A day after Diwali, the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) will vote. While there will be no fireworks in India in Diwali, close scrutiny is being watched as to whether the ‘election’ at GB will lead to fireworks not only in occupied territory, but also inside Pakistan and the rest of the region, or whether this poll will be anti -climax. Usually, GB is too far, if not irrelevant, from the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics to attract the attention of political analysts, or even the public. Political parties have contested elections in the past, but have never invested as much as they do today, even fielding their top campaigners and crowd-pullers to win elections. The reason is simple: GB’s election is seen as a possible harbinger of future political directions in Pakistan. Moreover, this election is also anticipated to lead to changes in the constitutional status of the occupied territories of Pakistan, which in turn will have a major impact on the dynamics of the region, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
It is estimated that this election could also lead to a change in the constitutional status of the occupied territories of Pakistan, which in turn will have a major impact on the dynamics of the region, especially the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
Typically, the election results in both parts of the PoJK – Gilgit-Baltistan and the Mirpur-Muzzafarabad belt – were known even before the first vote took place – Islamabad’s ruling party won. But this time, the large crowd drawn by PMLN leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has sparked speculation, conspiracy theories and even wishful thinking among commentarians that there may be some surprises that could emerge from the ballot box. Of course, Prime Minister Imran Khan was extraordinary sure to win election. Although he tends to live in an alternative reality, there are indications that he may be proven right, not because he will win the election, but because he is sure to win the election. This impression received support after the revelation of a intelligence report which lists the reasons why Imran Khan “must” win the election. Reasons include ease of functioning if the same party has a government in Islamabad and GB, strengthens Imran Khan’s brand, and how more important than Imran Khan’s victory is the defeat of Nawaz Sharif. Two pre-poll survey have also predicted victory for the ‘formation’ party. Most interestingly, although this survey shows that Imran Khan is more popular than his challengers, they also reveal that there is a lot of skepticism over the fairness of the polls. Therefore, it is not surprising that PTI won the election at GB.
The PTI will of course turn its ‘victory’ into a gunshot for its increasingly beleaguered government. But that won’t really change the dynamics in Pakistan where government problems are escalating due to improper governance, heavy inflation, mounting economic pressure and a massive push from opposition parties. In other words, winning at GB will not really help Imran Khan much, but the loss will be catastrophic because it will cause a big change in perception as long as Imran’s regime is long lived. Losing Imran will spark rumors and conspiracy theories about how the “selectors” get the message across and get ready to end their failed attempt to get Imran Khan to lead a hybrid government in Islamabad.
Losing Imran would be a boon for either Bilawal or Maryam. The two have drawn massive attention to their rallies and both have campaigned hard to win the election. Despite their fears and serious concerns over fraud and fraud, they did not leave Imran Khan exposed. Between the two opposition leaders, smart money is in Bilawal. PPP has a strong presence in GB and has initiated several political reforms in the past. But more importantly, it is not about PPP in GB, but about the role of PPP in Pakistan which can side with the balance, not by the voters but by the ‘establishment’. Although the PPP is part of the opposition conglomerate Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) challenging Imran Khan’s ‘elected’ government, it does not target ‘voters’ in the same way that Nawaz Sharif or his daughter and party do.
Losing Imran would be a boon for either Bilawal or Maryam. The two have drawn massive attention to their rallies and both have campaigned hard to win the election. Despite their fears and serious concerns over fraud and fraud, they did not leave Imran Khan exposed
There is some speculation that a PPP victory could signal Imran Khan that the ‘establishment’ has an alternative to him. Over the past two years, Imran Khan has played with the no-alternative factor to encourage the military to stay on the same page as him. A win for Bilawal will surprise Imran from his complacency and optimism. At the same time, a PPP victory is expected to create a rift in the ranks of the opposition by incentivizing the party and giving hope that it has a chance to return to the military’s good books and use it to return to power in Islamabad sometimes down the line. Meanwhile, the PPP sees the GB vote as a stepping stone to revive its political fortunes in other countries. But there will also be other benefits from Bilawal’s victory. That would be a sign that the government is adopting a hands-off approach to politics, something that will be useful in refuting the accusations leveled against the military regarding electoral arrangements. That the military does not interfere in elections in a strategically sensitive region like GB is all the ‘evidence’ anyone needs to free soldiers from messing around elections in support of their favorites. Most importantly, if PPP wins, no opposition party can contest the election results. On the other hand, a PTI victory will almost certainly lead to accusations of voter fraud and fraud.
The biggest surprise would be if PMLN won the election. Frankly the possibility of that happening is negligible, if not absent. This is not because the PMLN lacks presence or support – it is forming an outgoing government in Pakistan-occupied territory and the large turnout at Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s demonstration attests to the fact that her narrative is gimmicky. among people. But if Pakistan’s past and political dirty record of elections is anything to go through, there is no way the PMLN will be allowed to win because it will be catastrophic for not only Imran Khan but also the military. The PMLN victory will be seen as support for Nawaz Sharif’s anti-establishment narrative that seems to be growing even in the heart of Pakistan – Punjab. At a time when Pakistan’s ‘inner state’ is trying its best to cut the size of the PMLN by sowing divisions in its ranks and weaning some of its leaders and cadres, victory in GB will pay for all these efforts.
At a time when Pakistan’s ‘inner state’ is trying its best to cut the size of the PMLN by sowing divisions in its ranks and weaning some of its leaders and cadres, victory in GB will pay for all these efforts.
The most tantalizing possibility, though slim, is that a separate ruling was thrown that forced some sort of coalition in GB. Does the PPP agree to a coalition with PTI? And if that happens, will PPP still be part of the PDM? This is already happening in Balochistan where parties like the Pashtun-nationalist ANP are part of the coalition in the province but also part of the PDM across Pakistan. But at this stage to form a coalition in GB will involve high-level political gymnastics, and not many will agree. The chances of a PPP-PMLN coalition are very low. There may be a greater chance that in order to demonstrate that it was a free and fair election, ‘voters’ would consider the PTI emerging as the largest single party but less than the majority which was then assembled with assistance from independent parties and smaller parties – the hybrid model currently this was on display in Islamabad.
All of these scenarios may be academic in nature as the Pakistan Army will eventually get the government it wants in GB. Either government will tell everyone which way the wind is blowing in Pakistan, for now. A PTI victory will mean the status quo in Islamabad in the future which in Pakistan could be anything from a few weeks to several months. A PPP win will mean PTI is sluggish and unless it can step up its game, it is likely to wind up change in the near future. The victory of PMLN means that revolutionary changes are imminent.