Election Theater in a Dying Economy: Pakistan's 2024 Charad

Election Theater in a Dying Economy: Pakistan's 2024 Charad


As Pakistan reeled under the weight of a crippling economic crisis, its citizens went to the polls on February 8th, 2024, in a high-stakes election. With inflation skyrocketing, the rupee's value plummeting, and the specter of IMF-imposed austerity looming large, the charade of elections amidst a burning economic inferno exposes the bankruptcy of the ruling elite. Essential goods became more expensive, putting a strain on household budgets, and unemployment created a lack of opportunities. During campaign, all major political parties pledged to work with the IMF, leading to concerns about potential cuts to subsidies and social programs, affecting the most vulnerable. This economic uncertainty heightened a sense of unease among the population.

In the lead-up to the election, there were speculations and rumors, and doubts raised about whether the elections would even take place. This backdrop of instability made it challenging candidates to run effective campaigns and connect with voters. The extent of these restrictions on political activities and their impact on the fairness and inclusivity of the electoral process is still a topic of debate and investigation. The real winner of these elections is again, Capital as there is no real working class party present in the field at this moment and ruling class keep on making all policies to steal the wealth created by them and enrich themselves. Different factions of ruling classes keep on fighting to get their share from this loot. The sole aim of representative of capital is to protect interests of THE CAPITAL. As Lenin wrote in State and Revolution, “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament.”

The elections results again brought political instability as not a single party could get simple majority. Largest number of elected are independent which were mostly PTI backed candidates (101 seats) followed by PML N (75 seats), Peoples Party (54 seats) and others. In these elections, there were smaller left parties also contesting but they could not get a single seat throughout the country. Notably, Ali Wazir Marxist who was elected Independent MP in 2018 also lost elections.

The elections within capitalism, according to the Marxists, are merely a theatrical performance within a decaying system. They offer temporary relief through manufactured narratives and hollow promises, further entrenching the power of the elite. However, in case of Pakistan, a long ago bourgeois electoral political has lost its credibility. This can be observed from voters’ turnovers. Throughout Pakistan’s 76 years of history there were 12 general elections based on universal adult franchise. The average voter’s turnover has been 47.86% with only exception of 1970 elections when it was 61%. The 1970 elections during period of 1968-69 revolution. In 2024, out of 223 million population of country, 123 million were eligible to vote but among them only 48% (voters turnover) went to cast their vote. According Pakistan Bureau of Statistics 64% of Pakistan's population is under 35 years old, and they are most deprived of even basic needs like education, health and they are seeing no prospects for their future and yet they are mostly depoliticized and don’t participate in politics. According to a recent Ipsos survey conducted nationwide primarily among youth, only 29% expressed support for specific politicians and parties, intending to participate in their rallies and processions. Further, half of Pakistani youth believe elections will not influence their daily lives.

The 2024 elections were held in very controlled manner where every possibility of political mobilization and limited people’s ability to participate in political process and express their grievances. Initial excitement was dampened by widespread claims of blatant pre-poll rigging by the establishment, limiting the societal impact. Another important phenomenon of these elections was Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf, whose leader Imran Khan is in prison, party is almost scattered, and PTI’s most candidates stood as independent candidates and emerged as largest group. However, Imran Khan is not an anti-imperialist hero or savior of Pakistani people rather he is among worst anti working class who implemented worst neoliberalism policies, which saw many job losses, trade unions banned, and restrictions on rights activists and nourished in Military nurseries who fabricated him as “savior of country against corrupt gangs” power. He is a right wing populist leader whose rhetoric is centric at grievances of middle class. He was forcefully thrown out of government by Military, which also expose internal power contradictions among different factions of Pakistani State. After ouster of Imran Khan, power was handed over to PML N, PPP and their allies in parliament. They implemented IMF dictated economic policies, which brought catastrophic consequences for ordinary people. It helped Khan to get more sympathies from his supporters. The menace of Imran Khan is reflection of deep discomforts & despair of middle class. The prevailing social economic situation and delusions on mainstream political parties are aiding Imran Khan alike right wing populists.

As these lines are being written, jockey of traditional political pawns is, continue to form government and it is mostly that Pakistan Muslim League N faction led coalition will again form government.  They will have to carry on draconian IMF’s austerity measures that mean increasing State revenues through additional taxation, privatization of national assets, burdening pockets of already deprived population. From a long time, Pakistani economy trend is downward and it is contracting. Manufacturing and other real sectors of economy are in continuous decline and speculative & informal economy is booming. Only economic program is popping economy through borrowing and stimulate consumption led growth, which later on takes economy into another crisis. The organic crisis of Pakistan economy is clear through approaches in last two decades that policies revolves in cycles. In the history of country, bourgeois have been failed to build a national state and build sustainable growth. 

Parallel to the elections, several social movements are demanding economic and political reforms. These include protests in Gilgit-Baltistan for wheat subsidies, ongoing unrest in Baluchistan, and demonstrations against high electricity bills and living costs in Kashmir. These movements gave expression of tremendous potential of masses. Nevertheless, these difficult times are testing periods for masses and well as revolutionary leadership, with patience and persistence Marxists will be explaining to masses as once time will come when masses will rose and give rise of mighty revolution. On surface, at present there is no workers movement, beneath there is a revolt is brewing that could change whole scenario.