Pakistan resonates with electioneering, but the July 25 polls are still uncertain in view of many external and internal threats. Terrorism, sponsored by international forces, remains a serious risk to the election but two mainstream parties can also jeopardise it with their boycott.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) can boycott polls anytime. They have discussed the idea together several times, though they deny it publically. After Nawaz Sharif’s conviction in the Avenfield corruption case, his party has no chance to win the election. Former President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also face the same situation. They could be arrested before or soon after the election after the arrest of an eminent banker and former head of Summit Bank, Hussain Lawai. According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), billions of rupees were transferred from one of 29 suspicious bank accounts to 13 firms, including the one linked to former President Asif Zardari, allegedly for money laundering. It also accused Hussain Lawai and another banker, Taha Raza, of facilitating the opening of bogus accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited, allegedly for laundering Rs35b. An Arab national and 12 Pakistani companies have been named in the case. When FIA officials approached the Security Exchange Company of Pakistan (SECP) to obtain details of the firms, Zardari Group Pvt. Ltd. was also identified. According to the SECP, the Zardari Group had been on its list of the companies since 1987. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the chief executive officer of the group and Asif Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur is its director. Zardari, his two daughters and another sister are shareholders in the group.
The group’s accounts revealed that travel ticket bills and payments of Bilawal Bhutto’s foreign visits and others, including payments of model Ayyan Ali’s travel tickets, were made by the Zardari Group to the Fazl-e-Rabbi travel agency through cheques. The cheques were given to the travel agency by a brother of former chief of the Sindh Building Control Authority, Manzoor Qadir Kaka, who is an employee at Bilawal House in Karachi. According to the FIR, 15 firms deposited a total of Rs2.855bn in the bank account and Bahria Town, Karachi, project director Zain Malik, son-in-law of property tycoon Malik Riaz, had deposited the largest amount i.e. Rs75m. After finding new clues, the FIA will also probe a possible link of the Zardari Group with a currency smuggling case against model Ayyan Ali, who was caught smuggling $500,000 to Dubai a few years ago.
If the PML-N and the PPP boycott the election, it will be delayed for two or three months. If they start agitation to save their leaders, a technocrat government will be set up in the country for two or three years. Observers say a strict accountability process will start in the country after it. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will become more active after the election in any case. If the election is held on time even after a boycott by the PML-N and the PPP, “electables” in both parties could rebel and run as independent candidates. They could unite under the symbol of the jeep. In the situation, the PTI will have to face them after they emerge as a formidable force. Some experts claim the establishment has a soft corner for them and they could unite under former Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who could be the next prime minister of Pakistan and Imran Khan would be the opposition leader.
If Imran Khan bags more seats than the independents, he will be the prime minister of Pakistan and Nisar Ali could be the opposition leader in the National Assembly. In this way, the establishment will take the parliament under its control, they say. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Zardari have restored their contacts and if an agreement is reached between them, they can boycott the election. They have realized that their parties have no future after the polls. The PML-N feels it will not be able even to retain its government in the Punjab. The PPP also sees Sindh slipping from its hands. The Pak Sarzameen Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and independents are expected to make the government in Sindh. The PTI will sit on opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly after grabbing a decent number of seats in the province. The factors have brought the PML-N and the PPP close to each other and forced them to revive the so-called Charter of Democracy between them.
Some experts fear the delay in the election will also hit the PTI, as its electables would leave it and join the Nisar camp, which is the favourite of the establishment. It is a fact that the PTI will not be able to retain them for long. They have joined the party as they know it will come to power if polls are held on time. It is said PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi could also revolt against the party and Imran Khan will miss out on the chance to become the prime minister of Pakistan, if polls are delayed for a few years.
If the election is held on time, it will wipe out the PPP, the PML-N and their leaderships. They will try to delay it as long as possible to harm the prospects of Imran Khan becoming the prime minister of Pakistan. The Jamiat Ulema-Islam-F (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Awami National Party (ANP) of Asfandyar Wali Khan, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party of Mahmmod Khan Achakzai and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) of Aftab Ahmed Sherpao can also boycott polls. They know they have little chance of success in the election, so their best bet is to delay it. Even if they participate in polls, they will refuse to accept results and accuse the establishment of rigging to malign it and the PTI. It is why some people are still skeptical about the election taking place in Pakistan.