By Sajjad Shaukat for VT
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket star got victory in Pakistan’s general elections, held on July 25, 2018. It was due to the personals of the Pakistan Army who were deputed inside and outside the polling booths that free and fair elections became possible in a peaceful atmosphere.
In this regard, addressing a press conference on July 27, this year, Chief Observer, Michael Gahler of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Pakistan expressed satisfaction on overall conduct of the general elections, saying “efforts of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) were impressive and appreciable…EU observers noted the presence of security personnel inside and outside the polling stations did not interfere in electoral process… voting was assessed as well-conducted and transparent.”
The head of the European Parliament’s delegation to the election observation mission, Jean Lambert MEP (United Kingdom), fully endorsed the preliminary statement of the EU EOM.
On the same day, in a statement, the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, also congratulated the people of Pakistan for free and fair elections, and said, “By exercising their constitutional right to vote, the people of Pakistan have reaffirmed their commitment to a democratic Pakistan…The Secretary-General commends the Electoral Commission of Pakistan for the organization of the elections…The United Nations is committed to continue to support the Electoral Commission…The Secretary-General looks forward to the formation of the new Government and wishes it success in providing the people of Pakistan a stable, democratic, and prosperous future.”
In this regard, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has stated on July 27, this year, “UK felicitates Pakistan over successful polls…General elections in Pakistan are an important moment for democracy…people of Pakistan have shown they would not be cowed by the terrorists who seek to disrupt the democratic process…the UK government is looking forward to continuing its work with the new federal and provincial governments.” He congratulated millions of voters who participated in elections, adding, “Jinnah’s [the founder of Pakistan] vision of a tolerant, pluralist Pakistan remains central to a stable and cohesive society.”
Besides many Western and Muslim countries such as France, Germany, Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. including other Gulf countries congratulated Islamabad for conducting free and fair elections.
But, it is regrettable that before the elections, some foreign entities, especially Indian media were spreading disinformation regarding the Pakistan elections 2018.
In this respect, in the recent past, a surge in the international media has been witnessed, promoting a collective narrative that the general elections in Pakistan were being influenced by the military with cooperation of judiciary, with the aim of defeating the disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political party PML (N). This would give leverage to strong Western interference in the election process and had serious implications for Pakistan’s national security. This interference was part of the hybrid /fifth generation warfare being waged against Pakistan. An upsurge in this narrative has been noticed since the Supreme Court’s decision against Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges. Leading US and Western media sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Radio Free Europe, VoA, Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, BCC and many others, particularly India which have collectively projected a common theme. These hostile entities propagated that the military and the judiciary colluded to oust a democratically elected PM, following his criticism of the military and especially country’s primary intelligence agency ISI, for aiding and abetting terrorist groups which are allegedly involved in terrorist attacks against India, Afghanistan and the US—a protraction of the “Dawn Leaks” narrative.
They continued spreading false information by remarking that Sharif’s political supporters, PML (N) party members, journalists and civil society members were being targeted and intimidated by the military and judiciary institutions—Sharif and his party were being projected as being victimized for “defending democracy” and of enjoying popular support. The narrative also predicted that PML (N) still remained the majority party and would win the elections, if these were free and fair.
In this respect, Nawaz Sharif and his supporters have reinforced the Western false narrative by providing the fake testimonies through their statements and accusations, as it obviously could serve their purpose.
Consequently, they used this narrative to protect their interests both domestically and internationally. Using the media to interfere in and manipulate Pakistani politics was the overt part of the larger Western covert strategy to destabilize and weaken Pakistan, which is the objective of the Hybrid/fifth generation war against Pakistan, as it is also the only nuclear country in the Islamic World.
Pakistan military, in particular and marginally judiciary as well are being described as “wayward players of the state”—a story which has been build up over a period of time to fulfill vested motives of both national and international players.
It is mentionable that behind the fascia of defending democracy in Pakistan, the US-led Western conspiracy has spiteful designs against Islamabad. Corrupt leaders would always suit them the best to pursue their plot. Since the corrupt political leaders in Pakistan have vast properties and substantial capital lying in the US and other Western countries, they are easily susceptible to Western pressures. However, the same is not achievable through institutions like Pak Army or a proactive judiciary.
The US and Western designs are to coerce Islamabad to accept India’s hegemonic role in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, which would ultimately boost American interests to contain China; help her to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and most importantly, to freeze if not rollback Pakistan’s strategic nuclear and missile programmes with a greater US supervision.
The Pakistan military is seen as an obstacle in the achievement of these objectives. Hence, she is often been accused of promoting hostility and confrontation with New Delhi; pursuing the nuclear and missile programme which in their reckoning is destabilizing the region; supporting Taliban and other terrorist groups against India, Afghanistan and the US—promoting relations with China contrary to American interests, especially in the defence field and through China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Additionally, growing Pakistan’s relations with Russia, Turkey and Iran etc. are also pinching the US-led West, India, Israel and Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, the hidden aims of the Western narrative are to demonize Pakistan military and anyone who is seen to be on the same side, such as the judiciary at present or PTI leader lmran Khan.
It is notable that the hypocrisy of America and the West go as far as describing Western collaborators who even engage in terrorism, as Baloch “separatists” and “insurgents” rather than terrorists. Moreover, they continue to obstruct efforts to bring criminals and terrorists under their own jurisdiction to justice, such as former MQM leader Altaf Hussain who was given political asylum in the UK, including Baloch runaway leaders and few Pashtoon absconders.
The overall objectives of the frenzied active media campaign by the US-led Western entities, particularly India is, of course, to augment the Western exertions to undermine Pakistan and to make it dysfunctional until it falls in line with their sinister aims.
Unfortunately, a significant portion of Pakistan’s population is carried away with this narrative, including intellectuals of the society as well and accepts it as the reality. Therefore, the threat in the immediate future was that if the election results did not favour the PML (N) or a hung Parliament emerges, the Western media would go in over-drive to accuse the Army of rigging the polls and thereby generate chaos in the country with the help of the PML (N) supporters and other collaborators.
Notably, free and fair elections in the country could also be judged from the fact that the PML (N) got more seats than the PTI for the provincial assembly of the Punjab province.
Undoubtedly, the results of the general elections in Pakistan show that military has proved over the past ten years that it is strong proponent of the supremacy of democratic system in the country. Fake impression being created of manipulation of election process was part of international agenda to implicate Pakistan military in order to tarnish the image of this elite institution; however, few political elements have towed the line of international agenda to further their vested interests.
While, this is not the first time that troops had been deployed to oversee the election process, it is part of an ongoing process in the electoral system in Pakistan. Pak Army is a neutral institution entrusted by all political parties as well as by the masses to ensure free and secure polling. PML-N, PPP, PTI and all the rest of political parties had welcomed military deployment.
In this connection, role of ECP in holding free and fair elections is also commendable. The overall responsibility for conducting of smooth and fair elections was of ECP and Army only assisted ECP in exercise of her responsibility. Results have been announced by ECP staff and were not related to Army in any case. Judiciary has performed its national and constitutional duty of ensuring justice in connection with the elections 2018.
It is noteworthy that there is a strong and visible change in the behavior of Pakistani people who had started questioning the time tested political leaders for their non-delivery of the basic necessities of life over the past so many years. This factor led to victory of PTI in General Election-2018. Corruption, being the most hated factor among the masses led to defeat of previously tested political leaders in major political parties.
And ideology and manifesto of political parties remained prime consideration of the masses to cast the vote. PTI followed a manifesto that puts the country on the way to development where a common man will be provided with basic necessities of life like education, health, clean drinking water etc. Besides, the age old mind set of supporting the candidates on the basis of kinship and factionalism has been rejected by the masses. Hence, selection of “truthful” and “honest” leaders through a process of free and fair electoral process and rejection of “Feudals” and “God-Fathers” were focused by the masses of the country.
We can occlude that foreign disinformation about Pakistan elections 2018 proved untrue, as Pakistan Army has fulfilled its promise by playing its due role in conducting transparent, free, fair and impartial elections in the country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations