Pakistan, a country surrounded by uncertainty!


It needs a huge, sincere, honest and committed effort to bring Pakistan down from the heap of uncertainties. Pakistan seems might have to wait for such an effort, though not endlessly, hopefully

Ever since the general elections were declared in Pakistan last year, it (Pakistan) went on riding the heap of uncertainties every now and then. It was virtually on every front that it faced extremely difficult situation to address, be it the domestic politics, alarming economic issues, foreign affairs at large, relations with intimate neighbours like India, Afghanistan and Iran, Arab-Israeli conflict on Gaza, internal terror attacks, fall of value in its currency or Pakistan being sidelined particularly by UAE, Saudis and also the OIC eventually. The way the elections were conducted this time in Pakistan led the leading observers in the world to call them as “sham elections in Pakistan”.

Pakistan has a terrible history of arresting its past rulers, banishing them to foreign lands, putting them into jail, awarding them death sentences and also banning them from contesting elections. It happened this time too when Imran Khan, former Prime Minister of Pakistan was initially dethroned, then cases were filed against him and was ultimately put into jail for a number of crimes for which he is supposed to undergo a jail term of twenty four years. The sentences in all the cases were awarded by the Pakistan courts notwithstanding the fact that it could jeopardize the whole election process in the country.

Here things didn’t end there, Imran Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was virtually banned by the Election Commission of Pakistan from contesting elections in its name. The nomination papers of its official candidates were rejected lock, stock and barrel. All its candidates were forced to contest as independents both at the national level as well as at the provincial level. Nawaz Sharief, former Prime Minister, who was also on an “externment decree” was brought back from London to take the new role in the changed political scenario of the country. It is believed that the Pakistan Army was behind this whole back-stage political theatrics in the country.

The whole election process, the scenes of the actual voting on the day and the delay in counting and the results of the elections were enough to establish the fact that Pakistan was coming very close to the state of a Banana republic. Then the results of the elections are so disgusting for all the political parties for a number of reasons. Firstly, hundreds of election results have been challenged in the courts of law. No political party has been able to win the desired number of seats to enable it to form the government. Then alliances are not finding favour due to a variety of permutations and combinations at both political and seat arithmetic level.

There have been protests across Pakistan against rigging in the February 8 polls. A very senior bureaucrat, Liaquat Ali Chattha, Commissioner for Rawalpindi division, resigned from his post last Saturday on moral grounds. He admitted his role in manipulating election results to deny victory to Independent candidates from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in 13 National Assembly constituencies. He said that PTI-affiliated candidates winning elections up to a 70,000 margin were made to lose through massive rigging under his watch. He also accused Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja of involvement in the rigging. He said in a media conference, “I am taking responsibility for all the wrongdoing and telling you that the Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief Justice are also completely involved in this.” However, both these top constitutional authorities denied the allegations and asked the senior bureaucrat to provide evidence in this regard. This makes the whole show murkier than before, unfortunately.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) had a tough time with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the last coalition government under Shehbaz Sharief as the Prime Minister of the country. Therefore they are also buying their time to make a decision in this regard. Nawaz Sharief has taken his steps back and has instead promoted his brother’s (Shahbaz Sharief’s) name for the would be Prime Ministership of the country. Though a number of rounds of talks were held between PML-N and PPP, no results have emerged as yet. Every top leader of every party in Pakistan is well aware of the fact that providing leadership to the country in Pakistan as the Prime Minister is not only difficult but is also tantamount to sitting on the throne of thorns. Even after around two weeks of the elections in the country, there is no clarity on the formation of the government.

Both the former two Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Imran Khan Niazi and Shehbaz Sharief declared publicly, when they were leading the government, that it brings them humiliation while asking for monetary help from the oil rich Arab nations to run their country’s economy-which remains vulnerable consistently. On his return to Pakistan recently, Nawaz Sharief also expressed the same sentiment from public platforms. They are well aware about how Pakistan narrowly averted a sovereign default last summer with a $3-billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund. But the lender’s support ends in March this year, after which a new, extended programme will be needed. Negotiating a new programme, and at speed, will be critical for the new government. Pakistan’s sovereign dollar bonds fell as much as 1.2 cents on last Monday, with the 2024 bond standing at 95.89 cents in the aftermath of the controversial elections. The incumbent government could also face further political tension, with a large number of PTI backed independent members in the new National Assembly. They form the largest bloc in the House and are at loggerheads with the powerful military; and also allege that the vote was rigged.

As if this all was not sufficient, a senior Taliban minister staked claim on Pakistani areas and rejected the Durand Line on the Afghan-Pak border. The Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, also claimed some parts of Pakistan as its own and said, “We have never recognized Durand and will never give it. Half of Afghanistan is on the other side of the Durand Line. Durand is the line that the British drew in the hearts of the Afghans.”

Pakistan’s foreign office objected to the statement of the Afghanistan leader in which he refused to consider the Durand Line as a border and termed this an “imaginary claim”. All this is being stated at a time when Pakistan wants seventeen lakh Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan for their own country. It is enforcing their departure at a very rapid speed. The Durand Line was drawn between the Russian and British empires in the 19th century. In November 1893, an agreement on the Durand Line was signed between British civil servant Sir Henry Mortimer Durand and the then Afghan ruler Amir Abdur Rahman. The 2,670 km line was recognized between the then British India and Afghanistan.

The Taliban in power in Afghanistan has continuously refused to accept the Durand Line as the official border line. Even after they returned to power, the Taliban had said that “this was a fence built by Pakistan, which had separated the people”…..” it cannot be acceptable if only Afghan people need visa and passport to travel to Afghanistan (on the other side of the Durand line). It doesn’t make any sense”. They went to the extent that Pakistan might have to face another 1971 Bangladesh situation on Pak-Afghan border, followed by liberation of this entire area.

The Foreign affairs ministry in Pakistan said, “It is against geography, history and international law”. Pakistan’s side said that it insists on the undisputed validity of the Afghanistan border and believes that political rhetoric cannot change the fundamental truths. The Durand Line marks the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which Taliban has been always opposing. The ministry also called for the relations between the two countries to be in line with international norms, ensuring fully regulated movement of people and goods across the border.

The situation on the Iran and Pakistan border in Balochistan is also very volatile and there is already a movement going on in the name of “Independent Balochistan” therein. Terror dimensions of the situation are also a major cause of concern for the new regime in Pakistan. In addition to this, terrorism in Pakistan is a living reality. Whether it is TTP, TJP, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen or Al-Qaida, every outfit has its own field of operation and influence in addition to “political connections”. All such outfits can be categorized in three types of formations such as, proscribed terrorist/extremist groups, active terrorist/insurgent groups and inactive terrorist/insurgent groups. Singularly and collectively, they remain a permanent challenge to any government.

There is a section of people, particularly young and educated, in Pakistan which aspires to live a dignified and civilized life. The political uncertainties and the socio-cultural scenario prevalent in Pakistan dissuade them from moving ahead. They keep watching India and other countries marching forward in every field of human activity. They even laud the political leadership in India and give examples of India’s progress to their own people on various platforms of mainstream media and social media as well. It needs a huge, sincere, honest and committed effort to bring Pakistan down from the heap of uncertainties. Pakistan seems might have to wait for such an effort, though not endlessly, hopefully.

Fadia Jiffry

Fadia Jiffry

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