After his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) suffered an upset at the Senate and was unable to secure its candidate as the chairman of the Upper House, Pakistan’s TV astrologers are unwilling to predict victory for Nawaz Sharif in the upcoming general elections—even if the stars point to his victory. It is almost certain in everyone’s estimate that Sharif and his PMLN will disappear from the political landscape like so many earlier Muslim Leagues. If their predictions prove correct, it will mark another case of predictable dysfunction of the state, as yet another political party will perish after never completing a single tenure in office.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of inter-party hatred, which tilts the political landscape in favor of the establishment. But one must not forget the intra-party hatred that causes the rats to jump ship when the winds are blowing all wrong from Rawalpindi. Just as the Senate results were “fixed,” the 2018 elections, too, will be fixed and the Taliban will have to play a part in it. Despite Zarb-e-Azb, they will be a threat to the parties that are not supposed to win, and their campaigns will be affected. This was already witnessed in 2013, when the Pakistan Peoples Party and Awami National Party had to virtually campaign from home, allowing the PMLN and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to rake in the votes.
The upcoming elections will almost certainly deliver a coalition at the center, and a likely coalition in Punjab. This will result in the predictably brawling partners in power to deliver all decision-making to the real powers-that-be. That means Pakistan will start dealing “honorably” with its two enemies: the United States and India. But the most hair-raising part of the new regime will be “accountability” and “mainstreaming.” Imran Khan has already vowed, once elected prime minister, to cleanse the Augean stables, bringing all economic function to a standstill. This will no doubt also apply to the mainstreaming of jihad, to which he has been paying money to survive in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Some signs of this mainstreaming are already visible in by-elections; they might become clearer in the 2018 polls when outfits like the Khadim Hussain Rizvi-led Labbaik defeat established political parties such as the PPP and PMLN.