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Updated February 8th, 2024 at 16:10 IST

How New Delhi Looks At Pakistan General Elections 2024: EXPLAINED

Nawaz Sharif hopes to secure a record fourth term with the backing of the powerful military amid a crackdown on his rival Imran Khan's party.

Reported by: Apoorva Shukla
AP
Nawaz Sharif with his daughter Maryam Sharif | Image:AP
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Pakistan Elections: Pakistan is voting for the 12th general elections to elect a new government to rule the country currently plagued with multiple crises including dwindling economy and deteriorating security situation. The voting began at 8 am today and will continue till 5pm, following which the votes will be counted. 

Reports suggest that former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) will likely emerge as the single largest party followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party helmed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates are contesting the polls independently after the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the election commission to deprive his party of its iconic election symbol cricket 'bat' and are expected to stand distant third. 

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New Delhi is Watching Closely 

Observers suggest that the entire world including New Delhi’s South Block consider the change of Pakistani Army chief as the transition of power, as the elections remain tainted with rigging claims. Nawaz Sharif hopes to secure a record fourth term with the backing of the powerful military amid a crackdown on his rival Imran Khan's party. 

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India has long been an advocate of a democratic government in Pakistan. However, with Nawaz Sharif’s return, Pakistan’s hostility towards India is expected to increase. Looking at Nawaz Sharif’s political legacy, it's hard to believe. But, one needs to understand the extent to which the Pakistani Army influences the country’s politics. 

In 2018, the Pakistani Army effectively selected Imran Khan to replace Nawaz Sharif, followed by his conviction in multiple cases. The 2024 seems like a complete reversal of the scene with Imran Khan behind bars, Sharif has been picked by the Army- after giving him a clean chit in all the cases- to be seated at the top post. Further, Nawaz Sharif’s party declared in its manifesto that he would work towards peace with India only if the decision of Article 370 is reversed.

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Experts even believe that Imran Khan is facing the consequences for not paying heed to the Pakistani Army. “This is going to be a bloody election. Imran Khan's arrest is undemocratic. He has been made a victim of circumstances. There's a vilified campaign against him because he did not pay heed to the Pakistan Army,” said Defence Expert Brigadier (Retd.) Anil Gupta. 

“If you see there are 2 main candidates, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto. On one hand, Nawaz Sharif is trying to emerge as the single largest party, but if he forms a government in coalition, then he might promote his daughter Maryam as Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif's relations with the Pakistan Army have improved, his family has been rehabilitated, and he has been forgiven for his crimes. Even if the army manages these elections, running the government will be a very difficult task seeing the serious economic crisis and political instability in the country,” said Defence Expert Qamar Agha. 

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Violence Continues even on Polling Day 

At least four policemen were killed and six others injured on Thursday when unidentified gunmen set off a bomb and then opened fire at their vehicle deployed for election security in Pakistan's restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan.

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Yesterday, at least 30 people were killed and more than 40 others injured on Wednesday in twin blasts targeting election offices in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province. 

“The attacks have been happening for over a week now... It's particularly bad in Balochistan because there's resistance in both- the Baloch areas as well as the Pashtun areas. There are speculations that these attacks might be false flag attacks planned and executed by the Pakistan Army, speculating the fact that they do not want elections to be held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In KP, there were assumptions that Imran Khan's PTI might do better. Some of these attacks will ensure that the turn-out at polling stations is low which means that voting goes as per the Army's plan,” said  Foreign Affairs Expert Sushant Sareen. 

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Published February 8th, 2024 at 16:10 IST

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