Observers expect attempts to deprive Imran Khan of access to power to fail because his party is still the largest political force in the country (Al Jazeera)

Islamabad -

The term “minus one formula” may seem strange to political arenas around the world, but it is not strange to the Pakistani arena, which has witnessed the application of this formula throughout the turbulent political history of the country that gained independence in 1947 and witnessed three military coups, where this term appears among Sometimes in the internal political discourse in Pakistan.

Throughout the country's political history, Pakistanis have lived with the "minus one" formula and this policy may have begun with the assassination of Pakistan's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951.

Interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar's statements last September raised the specter of this term in Pakistan, when he spoke about the possibility of holding fair elections without former Prime Minister Imran Khan and some of his party leaders.

Just one year before Kakar's statements, Imran Khan said that "imported government officials" - referring to the government that replaced his government after its overthrow in April 2022 - were working on a "minus one" formula.

Observers believe that the “minus one” formula did not limit the influence and strength of the Insaf Party led by Imran Khan (Reuters)

"minus one" formula

This formula means that if the leader of any party is no longer acceptable to those controlling power in the country, which is the military institution, then another person will replace him from within the party itself. This formula focuses on people, not parties, which are allowed to continue political work with some obstacles.

It also has another meaning, which is targeting the Prime Minister alone under multiple justifications, thus making his office unstable and shaky.

An observer of the Pakistani political arena believes that the most popular leader - by far - is the former Prime Minister and leader of the Insaf Party, Imran Khan, but after his ouster from power, he became prosecuted in dozens of cases, ending up in prison and being prohibited from running in the elections.

Despite the harassment to which his party is exposed, he achieved significant results in the recent general elections, which the party claims were rigged, and despite being unable to form a government according to the electoral system, he still represents a strong political weight in Parliament.

On the other hand, the person most competing with Imran Khan is Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister three times and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif’s wing), whose relationship with the military establishment has greatly strained during the past years that followed his ouster from power in 2017, and his departure into exile. Volunteering in London 2019.

Despite being allowed to run in the elections and winning one of the seats in the National Council, and his legal ability to form a government, and his statement that he will not be at the head of a coalition government that includes other parties, some observers believe that he is not wanted by the military establishment, or at least it prefers his brother Shahbaz.

Victims of the formula

Throughout the country's political history, Pakistanis have lived with the "minus one" formula, and this policy may have begun when the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951 in a public park in the city of Rawalpindi while he was giving a public speech.

After that, Fatima Jinnah - the sister of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah - moved away from political life after her defeat in the elections - which were said to be rigged - by General Ayub Khan, who ruled Pakistan after a military coup in 1958 that lasted until 1969.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - also - was one of the victims of this formula, who was executed in 1979 by judicial order after the coup against him by General Zia ul-Haq in 1977.

Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto faced the same thing during the 1990s, and although it did not reach the point of assassination, each of them was excluded from the prime ministership twice, whether by judicial order or by a military coup.

The term "minus one" was first used during Benazir Bhutto's first term (1988-1990).

The military rule of General Pervez Musharraf lasted for about 9 years, during which Benazir Bhutto maintained his popularity, but she also fell victim to political conflict, as she was assassinated in December 2007.

Nawaz Sharif continued in political life, as his party won the 2013 elections and assumed the prime ministership for the third time in his life, and it was similar to the previous two times, as he was removed from power by a judicial order in 2017, and since then Sharif has faced prosecutions, judicial rulings, and voluntary exile in London that ended in October. First past.

Failed formula

Despite the success of this formula or the policy of excluding prominent and influential people, in the eyes of observers, it has proven to be a failure in the long term.

Journalist and political analyst Javed Rana believes that all of these formulas, known as “minus one or minus two,” did not work in the past and will not work in the future.

Rana explains this, in an interview with Al Jazeera, by saying that all attempts made by “the army and the intelligence network” to effectively deprive Imran Khan of access to power have failed.

Because his party is still the largest political force in the country and won a large number of seats in the recent elections, which witnessed clear fraud, according to his description.

He believes that the army wanted to return Nawaz to power, but did not want him to win a comfortable number of seats that would enable his party to form the government on its own.

He added that even if Imran Khan was not in power or in Parliament, his party would still constitute a political force in Parliament and the popular fabric supporting it.

For his part, political analyst and head of the Islamabad Center for Political Studies, Abdul Karim Shah, says that the military establishment did its best to implement the “minus one” formula, but failed to do so, and the Insaf Party also categorically rejected this policy.

He added, in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, that "the army tried to exclude Imran Khan from the scene, but even though it succeeded in excluding him personally, his party takes orders from him even if he is in prison."

Shah says that the matter is different for Nawaz Sharif, as he was not excluded from assuming power, but he chose for his brother Shahbaz and his daughter Maryam to take power in Punjab.

Because he does not want to bear responsibility for the next government, including its problems and challenges, because it will be fragile and doomed to failure.

He added that Nawaz will not be immune from taking responsibility;

Because if not in his name personally, then at least in the name of his party and his family, including his brother and daughter, and because - also - he will direct the government from a distance.

Source: Al Jazeera