Tuesday, 25 June 2024


Seen from abroad, Pakistan elections disappoint, add to instability By Reuters

Seen from abroad, Pakistan elections disappoint, add to instability


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past a banner with a picture of the former Prime Minister Imran Khan outside the party office of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a day after the general election, in Lahore, Pakistan, February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar


By David Brunnstrom, Charlotte Greenfield and Krishn Kaushik

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan’s election has been remarkable in producing a result disappointing to most of its foreign partners and rivals, with little reason for optimism about the government that will eventually emerge from it, foreign policy analysts said.

Pakistan’s two largest political parties have been wrangling over who will be prime minister after an inconclusive vote last week forced them to join forces and try to form a coalition in a parliament dominated by independents.

Neither former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), nor the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, won enough seats to form a government alone.

Independent candidates backed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan represent the largest group, with 93 of the 264 parliamentary seats declared. That shocked many, who had expected their showing to be severely dampened by an intense crackdown on Khan and his party.

But Khan cannot become prime minister as he is in jail and his grouping cannot form a government as they nominally ran as independents as his party was barred from standing.

Some foreign policy analysts said the election results likely indicate voters’ protest against perceptions of the country’s powerful military’s involvement in politics. But the military denies it interferes in the country’s politics.

That adds to the political instability given the military’s strong historic role in the security and foreign affairs of the nuclear-armed nation.

“Pakistan has been on a slippery slope for some time but a mild one. The slope is now much stiffer,” said Frederic Grare, a South Asia expert at the Australian National University’s National Security College.

“The military will most likely be able to manage the situation for some time but … the political situation is likely to be less and less stable.”

It’s a messy scenario no one wanted – not China, Pakistan’s main foreign backer, not India, Pakistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor and bitter rival, nor the United States, which has a reduced stake in Pakistan after quitting Afghanistan in 2021, but…

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