Where do we go from here?

The initial signs are that the elections may not provide stability

There may be a number of ways of interpreting the elections results, but the fact is that the Karachi Stock Exchange fell 1700 points as soon as it opened on Friday, the day after the polls. This might be taken as a vote of no-confidence in the election results, or merely disappointment that the results did not fit the overarching narrative of those that thought the PML(N) would win big. The results took their time coming in, and there was a delay in results on election night that the Election Commission of Pakistan ascribed to problems with the Internet. Clearly, as in 2018, the Result Transmission System had ground to a halt. Anxious observers worried that this delay might mean dirty work at the crossroads. Certainly, the delay indicated that the results were going in favour of a hung Parliament, one in which no party had enough seats to form a majority.

One of the great truths of the result was the strong performance by the independents, mostly PTI-backed, who were the largest group in the National Assembly and KP Assembly, and were the second-largest group in the Punjab Assembly. There were two big questions about this huge group: would they remain loyal to the PTI and Imran Khan? (Or would they, or at least some, use their freedom from partisan restrictions to do the bidding of shadowy forces, which are supposed to have helped Mr Khan form a government in 2018? And which way will they go? In KP, they may well form the government on their own. However, in the Centre and Punjab, they will need to ally to form the government.

At the same time, considering their numbers, they could get swamped unless they join a party present in Parliament to get women and minorities reserved seats. Matters would probably have been much simpler if the PTI had been allowed its bat symbol, so that instead of a vast number of free agents, a large group bound by party discipline could have been there. Perhaps the last word should go to PML(N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, who said that all would have to pull together to get the country out of the whirlpool it was in. The problem is that, whatever happens, Mr Khan will have sizeable groups in all assemblies, even allowing for fallings off by the fainthearted. In jail and thrice convicted, will he negotiate?

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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