11 February 2024

Meanwhile, in Pakistan

It appears that Imran Khan and his allies won the election by a sufficient margin that the military was unable to cheat to a victory.

Even while massive vote fraud and voter suppression was orchestrated by the ISI (Pakistani military intelligence) it was not able to overcome the massive number of voters who are sick of their crap:


Consider this: The leading opposition party, the populist PTI, led by legendary cricket star Imran Khan, was officially banned from the ballots by the courts. Its candidates were forced to run as independents instead. The candidates were prohibited from using the PTI’s party symbol – a cricket bat – on the ballot, a crucial marker in a country where some 40 percent of the population can’t read. Khan himself was jailed on bogus charges and ruled ineligible to run. Candidates who did file to run were abducted and tortured and pressured to withdraw. So were the new ones who then replaced them. Virtually the entire party leadership was imprisoned or exiled. Rallies were attacked and bombed; rank and file workers jailed and disappeared. Campaigning was basically impossible as candidates had to go into hiding.

On election day Thursday, polling locations were randomly changed and the internet and cell service was taken down. Western media described the race as over, a fait accompli for the military’s preferred candidate Nawaz Sharif. And yet.

And yet. Pakistani voters came out in such historic numbers that it caught the military off guard. The ISI — Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency — was prepared to steal a close election or nudge Sharif to his inevitable victory, but they were swamped by the tsunami they didn’t see coming. In a crucial mistake, they had allowed individual polling locations to release official vote tallies, which parties and TV broadcasters could then total up themselves.

According to those broadcasts, watched by millions of people, PTI (or “independent”) candidates had won 137 seats by official counts, well on their way to a majority (there are 342 seats in the National Assembly; 266 are filled by direct elections). There were another 24 seats where 90 percent of the vote was counted and PTI was ahead. It was a clear landslide.

Then the military moved in, shutting down the election commission website and halting the count. Military and police forces surged into polling locations. Fantastical numbers began to be announced, sometimes just reversing the totals so the winner became the loser. The military was clearly unprepared to steal such a resounding victory, and the obviousness of the fraud forced politicians in the UK and U.S., including even the State Department, to denounce it.

All of this puts the State Department in a difficult position. It’s widely known the U.S. is no fan of Imran Khan. The U.S. prefers to work directly with the Pakistan military as a check against China. Khan has long said he wants a better relationship with the U.S., yet we refuse to believe him – our preferred approach was to oust him, put in more pliant clients, and shrug as the military dismantled democracy in the runup to the election. (The U.S. denied playing a role in ousting him, but we very much did, as The Intercept reported.)

I'm only being slightly sarcastic when I say that the only thing worse for a country being a US adversary is being a US strategic partner. 

I don't know how this will sort out, but my prediction is that there will be a lot of bribery and violence directed against those candidates disfavored by the Pakistani military.


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