https://arab.news/r3n74

Last month Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the former federal home minister was taken away by men in plain clothes from his residence. For almost a month there was no trace of him. Last week he suddenly appeared on a television show renouncing Imran Khan, his leader and former prime minister. He looked shaken. Ahmed is the latest in a long line of the opposition leaders who have deserted the party after a ‘mysterious disappearance.’

They all appeared to be reading from the same script as they renounced their affiliation with the PTI. They left in droves; many of them had occupied senior positions in the party and in government. Just a few days in detention seemed to have broken them. Their monotonous tone leaves nothing to the imagination.

While condemning the politics of violence they declare their allegiance to Pakistan’s security forces. Now even the second and third-tier PTI leadership is under pressure to leave the party. They are most vulnerable.

We are now witnessing a process of the dismantling of a party by the same forces that had once propped it up. The virtual dismemberment of the PTI is part of a new round of political engineering, a game regularly played by Pakistan's powerful security establishment.

Almost every political party at some point has gone through this phase of disgrace in a sordid power game orchestrated by the establishment-- a game that has long been documented. Political engineering is a means of maintaining control over power.

Those who resist are facing charges including terrorism and sedition. They include a number of women who have been languishing in prison for the past several months. It is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history that so many women are being kept in detention without trial. The vindictiveness has been further amplified by the re-arrest of many of them after being released on bail.

The ordeal of women political prisoners has recently been described in an open letter written by Khadijah Shah, a famed fashion designer and political activist who has been incarcerated for the past four months on terrorism charges.

The ruthless crackdown on the opposition has few parallels in the country’s checkered political history.

Zahid Hussain

In a five-page handwritten letter, Shah has described “heart-wrenching” accounts of separation, pain, and suffering among the women prisoners, most of whom were detained after the May 9 attacks on security installations in Lahore and some other cities in Punjab province. The violence was triggered by the arrest of Imran Khan. She asserted that each prisoner, including herself, has borne unimaginable punishment.

Shah, the granddaughter of former army chief General Asif Nawaz, has been incarcerated for over four months for participating in the May 9 protest. The fate of Shah and other PTI women prisoners still hangs in the balance.

The ruthless crackdown on the opposition has few parallels in the country’s checkered political history. Now, Imran Khan is incarcerated and faces a litany of charges, including sedition, which may bar him from taking part in the elections. Earlier this month, a special court indicted Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi under the Official Secrets Act in the cipher case.

Khan’s removal from the electoral scene is meant to clear the way for Nawaz Sharif’s planned return to power. The former prime minister last week returned home after four years of self-exile. Convicted on corruption charges he was allowed in 2019 by the courts to go abroad for medical treatment under a pledge that he would return to the country to serve his sentence. But he stayed on in London to escape persecution.

He has now returned four years later to full state protocol, signifying the changing sands of Pakistani politics. Proclaimed an absconder, the three-time prime minister has already been granted bail by the court. Earlier a victim of political engineering, he has now become the best bet for the security establishment.

The enforced disappearances and illegal detentions that have resulted in the virtual disintegration of arguably the most popular party in the country seems to have cleared the way for Sharif’s PML(N) party to return to power. But the ongoing political machination has rendered the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process questionable. The party can come to power with the support of the establishment through dubious elections. But it cannot bring political stability to the country. This is the last thing the country needs while facing multiple crises.

– Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson Centre and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with Militant Islam and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan. Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ. His latest book ‘No-Win War’ was published this year.

Twitter: @hidhussain

QOSHE - In Pakistan, is the election already compromised? - Zahid Hussain
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

In Pakistan, is the election already compromised?

48 3
30.10.2023

https://arab.news/r3n74

Last month Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the former federal home minister was taken away by men in plain clothes from his residence. For almost a month there was no trace of him. Last week he suddenly appeared on a television show renouncing Imran Khan, his leader and former prime minister. He looked shaken. Ahmed is the latest in a long line of the opposition leaders who have deserted the party after a ‘mysterious disappearance.’

They all appeared to be reading from the same script as they renounced their affiliation with the PTI. They left in droves; many of them had occupied senior positions in the party and in government. Just a few days in detention seemed to have broken them. Their monotonous tone leaves nothing to the imagination.

While condemning the politics of violence they declare their allegiance to Pakistan’s security forces. Now even the second and third-tier PTI leadership is under pressure to leave the party. They are most vulnerable.

We are now witnessing a process of the dismantling of a party by the same forces that had once propped it up. The virtual dismemberment of the PTI is part of a new round of political engineering, a game regularly played by Pakistan's powerful security establishment.

Almost every........

© Arab News Pakistan


Get it on Google Play