The Pakistan elections have thrown up prospective new Imran Khan-led amalgamation in Islamabad, albeit under the watchful eyes of next door Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistan military. And while that is a matter of concern, what’s important to note is the build-up on the other side of the aisle.
If Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf thought it would be a walk in the park once they form the government, then they may be in for a rude shock. The Pakistan Muslim League (N), the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Majhlis-i-Amal and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan) have already called it a “rigged” poll.
In their eagerness to foist a Rawalpindi-friendly government in Islamabad, the military has probably done the unimaginable – unite the disparate opposition on a common plank against the fairness of the verdict.
Nawaz Sharif, the Bhutto family, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman and Farooq Sattar make up for quite a formidable combine. If you go by the leads now, PML (N) and PPP add up to over 100 seats. They can muster a dozen or so more to make sure that their voice is not just heard, but also asserted, be it in the National Assembly or on the streets.
Let’s not to forget Punjab is also having its provincial polls. Here, according to last available inputs, the PTI was ahead by a slender margin in the 297-strong Assembly. The political dynamic, thus, would be quite abrasive and rough.
It’s one thing to have democratic forces in power but quite another to have them in the opposition, feeling cheated and robbed.
The first challenge for Imran Khan if he were to become Prime Minister, would be to establish a credible political conversation with the other half of the National Assembly. This is important because his numbers will never give him the comfort to rule the government with brute majority, of the sort a Nawaz Sharif or the late Benazir Bhutto have commanded in the past.
If these parties reject the polls, then they may not even agree to take oath. In which case, it will not be the Pakistan National Assembly but Pakistan itself which will be divided.
The other way to look at this geographically. The unrest will be mostly in Punjab and Sindh, where the PML (N) and PPP are strong. Other big provinces like Baluchistan and FATA are under complete military control.
So, one may well be staring at a sub-regional political split within Pakistan, a challenge that Imran Khan will not be able to handle alone. He will have to be backstopped by the Pakistan Army to ensure political peace.
In other words, this prospective electoral victory is at best a halfway house for Imran Khan. Rest assured, this match will go into the second innings and further, one that will test Imran on an already tricky pitch, getting trickier by the day.