Arbaz Ahmad Janjhi
The Supreme Court has set the stage by announcing the election date, ushering in an end to certainty period. However, this move also signals a ticking clock for figures like Mian Nawaz Sharif and Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, emphasizing the urgency to resolve their pending legal issues.
Imran Khan’s clearance in the Tosha Khana case is required to contest the polls, while and Mian Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases, as well as addressing disqualification in the Panama case, are essential for his participation in the upcoming elections. The decisions forthcoming from the higher courts will significantly impact the Pakistan’s political landscape.
The PML-N perceives the Election Act of 2017 as a potential lifeline for Mian Nawaz Sharif, considering its amendment by the PDM government in 2023, limiting disqualification to five years. However, the acceptability or challenge this amendment in the Supreme Court hinges on consensus among political parties and stakeholders. PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari has explicitly stated opposition to Nawaz Sharif’s premiership. Here enters Maulana Fazal Rehman for mediating between two competitor parties to carve out some options. Some observers believe, Asif Zardari while opposing Mian Nawaz Sharif was actually supporting Shahbaz Sharif.
Tehreek-e-Insaf continues to grapple with challenges as evident by the recent arrest of Asad Qaiser, the former National Assembly speaker, when the Supreme Court’s election date announcement. Additionally, the ongoing pursuit of Amin Gandapur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa underscores the party’s unsettled circumstances.
A delegation from Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by Asad Qaiser, met with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is termed as a quest for justice, reflecting the complexity and interplay of political alliances.
The Pakistan Estehkam Party’s emergence in South Punjab implies a contest for seats coveted by both the PPP and Tehreek-e-Insaf, intensifying the electoral landscape.
Bilawal Bhutto of the PPP has persistently raised concerns about an uneven playing field, pointing to the lack of equal opportunities. However, caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar refutes these claims. If level playing field means to bring a party to power by selectivity, then it is not suggested.
Allegations of an unfair playing field have historically persisted, exemplified by the return of Mian Nawaz Sharif from self-imposed exile, echoed by former Federal Minister Ishaq Dar’s recent comments.
Nationalist leader Akhtar Mengal in Balochistan also voices grievances, citing restricted political opportunities in Wadh and expressing disappointment with past alliances. Similarly, the Balochistan Awami Party’s current inactivity following substantial representation in the caretaker setup raises questions about their future alliances or positions in the upcoming government.
Concerns about electoral transparency and prevention of state institutional interference persist. The failure of the RTS system in the 2018 elections and delayed result announcements led to suspicions. Now, the chairman of NADRA appointed from the Pakistan Army, the potential for bias or flaws in the electoral process raises concerns.
The announcement of the election date underscores the limited role of the caretaker government, clarifying their temporary mandate in contrast to earlier assumptions of an extended tenure, as they were under taking privatization and mineral resources. Now, it is imperative for caretaker to fulfill their constitutional duties within this confined period.