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    Pakistan’s Democracy at a Crossroads Ahead of General Elections

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    As Pakistan prepares for the upcoming general elections on February 8, 2024, the country’s democratic system remains fragile and vulnerable to powerful influences. Over the years, Pakistan’s political landscape has undergone significant transformations, with the dismissal of Prime Minister Imran Khan in April 2022 and subsequent political polarization leading to a decline in the country’s democratic system. The return of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has rekindled his party’s hope for a return to power, while Imran’s incarceration and disqualification from contesting elections have left his supporters disillusioned. The integrity of the last general elections was also tainted by allegations of rigging and political engineering, further eroding public trust in the electoral process.

    Despite these challenges, experts believe that free and fair elections are crucial for the country’s political stability and to address a range of issues, including a weak economy, high inflation, and mounting foreign debt. However, the prevailing situation in the country raises concerns about the fairness and legitimacy of the electoral process, with some political parties being favored by the establishment. The lack of transparency and fairness in the democratic system has led to a decline in the quality of democracy in Pakistan, with political parties that have the patronage of the establishment sweeping elections.

    To strengthen the democratic system, experts suggest that political parties should promote talented political workers and appoint them to elected public offices and party officials instead of promoting families of party heads. They also recommend that political parties come out of the shadows of patronage and do away with the patronage that they conduct with voting blocks within the country. However, the most formidable challenge to the prospects of the election is the continuing confrontation between the establishment and a political party, which may prevent the election from providing a way forward.

    As Pakistan goes to vote on February 8, the path to robust democracy remains a slippery slope, and political stability is impossible without the joint accountability of all stakeholders. The country’s democratic system needs to be strengthened to ensure free and fair elections, and all political parties should be allowed to participate in the electoral process. The future of Pakistan’s democracy remains uncertain, and it is up to the people of Pakistan to ensure that their voices are heard and their votes count.

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