More than 100 million Pakistanis will have the chance to cast their ballots in general elections on July 25, but the vote is already tainted by the blatant meddling of the country’s all-powerful military, with a series of assists by a partisan judiciary. This interference—by what is known locally as the establishment—ensures that whatever the results on election day, the outcome will not rid Pakistan of its chronic instability and poor civil-military relations.
The establishment wants to root out the two parties that have dominated the political scene for the last three decades: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The PML-N, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is popular among ethnic Punjabis, who constitute about half of Pakistan’s population. The PPP—of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and now run by her widower, former President Asif Ali Zardari—draws on its traditional support in the southern Sindh province.