From Imran Khan to Shahbaz Sharif, anti-India rhetoric took centrestage in Pakistan general elections
Pakistan is a country that is known globally for providing safe haven to terror groups and getting called out for harboring designated terrorists and terror groups operating from its soil. While citizens face a series of serious problems including poverty, high inflation and unemployment among others, for politicians out there, neighboring India has been the favorite issue to whip out in their public rallies.
For all political parties — be it Imran Khan’s PTI or Shahbaz Sharif’s PML-N — the anti-India rhetoric came to be at the core of their speeches more often than once. While Khan accused ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is now behind the bars in connection with a corruption case, of ‘protecting India’s interest’, Shahbaz Sharif, addressing a massive rally just ahead of the elections, promised to take Islamabad ahead of the arch-rival India if his party retains the power.
Days ago, while addressing an election rally in Karachi, the cricketer-turned-politician said that Nawaz Sharif knows his party is facing defeat in the elections, therefore he is saying that the elections are going to be rigged. Khan said that “even the Indian media is now beating out the narrative that the elections will be rigged. It is a big conspiracy against the state of Pakistan”.
The 65-year-old leader even referred to Nawaz Sharif’s recent remarks from an interview to a Pakistani daily to say the former PM invited embarrassment for the country by claiming that the Pakistani establishment was behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left over 160 people dead, including some foreign nationals. “The international establishment who are creating doubts about the elections want a weak government which can be controlled like robots but that will not happen now because the people of Pakistan wanted true democracy and the wind of change would be seen in the elections,” he told the rally.
Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif who is leading the PML-N in the absence of the jailed leader, also made several references to India in his speeches. In a speech last week, Sharif said that if the PML-N forms the government, he will take the country ahead of India.
“If I do not end load shedding crisis in six months, you can change my name. They (Indians) will come to Wagah Border and call Pakistanis their master,” he told a gathering in Sargodha last week.
Interestingly, this is the only third election in Pakistan which is being conducted democratically in the country’s 70-year long history. The first time when a government was allowed to complete its full five years was between 2008 and 2013 but that too saw the ruling PPP changing Prime Ministers on two occasions. When the elections were held in 2013, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif won the elections. But his government too was faced troubles with the Supreme Court disqualifying the influential businessman from the office. Nawaz Sharif is currently serving a jail term of 10 years for his involvement in a graft case.
This time, the direct contest is between Imran Khan’s PTI and Shahbaz Sharif’s PML-N. While many opinion polls have predicted a thin gain for PTI, PML-N is hopeful that Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam’s decision to return to Pakistan to serve a jail term just ahead of the elections, will help the party to change its fortune. The PPP of former president Asi Ali Zardari, now led by his son Bilawal Bhutto, is likely to emerge as a kingmaker when the results are out tomorrow.