At the center of most allegations is the powerful military establishment
Islamabad, Pakistan | July 24 A s Pakistan prepares to make history Wednesday by electing a third straight civilian government, rights activists, analysts and candidates say the campaign has been among its dirtiest ever, imperiling the country’s wobbly transition to democratic rule.
The campaign has been characterized by “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the outcome, with media being silenced and the intimidation of candidates, according to Pakistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
At the center of most allegations is the powerful military establishment, along with its intelligence agency, known by the acronym ISI.
The manipulation is seen as seeking to prevent the Pakistan Muslim League, the party of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from returning to power, while giving a shot at running the country to former cricket star Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI.
The rancorous campaign and charges of manipulation have polarized Pakistanis, and whichever party loses is likely to cry fraud.
“Whatever way elections run, I see a lot of instability,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a defense analyst and author of “Military Inc.,” about the massive financial holdings of Pakistan’s military.
The military has ruled the country of more than 200 million people — directly or indirectly — for most of its history. Successive attempts at protracted democracy have been interrupted by military coups, the last one in 1999.