Pakistan held national elections on February 8, with many predicting that Nawaz Sharif will be re-elected as Prime Minister. However, his predicted victory is not necessarily due to overwhelming popular support for his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
In fact, the most popular party in Pakistan at the moment is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, who is currently in jail and not able to run in the election.
Like Imran, Nawaz has faced allegations of corruption in the past and resigned from the Prime Minister’s post in 2017 before leaving the country.
Despite this, Nawaz is predicted to win thanks to the influence of the Pakistani military, which has been a major player in the country’s politics since its formation in 1947.
The military has played a pivotal role in both bringing Nawaz to power and removing him from office in the past, as well as orchestrating the rise and fall of Imran Khan.
Since its inception, the Pakistani military has held a disproportionate amount of power and resources. In 1948, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister allocated 75% of the country’s first budget to defense and the maintenance of the armed forces, leading to the perception that the military needed a threat to justify its existence.
Despite the views of Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who believed that the military should serve the people and not interfere in politics, the military has consistently exerted its influence over civilian governments and institutions.
The military’s power has been driven in part by its inheritance of the British Indian Army’s mistrust of politicians and its perception of India as a threat to Pakistan’s survival.
The military has consistently prioritised its own strength and dominance over the development of democratic institutions and processes, such as Parliament, civil society, and media.
In contrast to India’s Congress party, which successfully transitioned from being at the forefront of the independence movement to a popular political party, Pakistan’s Muslim League was unable to do the same.
After the deaths of Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, subsequent leaders lacked national stature and imagination, leaving space for the military to increase its influence.