Can 2024 Be A Replica Of 1970 In Pakistan?

With Imran Khan being denied a chance to contest elections and form government despite having emerged as largest bloc, can 2024 be a replica of 1970 in Pakistan?

Sharad Gupta
New Update

Mujib and Imran

Indians remember 1971 as the watershed year in Indo-Pak relations. That was when India helped Bangla Desh carve out of Pakistan. India inflicted a humiliating defeat on Pakistan and capturing 93000 prisoners of war (PoWs) and over 13000 square kms of area.

But, for Pakistanis, especially East Pakistan (now Bangla Desh) 1970 was a more important year. That is because seeds of 1971 war were sown during 1970 National Assembly elections in unified Pakistan. Awami League headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman swept the polls by capturing 167 seats out of 313 at stake with 39.2 per cent vote share. It won 160 out of 162 seats in East Paksitan, remaining seven were nominated members.

The next biggest party was Pakistan People’s Party headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – with 86 seats and 18.6 per cent vote share – all its seats coming from Western Punjab – mostly Sindh. Actually, 151 seats in Western Punjab were won by motley group of parties Jamaat-e-Islami (4), Pakistan Muslim League (Qayyum) (9), Jamait-e-Ulema-Islam, Council Muslim League, Markazi Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (7 each), National Awami Party (6) besides 16 independents.

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Despite Mujib’s party emerging as the clear winner, it was denied chance to form the Government. Then Pak president General Yahya Khan didn’t want a party from East Pakistan to rule over the West Pakistan. He instead appointed a veteran Bengali politician Nurul Amin as the Prime Minister, asking him to read a compromise between Mujib and Bhutto.

This triggered civil unrest in East Pakistan against West Pakistan. General Yahya Khan launched an army operation called Operation Searchlight to suppress the rebellion. That was when Mukti Bahini was formed by East Pakistanis with covert help and training from India. It all resulted in Pakistan breaking in two parts with East Pakistan getting liberated as an independent nation – Bangla Desh.

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The present circumstances in Pakistan are a reminder of 1970 elections. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been incarcerated on charges of leaking state secrets. His party Tehrik-e-Insaaf’s leaders term these as frivolous and trumped up allegations at the behest of army establishment. His party was banned from contesting elections. His supported contested as Independents. Yet, they emerged as the single largest bloc – over 100 seats out of 266 at stake. Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League bagged 64 and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party got just 43.  

Thew result are being seen as people’s rejection of Army’s attempts to install a titular government. Yet, once again Pakistan’s establishment is hell bent on denying the winner the chance to form the government. It wants to subjugate people’s will, much as it did in 1970.

According to reports emerging from Pakistan, discontent is simmering in the public against the mechanisations of the army to rig the elections. They feel that the result has been manipulated. As the trends started emerging the establishment slowed down counting of votes. The results were delayed. People feel, had the results been fair, Imran supporters would have emerged with clear majority, much like Mujibur Rehman.

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The question is – will Pakistan establishment again try coercive and strOng-arm tactics to supress people’s will? And will it trigger a rebellion a la 1970?

With economy in tatters and an all-time high price rise and inflation, Pakistan doesn’t have many choices. Big sharks like China and America are waiting for it to fail so that they can, if not colonise it then at least use it as their military base. Next few weeks are crucial for Pakistan. For they will decide whether 2024 will be a replica of 1970-71 or not.

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