Pakistan General Elections 2018

A Coup in the Guise of a Democratic Process

The civilised world is surprised the way military acted as an interested party in the Pakistan General Elections 2018 to get a desired result. The prevalent feeling was that rigging was too widespread and systemic, to have surprised even those who expected some localised muscle flexing by contenders from both sides.

(Source: BolanTimes)

But were they really elections? ‘Free and fair’ based on adult franchise as we all want to see? If they were so, then why is everyone else complaining except those who were served the platter? The awe turns to cognisance if one accepts that elections were a military exercise to impose its will in the garb of democratic elections. It is an army coup d’état, but of a new type. It did not happen overnight, as most of the coups we are familiar with.

Coups are bad publicity and seems out of fashion these days. Just over 40 years ago, there were fewer than 30 established democracies in the world. Almost half the world’s countries can now be considered as functioning democracies.

In 1999, General Musharraf did not call himself a Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). He did abrogate the Constitution but sheepishly designated himself ‘Chief Executive’, because the CMLA felt brutal and old; CEO was fashionable. That was the evolution of 22 years from the last proclamation of General Zia as CMLA in 1975 to the Chief Executive in 1999. General Musharraf, however, ironically and rightly defined the military mindset; Pakistan is a Limited Company and the military chief is its CEO.

Pakistan has seen direct military rule for more than half of its 70 years history and the rest of the time under the looming shadows of military influence. The Pakistani military just cannot accept civilian masters.

Why not a coup this time?

The modern political and geographical landscape and social media has made it much harder to seize and then accentuate power through the barrel of the gun. After ousting the elected leader, you need international recognition of legitimacy. If the junta is able to secure global approval for the coup as they did in 1999 after the 9/11 strikes, it would still be much harder for them to hold on to power than it might have been say 50 years ago.

The Generals face a lot of criticism and interference at least from outside. It opens a host of issues; Human Rights organisations, United Nations, Currency Devaluation, Monetary Policy, IMF, Arms imports, Amnesty International, Red Cross, Minority rights voices. It is difficult now to live in the isolation of Iran or North Korea. Brutal force would invite international condemnation. UN explicitly upholds democratic governance as a human right.

Then there are media channels, airing 24/7; not all can be muzzled. Now every smart phone is a potential eye in the sky. A hand held internet connected device (aka smart phone) can connect potentially with millions at once. It has opened the floodgates of social media coverage, further adding to the difficulties of any ambitious junta.

So, it was considered that direct military intervention is too risky and there would be a continued pressure for return to democratic rule. It was feared that people may resort to protests. The economic growth would nosedive and investment would dry up. International sentiment is bound to result in increased inflation and unemployment. That is why PM Nawaz Sharif might have been taking his chances when he was flirting with Indian PM Narendra Modi, knowing that direct intervention is a hard task.

But the old dogs learn new tricks; and fairly quick.

(Source: NYT)

Pakistan is once again in the grip of its latest military takeover, it has just missed apprehension as it happened slowly over a 5 years period. The 25 July 2018 election was just a signpost on the path towards the military take over. It can be called a “soft coup”. It is far slower and subtler affair than the old-school coups of 1958, 1977 and 1999. But a coup it is and of a very vicious type.

Let us rewind the video 5 years and fast forward to watch this coup hatching and its development.


The coup enacted imperceptibly yet purposefully:

This coup was hatched on May 11, 2013, the day Nawaz Sharif Government was voted to power. In 2013 he came with the clear mindset of civil supremacy. Within 6 months, Niazi and Qadri hounds were unleashed on the Government.

(Source: Daily Hunt)

The Niazi dharna was staged for 126 days in the capital city. It only ended with the incident of 150 school children being massacred by the Taliban on December 16; on the anniversary of Pakistan Army’s surrender in Dacca, 43 years ago. The dilemma for them was that they were convinced that Nawaz was not ready for a deal. So, Imran Khan became their safe bet in spite of reservations about his personal suitability. During the dharna he had married Reham Khan.


Nawaz Sharif was in Government since 2013, but not in power. Military used guerrilla tactics preventing him from achieving his main targets which included putting Musharraf on trial for high treason and making peace with India. A PM with a landslide in 2013, got so weakened in 4 years that a PM directive was dismissed consequent to an ISPR Tweet. As always, a select few judges of the upper house of judiciary were used as stooges with the Chief Justice shamefully as the leader of the pack. The PM was dismissed by 5 judges on the pretext of non-declaration of a small income from one of his son’s companies which he was entitled to, but did not collect.

He was not only removed from office in July 2017 but banned for life from politics and heading his political party. The media gave him scant coverage. Why to scale the walls and silence TV stations when phone calls to cable companies would drop the dissenting channels? Media houses were directed which Journalists to publish and whom to silence.

Imran secretly married a spiritual faith healer called Bushra Maneka in January 2018, apparently convinced that she holds some talisman of the supernatural to work miracles. I would not be too surprised if it is found tomorrow that this holy matrimony and dream saga was a psyop of the agencies to lure the traditional peer-worshipping Barelvi religious vote; a part of the ongoing coup. A religious hype was created around this rather unconventional matrimony. People’s brains were fed with the idea that the Prophet had ordained in a dream this holy matrimony so that Imran can become PM of Pakistan to fulfil the Allah’s plans for Pakistan. Those who understand the sanctity accorded to the Prophet’s dream may understand the significance of this operation for the masses.

Then the Election Act 2017 amendments issue: Pakistan as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has to ensure that every citizen of Pakistan no matter what religion he or she belongs to, must be guaranteed the right to vote. PML-N government attempted to ensure that members of the much maligned and

Tehreek-a-Labaik in a sit-in agitation (Source: HT)

marginalized Ahmadi community were also allowed to vote in the general elections. Pakistan’s capital city was blocked by another stooge of the ISI. ‘Tehreek-a-Labaik’ came into being. In November 2017, the military brokered the resignation of the government’s law minister as a concession to these protesters who had blockaded the capital and accused the minister of blasphemy. A non-issue was made a national issue. The Election Act amendments did not deal with the question of Ahmadis’ faith but only their right to vote. Imran shamelessly campaigned on this issue and was again on the wrong side of history.


The newspaper ‘Dawn’ ran Sharif’s interview in which the former PM implicated the army-linked militants for masterminding the Mumbai attacks. It vanished from major cities where it has its readership. It was banned in cantonments and its advertisement were stopped. Social media was not spared either. Online activists who disagreed with the army’s view of the world were kidnapped, tortured and accused falsely of blasphemy. Websites were blocked, many of our friends like Aasim Saeed, Salman Haider and Goraya, fled the country for the safety of the West.

The ones who could not flee like Nizami are behind the bars. Even the army’s spokesman announced at a press conference that the military was monitoring social media for “anti-state, anti-Pakistan and anti-army” material. He displayed a diagram of Twitter accounts, which included prominent journalists who were suspected of being manipulated by “enemy designs” (which reads: India). That was happening all during the last one year of the PML-N Government. Officials close to Sharif brothers were arrested and are facing the music. More than 60 ‘electable candidates’ were thrust into the favoured party.

The Coup continues to the final stages:

These elections are the first elections to be disputed by every political party other than the one that has won. The irregularities are just too numerous to dismiss as normal; polling agents of all political parties except PTI were thrown out in most constituencies while the counting was still going on and Form 45 were not issued, results were deliberately delayed and it appears that the tabulations were totally wrong. Recounting turned out a totally different scenario.

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, India actually became an election issue. Sharif was portrayed as a traitor being a friend of the PM Modi government.

You can see how there was an ongoing coup for 4 years. People’s minds were tuned to one word: corruption. The Sharifs were targeted. Hate was generated. It would be wrong to think that all this has been done to deny Sharif’s

(Source: The Print)

victory. The army has engineered the elections for a coalition government led by Khan. That way the military can continue to pull all the strings that matter while avoiding the international condemnation which may come with a full-blown army rule.

The critical challenge is economy. Converting PM house or Governor Houses to universities is not the problem of Pakistan.  The problems are inadequate revenue, perpetual fiscal deficit, a public debt of 72 percent of GDP, record fiscal deficit of Rupees 2.5 trillion, trade deficit of $ 37.7 billion and circular debt of Rupees 850 billion, among others. Khan is bound to reach reach the same conclusion about what ails Pakistan – a too big army. By the time, he would have become too unpopular to stage another coup. And the cycle would continue…

Elections in Pakistan have completely lost their value. Never in the history were almost half a million armed men stationed on the streets for conducting elections. One tenth of this number would be sufficient to dismiss a PM and proclaim martial law. Thousands of images, videos and interviews are pouring in that show how blatantly the sanctity of democratic vote was trampled under military boots to usher this soft ‘martial law’.

Total active duty personnel in the whole of Pakistan army are 550,000. Out of that 371,388 were deployed for election duty at 85,058 polling stations and 244,687 polling booths. Yes, this is 67% of the total active army. That is almost 4.3 armed men per polling station or 1.5 armed person over every single polling booth. There were 819,119 polling staff so for every 2.2 polling staff there was 1 armed & trained armed person. Stop here. It was not all. There were another 800,000 police and paramilitary personnel, effectively under the army’s control. This adds to another 9 persons per polling station. If 30 million people voted, it still makes over 1 armed gunmen per 22 voters.

And we really want to convince the world that it was all meant for securing free and fair elections?

(Source: ZeeNews)

I think the political parties should not join the assemblies in the name of democracy. Let PTI reign freely; their failure would be more miserable. Joining the ‘political process’ would amount to condoning the martial law, which is in fact what has been imposed in Pakistan. This is the time for the political leadership of Pakistan to refuse to sit together with the enactors of the unholy game and thereby legitimise it. That is the only non-violent way to make the king naked before the whole world.

Cover Picture: a PTI rally
 (Source: FairObserver)


Khalid Umar

Published: July 30, 2018


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