ABSTRACTED FROM EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The most important event in Pakistan during the period under review was the 2018 general election. This was the third general election in a row in which rival civilian individuals and parties contested each other at the ballot box for seats in the legislatures and the chance to form a government. Moreover, it was the second consecutive transfer of power from one elected civilian government to another. The 2018 general election saw Imran Khan’s populist-leaning party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, become the largest national party in terms of popular votes as well as seats in the National Assembly, and marked the second consecutive democratic transfer of power. However, the military establishment retains enormous influence and is the country’s most powerful political actor, dominating security policy and foreign relations and engaging in interventions that put significant pressure on civilian authorities. The election process featured the deployment of a massive number of security personnel and was mostly peaceful – no small feat in a populous country threatened by ethnic and sectarian militancy and foreign intrigue. However, opposition figures and the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency regarded the election as unfair in important ways. There was pressure from the establishment on some candidates; the incumbent prime minister was charged with corruption and disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2017, and was ultimately forced to resign and jailed two weeks before the polls; and thousands of other members of his party were accused of corruption. In addition to the pre-poll rigging, there is evidence of post-poll rigging as well, with party workers excluded from the count at polling stations.
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