The story of Rajanpur is the story of Pakistan’s General elections, 2018. Candidates in the area, such as Parvez Gourchani, Sher Ali Gourchani and Hafeez Dareshak, previously elected on Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) tickets, chose to depart from the party and run as independents. In November, Tahir Iqbal, previously a PML-N-elected Member of National Assembly (MNA) from Vehari, shifted to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). News came from the several sources that he was forced to make his move because of extreme pressure from certain forces despite a strong vote bank for him and PML-N in the area. Next up, the “Jeep” showed up which has made more headlines than the abovementioned parties, because the establishment-friendly Chaudry Nisar is leading the group. Shockingly, several former PML-N ticket holders joined the Jeep on the last day of election commission paper submission. The champions of engineering in the establishment were at play, swiftly and calculatedly holding the sword of potential National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases over the heads of several electable and some longstanding PML-N supporters. Tahir Iqbal, previously a PML-N-elected MNA from Vehari, shifted to PTI. News came from several sources that he was forced to make his move because of extreme pressure from certain forces despite a strong vote bank for him and his former party Then came the media. Speaking to senior personnel in a few famous media houses revealed that the new group policy is to strictly not criticise the judiciary or the military high command-the opposite of which Nawaz Sharif is propagating. The group suffered a systematic choking of funds due to channel blackouts and it’s clear they were forced to cede ground. One English language newspaper suffered physical obstruction in terms of its distributions so that any opinions highlighting one-sided accountability of a leader and his next generation doesn’t reach the masses. PEMRA is too powerless to undo any of this while the media houses have no option but to voice their reservation in the international media. Pakistan has come full circle. Political parties and their leaders who threaten to establish a hold over our politics have once again become the target of carefully hatched conspiracies and well-orchestrated accountability. This is the same type that forced Benazir Bhutto into self-exile because the military high command hated her. It is the same that jailed Mian Nawaz Sharif for 14 years after the 1999 coup over fake hijacking cases and unsubstantiated corruption charges. Of accountability, however, the story reflects tragedy and disturbance. The speed and pace with which NAB has carried out the trial of Nawaz Sharif is historic. Here’s a man who the military high command despises because of his want to control the foreign policy on multiple fronts, because he refused to extend general (r) Raheel Sharif’s tenure, and for his role in Musharraf’s trial in 2014. He, therefore, becomes the first prominent politician to be sentenced to jail by NAB, and that too without substantial proof. A significant amount of the Pakistani population thinks that accountability has to begin from somewhere. But does accountability always have to begin from democratically elected leaders like it began in the 90s? On the other hand, the SC and NAB haven’t taken any action on the Employee Old Age Benefit Institution corruption case worth Rs. 44 billion involving Aleem Khan, a case stuck in the enquiry stages since 2012. NAB hasn’t made any headway on the illegal development in Bahria Town Karachi case, for which the SC ordered a reference to be filed in 2016. The Nandipur power plant corruption case hasn’t seen light of day either, and is awaiting action since 2011. For those who think that these cases are without merit, let it be clear there are significant grounds for investigation. The same applies to Musharraf i.e. the military can’t see one of its former heads tried, when there is a clear-cut case against him. The problem lies with the lack of political capital and will amongst the military and judiciary to try these cases and further the investigation. The lack of progress and attention on these cases is testament to the single, golden rule of high level accountability in this country: you are only held accountable if the establishment wants to hold you accountable. Pre-poll rigging has come in a package this time around. Media houses have suffered extreme pressure ensuring their journalists, anchors and reporters adopt a pro-PTI stance and limit information against the party. Several PML-N electable candidates have been pushed to shift sides in Punjab whereas the leader himself has been sent to jail. A key intervening variable in Pakistan’s democratic progression has been political engineering and the ban on the freedom of expression. It has led to disastrous consequences for the nation. The seeds of turmoil and friction sowed in Zia’s era and with Musharraf’s war on terror serve as concrete examples. Logic dictates that after years of human evolution democracy is the best form of governance. It must be allowed to flourish via a free and fair election. Unfortunately, the story of Pakistan’s election is simple: twisted, tempered and rigged so that only one party can win. The writer is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Co-founder of the Future of Pakistan Conference Published in Daily Times, July 18th 2018.