Pakistan will be going to the polls on July 25 of this year. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), over 105 million voters would be exercising their voting rights in the coming elections. During the 2013 elections, the opposition, especially Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had accused Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League — Noon (PML-N) of indulging in largescale rigging to influence the outcome of the elections. However, this year the ECP has taken adequate precautions to prevent any such incidents, by preparing new electoral rolls with CNIC numbers and photographs, revised nomination forms and use of online data. But, as per usual, the voters are apprehensive about new methods of rigging that might be employed by politicians this time around. The establishment, for their part, has also been accused of taking a more proactive role than usual to try and influence the upcoming elections. In a blatant attempt to help the PTI win, the military is facing accusations from Nawaz Sharif that they made up false charges against him, in order to compel the courts to ban him from public office for life. Other senior leaders of the PML-N are also facing similar charges of corruption.However, despite these setbacks, Nawaz continues to enjoy tremendous goodwill and support from voters. It will be a herculean task for the PTI to hope to take on the PML-N on its own. It is here that Imran Khan can learn lessons from the recent elections held in the Indian State of Karnataka. In spite of the Bharitya Janta Party (BJP) emerging as the single largest party by capturing 104 out of 222 seats, the Congress party, which was a close second with 79 seats, played a masterstroke by combining with the Janata Dal Secular (JD-S), which had managed to win 37 seats on its own, to form the government. They even asked the leader of the JD-S to assume the position of chief minister of the state, leaving the BJP high and dry with this strategy. The Congress, which had failed to stop Modi’s BJP juggernaut in the 2014 general election, is facing the threat of losing its national status. Back in 2014, they controlled 13 states, but this number has been reduced to only three states today, with the addition of one union territory. They were forced to rethink their strategy for the next elections.They realised that the only way to stop Modi was by forming a rainbow coalition with all regional parties, irrespective of ideological difference, with their prime concern centred on keeping the BJP out of power. This strategy has recently started paying off, as the BJP has managed to win only one out of the four seats in the recently held Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) by polls. It won only one out of the 11 assembly by polls. The results have given hope to all anti-BJP forces that the only way to take on the might of the popular BJP is by bringing all parties across the national and state spectrum under one umbrella. Only by fighting as a united front can they hope to stop the BJP from getting a majority in 2019 general elections. All the regional parties with differing ideologies are now planning to contest all future elections under a common front so that their votes are not divided like in the past. Their one point agenda is to prevent Modi from winning the next election. All the regional parties in India are now planning to contest all future elections under a common front so that their votes are not divided like in the past. Their one point agenda is to prevent Modi from winning the next election This is where Imran Khan can take a leaf out of Congress’ book and try to unite all other political parties, irrespective of their religious and ideological differences, in order to take on the might of the PML-N. Unless he manages to do this, it is highly improbable that the PTI can actually win the elections on its own, as Nawaz Sharif continues to enjoy the goodwill and support of the people. The establishment, on the other hand, should take a back seat and let Imran pursue this new strategy. They have already been accused of trying to censor the media and have used intimidation tactics in order to scare off PML-N supporters. These blatant moves have already drawn the ire of the public, and will end up hurting the PTI in the long run. If the establishment succeeds in influencing the outcome of elections, it will do irreparable damage to the institution of democracy in Pakistan, especially, at a time when its economy is facing rising debts and depleting currency reserves. With more meddling, people may retaliate by voting for PML-N. And this will effectively put an end to Imran Khan’s election bid. The writer is an independent columnist and political commentator Published in Daily Times, June 8th 2018.