Pakistan Elections 2018: PTI Triumphs 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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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 3, 2018 at 7:54am

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.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 4, 2018 at 10:19pm

How a phone app and a database served up #ImranKhan's #Pakistan poll win. A phone #app and #database of more than 50 million voters were key weapons in the successful campaign of cricket legend Imran Khan in last month’s #pakistangeneralelections #PTI

How Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party used the database and the associated app represents a sea change in the antiquated way in which Pakistan’s biggest parties conduct elections, from pre-poll targeting of voters to on-the-day mobilization of supporters.

PTI was secretive about the technology plan ahead of the July 25 poll, fearing rivals could copy it, but several party workers showed Reuters how the app transformed their campaign and gave them an edge.

The phone app proved especially useful in getting supporters to the polls when the government’s own telephone information service giving out polling place locations suffered major problems on election day, leaving other parties scrambling.

It partly explains why Khan’s party managed to win tight-margin races in the nuclear-armed nation of 208 million people, though Khan’s rivals allege he also benefited from the powerful military’s support - an allegation he staunchly denies.

“It’s had a great impact,” said Amir Mughal, tasked with using the app and database, known as the Constituency Management System (CMS), to elect Asad Umar, a lawmaker who won his seat in Islamabad and will be Khan’s new finance minister.

The small CMS unit led by Mughal, Umar’s personal secretary, was typical of how Khan’s party set up teams in constituencies across Pakistan to mine the database, identifying voters by household, zeroing-in on “confirmed” PTI voters, tagging them on the app, and ensuring they turned out on election day.

“Work that would take days of weeks is being completed in one to two hours,” Mughal told Reuters in Umar’s office minutes after the polls shut.

Khan’s PTI surpassed expectations to scoop about 115 seats out of 272 elected members of parliament, while the party of ousted and jailed premier Nawaz Sharif trailed in second with 64 seats.

Developed by a small tech team, the CMS was a key response to Khan’s bitter complaints after the 2013 poll loss that his party failed to translate mass popularity into votes because it did not know the “art of winning elections”.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ran a more erratic campaign, hurt by divisions within the party and the loss of key leaders who were either disqualified or in case of Sharif and his daughter, jailed.

Weeks before the elections, Khan sent out a video via WhatsApp urging PTI candidates to embrace CMS.

“I have seen and experienced how it works and I’m using it in all five constituencies I am contesting,” Khan said in the video message, seen by Reuters. “The faster you apply this system, the easier your life will become,” Khan added.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 7, 2018 at 7:44pm

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."

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 15, 2018 at 5:19pm

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 30, 2018 at 7:54am

'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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 29, 2018 at 7:46pm

#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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 10, 2019 at 7:47pm

Military Might: Pakistan’s Continued Struggle with Democracy
Zahra Chaudhry February 10, 2019

Syeda Munnaza lives in Pakistan, in the bustling Lahore locality of Iqbal Town. There, she runs the Mehmod Hamid Welfare Memorial Society, a nonprofit that provides skills based employment training to locals, especially women and girls.

Munnaza’s house is divided on the political front: her three children, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty five, are huge fans of the new prime minister, Imran Khan. Munnaza herself is a loyal supporter of the former premier, Nawaz Sharif, and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN). Ask her about the July 2018 election, and she’ll tell you it was entirely rigged in favor of Khan.

Nawaz Sharif’s career has been a tumultuous one since he first appeared on Pakistan’s political scene in the 1990s; he has served as prime minister three times without ever completing a full term. Most recently, in July 2017, Sharif resigned from his post after being declared unfit for office by the Supreme Court due to corruption scandals. Subsequently, the country voted overwhelmingly for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, and PTI’s Chairman, Imran Khan, became Prime Minister. Khan ran on anti-establishment and vehemently anti-corruption rhetoric.

Sarah Khan, a postgraduate associate at the Yale Macmillan Center and researcher on gender and politics in South Asia, told The Politic, “The demographic pool of PTI supporters tends to be more educated, more on the higher end of the income spectrum, and also younger…but what we’ve seen in 2018 is a broader support for the PTI.”

Fahd Humayun, a PhD candidate at Yale, studies political behavior and regimes. He says this broader national support stemmed from Khan’s ability to portray himself as “an anti-status quo force—someone to be reckoned with”—while also focusing on the same issues that Sharif “had traditionally focused on.”

Humayun added, “Imran Khan’s not a new addition on Pakistan’s political landscape. He’s been around since the 1990s.” What made him an appealing “outsider,” however, is that he was a viable third option to a public increasingly weary with the country’s two other major political parties, the PMLN and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

While many are hopeful that Prime Minister Khan will follow through on his pledge to deliver a “New Pakistan,” one with welfare programs, a thriving economy, and an improved reputation on the international stage, others remain skeptical.

In an interview with The Politic, Munnaza said, in Urdu, that her kids “find establishment politicians to be foolish, uneducated, [and] problematic.”

She remains unconvinced by their argument, saying she voted for the PMLN because of “all the work” Sharif has “done for the people” in Lahore; she cited renovations and technological upgrades at government hospitals and improvements to the city’s education system. Munnaza isn’t alone in feeling indebted to Sharif and his party; the PMLN won 61 in the National Assembly, out of a total 272—corruption scandals and all. They came in second to the PTI.

“[I] would never say that I am going to stick with Nawaz Sharif and his party no matter what. If Imran Khan…wanted to do anything [for us], or if he was capable of it, then we would welcome change. But the way by which he came to power was extremely wrong,” Munnaza said.

She says that in a country like Pakistan, where corruption is a widespread problem, she doesn’t understand why Sharif’s particular case was pursued so rigorously.

In 2017, Sharif was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court after the Panama Papers showed his family’s ties to undisclosed properties abroad and offshore accounts. Sharif and his daughter were convicted on corruption related charges and received lengthy prison sentences just weeks before the 2018 elections.

Munnaza is doubtful that democratic institutions alone were responsible for the corruption crackdown and suspects election interference.

Niloufer Siddiqui GRD ‘17 is an assistant professor of political science at the State University of New York-Albany and a researcher in political violence in Pakistan. Siddiqui said“People will ask whether or not elections are free and fair in Pakistan. Polling day rigging is very unlikely. Nobody is changing people’s votes at the booth.” But “pre-poll rigging” is an issue.

Sarah Khan explains that pre-poll rigging is when the military engages in “controlling the environment and distribution of information that allows voters to make informed decisions.”

Siddiqui told The Politic, “All the cases that churned out against Nawaz Sharif are likely to have been influenced by the military. In fact, the tribunal that found him guilty had two military members [on it]…”

She added, “… a series of steps were taken that ensured that he would no longer be a key player. All of this happened within weeks of the election.”

Khan and his supporters have celebrated Sharif’s ousting and arrest as an indication of the start of a new era in Pakistani politics where powerful people will be held accountable.

The consensus among sources who spoke to The Politic is that Sharif lost favor with the military establishment by taking control over foreign policy. In 2013, he told an audience at the US Institute of Peace that trying to improve Pakistan’s relationship with India was one of his “favorite subjects.” In December 2015, Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Sharif’s private residence in Raiwind. This was the first time an Indian premier had visited Pakistan in more than a decade.

Siddiqui told The Politic that because foreign policy had historically been “under the military sphere of influence,” they felt Sharif had “overstepped.”

It is less clear, however, why the military chose to support Khan. His campaign centered around radically transforming most every aspect of governance–including Pakistan’s international relations. In December 2018, Prime Minister Khan told The Washington Post that Pakistan would not be the United States’ “hired gun” anymore.

Sarah Khan told The Politic, “It is…a bit of a puzzle as to why they would support Imran Khan, who is known to be perhaps stubborn or volatile…” On the other hand, she believes it makes sense that the military tried to support the “party that was already electorally viable,” something the PTI “very much was.”

Military intervention took on a few different forms, including restricting freedom of the press. For years, there has been pressure for Pakistani journalists to self-censor to please the military establishment.

During the 2018 campaign, Humayun says Khan received more TV time and more coverage by major national newspapers like Dawn News. In June 2018, Gul Bukhari, a columnist for The Nation and a prominent critic of the military, was abducted and held for four hours in a military cantonment in Lahore. She credits the public outcry on social media for her relatively prompt release.

Matiullah Jan, another critic of the military apparatus and former anchor on Waqt News, had his car’s windshield pelted with large rocks by motorcyclists in 2017. Jan called it a “pre-planned attack.”

Some also allege that the military called on popular politicians—or “electables”—from other parties to run under the PTI ticket. Lobbying for electables is a common strategic move in Pakistan to win in constituencies where voters show more loyalty to an individual than a party.

Siddiqui told The Politic, “My interviews with people that I know…seem to suggest that a lot of people were getting phone calls, again from the powers that be, to switch their support to the PTI.”

During the general elections, 46 electable candidates ran under the PTI ticket and 23 of them won their seats; most of the winners represent areas within the PMLN stronghold of Punjab. Khan said candidates joined the PTI because the other parties had failed to deliver.

It’s important to remember that Khan enjoyed a great deal of popular support from people like Munnaza’s children, who were inspired by his message of reform and progress.

Since 2013, his party has governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK) through a coalition with religious parties. In 2018, the PTI won a historic re-election and majority in the province, where incumbents are generally voted out. Siddiqui believes this “kind of indicates the PTI is doing something right.”

Now, as Prime Minister, Khan has to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state,” as he said he would, while dealing with the country’s perilous economic crisis. The crisis is driven by a national account deficit in the billions, making it virtually impossible for Khan to run the government without foreign loans from sources like Saudi Arabia and China. He has yet to reach a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Munnaza wants to see economic relief and political progress, even though she doubts Khan’s ability to enact real change; “The poor people here aren’t constructing homes, or driving cars, or sending their kids to prestigious schools; they are working hard just to buy their flour and sugar.”

Munnaza believes, at the end of the day, Sharif and Khan don’t matter. What matters is helping the country’s poor afford a dignified life. For the good of the people she works with, she’s praying for Khan’s success

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 14, 2020 at 4:36pm

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 31, 2022 at 11:24am

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 12, 2022 at 4:24pm

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.


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