Premier Nawaz Sharif.
After being tried in the offshore company cases and the Avenfield corruption case, Nawaz Sharif was disqualified and ousted from the office and eventually was awarded imprisonment for 10 years. His daughter and son in law, Maryam and Safdar are also serving imprisonment in the Adiala jail for seven and one year, respectively.
This led the PMLN’s leadership to a critical situation. Just when the general elections were around the corner, the most revered leader of the PMLN was proven guilty of corruption. It hurt the sentiments of the supporters of the PMLN, who felt extremely disgruntled and furious afterwards. It is expected that the corruption case might blemish the image of PMLN and it may lose backing from its loyal supporters.
Today, the most critical group whose perception of PML-N’s honesty (or dishonesty) will matter the most during the elections is the undecided voter in Pakistan.
Besides the proven corruption cases, PMLN is also lashed out for its inability to resolve electricity and water crisis. The PMLN faced even more bashing after the metro bus in Multan, sank into the road like a quick sand. The negligence on building dams and the flooding of the Lahore during the recent monsoon rains has also caused ambiguity in the minds of the people regarding the performance of the biggest and most powerful political party of Pakistan.
On the other hand, the improvements in the healthcare, education and transport in the KP have finally paid off for the efforts of PTI in the province. The law and order has significantly improved and yet marks another great achievement of the PTI. This creates a serious threat for the PMLN, which is at the verge of losing power at the hands of the struggling PTI.
Narrative 2: Accountability
Thanks to the judicial system of Pakistan for holding the culprits accountable, the public has now become more aware of the ongoing national affairs and is taking more interest in the politics of its country.
The recent accountability of the Kings of the politics, the Nawaz family has created trust and confidence among the people that the Pakistan’s judiciary will not compromise with anyone in any case. People have grown respect for the courts and they hail the Chief Justice of Pakistan as they are hopeful that the fate of the country will soon change as soon as the corruption is eliminated from the system once and for all.
The courts have opened eyes of the general public who would now be able to vote sensibly and responsibly.
However, there is also a majority of those people who believe that courts are being used and pressurized by the non-democratic stakeholders to give verdicts in their interests, and the establishment is carrying out political engineering of the country.
This brings us to the third narrative.
Narrative 3: Involvement of Establishment in Politics
Islamabad High Court judge accuses the ISI Political Wing of meddling in the judicial process. A Pakistani high court judge alleged that the country’s premiere intelligence agency is meddling in the judicial processes to get favorable verdicts in different cases, especially concerning PMLN and the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The High Court Judge Justice Shaukat Siddque openly lashed out the military and the ISI Political Wing for pressurizing and controlling the judiciary and the media amidst ongoing general elections.
“Today the judiciary and media have come in the control of Bandoook Walas. The Judiciary is not independent. Even media is getting directions from the military”, the justice accused.
The judge also blamed the ISI Political Wing for interfering in the formation of the court benches. He said he was not allowed to sit in the bench hearing the appeal of Nawaz and Maryam against the Avenfield Corruption case. Justice Shaukat Siddique said that the establishment is rigging the general elections by making sure that Nawaz and his daughter are not released from the jail before 25th of July.
He also added that ISI Political Wing offered him withdrawal of a reference against him if he agreed on cooperation with the establishment. He was promised the post of Chief Justice but he says that he rejected it. “I refused as I believe that it is better to die than sell my conscience” he said.
Justice Shaukat Siddique isn’t the first and only person to lash out the establishment’s role in fixing the general elections. The debate has been going on for quite some time now, and as the days are passing the narrative of establishment’s involvement in the political affairs is gaining heat and momentum.
Hanif Abaasi, who was the strongest candidate of the NA-60 RWP against Sheikh Rasheed has been struck off to enable the PTI supporter win the seat. Hanif Abbasi has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the edephrine case. There were other criminals involved in the case but the timing of the decision has yet again affirmed the role of establishment in the political engineering. Even if that is not true, the Selective Justice is definitely bringing no good to this country, and its so called democracy.
Following the arrest of Hanif Abbasi, the controversy has gained more heat and the political environment in the country is boiling. In a highly unusual development. Anti-ISI slogans were raised by the supporters of Pakistan’s mainstream political party, the PML (N) and others outside General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.
The supporters of the PMLN and the ousted Prime Miniter Nawaz Sharif shouted slogans like “ISI Murdabad” and “Yeh jo Deshsad Gardi Hai Uske Peche Wardi Hai”. The PML (N) staged the protest against the Controls of Narcotics Substances (CNS) Court’s verdict in Ephedrine smuggling case, sending PMLN leader Hanif Abbasi to jail for life.
The supporters of the PMLN are furious and so are the workers of other parties that oppose the PTI. They fear that the involvement of establishment in the general elections will blemish the democracy of the country. They feel that Imran Khan’s PTI is receiving a lot of favors and support from the non-democratic actors and it is the reason behind the growing popularity of Tehreek e Insaaf. The contestants are sensing extreme biases and they fear the outcome of the elections would be completely unfair, considering the total wipeout of the PMLN from the landscape.
Amidst this battle of narratives on a diverged playing field, it is in the interest of all the parties to channel clear and promising messages to the voters across the country. It is time to build a single and convincing narrative that can save the democracy instead of playing blame games. The parties need to go beyond narrative clashes and focus on crucial matters like building dams, preserving water and increasing the production of electricity. They need to spend on education and health, and the infrastructure of the country if they really want to form the next federal government and save democracy.