Pakistan’s military prepares for election day

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images There was much insight but not much in the way of definitive answers in a talk held here at Carnegie today on the military’s role in next Monday’s Pakistani parliamentary elections. Journalist and author Shuja Nawaz felt that in contrast to previous elections, “the mood is not for direct rule” within the ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
596480_080213_pakistan2.jpg
596480_080213_pakistan2.jpg

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

There was much insight but not much in the way of definitive answers in a talk held here at Carnegie today on the military's role in next Monday's Pakistani parliamentary elections. Journalist and author Shuja Nawaz felt that in contrast to previous elections, "the mood is not for direct rule" within the military leadership, but this mood could quickly change with circumstances:

There are no parties extreme enough to warrant intervention by the Army in the election... But demonstrations against rigging may force military leaders to bring out the Army. If things get out of hand, the Army may be forced to push for a change."

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

There was much insight but not much in the way of definitive answers in a talk held here at Carnegie today on the military’s role in next Monday’s Pakistani parliamentary elections. Journalist and author Shuja Nawaz felt that in contrast to previous elections, “the mood is not for direct rule” within the military leadership, but this mood could quickly change with circumstances:

There are no parties extreme enough to warrant intervention by the Army in the election… But demonstrations against rigging may force military leaders to bring out the Army. If things get out of hand, the Army may be forced to push for a change.”

According to Ayesha Siddiqa of the University of Pennsylvania, rigging appears quite likely. The government recently banned the media from reporting election results from polling stations, increasing the likelihood of “ghost polls” with falsified results. (Check out FP‘s list, “How to Steal an Election Without Breaking a Sweat,” for more on misreporting and media manipulation.)

Siddiqa also cautioned against viewing new Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kiyani as a “knight in shining armor” coming to the country’s rescue. While Kiyani has demonstrated an encouraging desire to keep the Army out of politics, he also faces the expectation that the military will move against Musharraf if Pakistan descends further into chaos. It’s also important to remember that Kiyani will retire after three years. Given the officer corps he has inherited, any major reforms may be fleeting. Siddiqa:

The military culture has changed dramatically during Musharraf’s regime. Younger officers have a sense of empowerment now and tend to look down on civlians.”

In other words, Kiyani may be watching how the election plays out just as nervously as the rest of us.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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