The late ‘great’ Soviet leader Josef Stalin is known to have said: “It doesn’t matter who votes or how many votes, what matters is who counts.”
In Pakistan the army ‘counted’ the votes in a limited number of constituencies to ensure the kind of divided result they have got, says Tilak Devasher in a conversation on The Gist on Monday.
He said that with Nawaz Sharif, the PPP and some independents, the army will work on a coalition government like PDM 2.0, when as many as six parties cobbled together and ousted Imran Khan in 2022.
“It will be a weak coalition dependent on the army, and the army will have its way. It’ll last as long as the army wants it to last, and as long as the government does not ‘get ideas’, or enters sphere the army considers its preserve. These days even the economy is its preserve.”
Devasher believes the army could even bring back Imran Khan. He has support, among veterans, among army families but he mistook that to mean the army would split and fight for his sake. That is not going to happen. The army is a disciplined force and the chain of command, the unity is going to remain.
“No general is going to march on another general. They know their perks and privileges are because they are a member of the army. If the army disintegrates what happens to their properties, their perks? But Imran has created a chasm between the army and the people, they will not forgive.”
So Imran has support but it was his hubris that led to him taking them on.
“The problem is he too uncompromising, he does not even talk to the Opposition, and there’s a lot of bad blood between him and Asim Munir since he threw him out as ISI chief in June 2019 (he wanted to probe Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi and her circle for corruption).”
A word on what could transpire in the days ahead. The results would have come as a disappointment for Nawaz Sharif, head of the PML-N. He has not got the numbers he expected.
“He thought he could galvanise Punjab, win a simple majority which he would lead. But when it comes to a coalition, he knows Shehbaz Sharif can manage it better, so Shehbaz will be prime minister, daughter Maryam will be chief minister of Punjab and Asif Zardari of the PPP the president.”
Expect Bilawal Bhutto, Zardari’s son, to re-enter the cabinet as foreign minister. As for the independents who fought for Imran Khan, they will come under pressure to merge with any of the other parties. They will have to find sufficient justification to do so because they will be wary of risking voter anger over betraying Imran Khan.
“But if the price is right and there is no loyalty as such, they will find some justification to switch sides. I don’t see large scale moving away but in critical areas, yes.”