The Economist

(Steven Felgate) #1

12 Leaders The EconomistJuly 21st 2018



S A fast bowler Imran Khan
made rival batsmen quake
and led Pakistan to victory in the
Cricket World Cup in 1992. As a
politician he is thundering to-
wards the election on July 25th
and appears to be on the point
of scoring another famous vic-
tory. Polls suggesthisparty Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ( PTI) may
emerge as the largest; and Mr Khan may well become the
country’s next prime minister.
Yet as a pukka sportsman can Mr Khan really be happy?
Although he and Pakistan’s army deny foul play the match has
been rigged. The army is ensuring that the PTI enjoys privi-
leged access to media endorsements from powerful people
and defections from rival parties. Nawaz Sharif a three-term
formerprime minister and hisdaughter Maryam were arrest-
ed as they stepped off a plane from London on July 13th. A cam-
paign of harassment and arrest has affected other parties’
workers far more than the PTI’s. More murkily the others have
also suffered assassination attempts and terrorist attacks
among them a suicide-bomb that killed 149 people at a rally for
a local party in Mastung in Balochistan on July 13th.
The generals have long pulled the strings of Pakistani poli-
tics. But rarely short of taking power themselves have they
meddled so brazenly. Pakistan’s miserable failure to develop a
stable democracy compares ever more starkly with the rude
progress of its arch-rival India.

The khaki umpire
Whether in the 1970s in the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or in the
1990s during Mr Sharif’s earlier terms the army’s “jeep-wal-
lahs” first endorsed and promoted pliant civilian leaders then
squeezed them when they grew too independent and in the
end got rid of them.
Mr Sharif lent his name to his party the Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz ( PML-N) which held a majority in the outgoing

assembly. He was forced from office last year after judges up-
held a petty charge of failure to disclose a company director-
ship then banned him from politics for life in April; he was lat-
er given ten years in prison on more serious charges of hiding
assets abroad. By returning to Pakistan to face jail Mr Sharif
has turned himself from a grubby politician into something of
a martyr. Nobody quite knows why the army turned against
him. Most probably it thought him uppity—making overtures
to India for instance or for his quiet questioning of the deep
state’s attachment to unsavoury Islamists.
Mr Khan for his part started off posing as an anti-establish-
ment politician railing against the corrupt duopoly of PML-N
and its rival the Pakistan Peoples Party founded by Bhutto and
later led by his daughter Benazir who was assassinated in

  1. Mr Khan shows little interest in foreign affairs beyond
    ranting against America. He chirrups hardline views on such
    issues as punishing blasphemy with death. Perhaps some
    think he will even form a coalition with ultra-extremists.
    However one thing that sets this election apart from previ-
    ous ones is the greater outcry over the army’s match-fixing.
    Prominent journalists and some of the country’s largestmedia
    groups say they have been threatened and coerced into pro-
    moting the PTIand muting coverage of its rivals. At a press con-
    ference on July 16th Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission an
    NGO declared that there were ample grounds to question the
    legitimacy of the elections warningof “blatant aggressive and
    unabashed attempts to manipulate the outcome”.
    Pakistani voters may yet rebuke the generals. But outsiders
    can do little to restrain the army now that Pakistan is moving
    further into China’s orbit. Mr Khan who is profiting from army
    support today should be aware that he will pay for it tomor-
    row when the generals come calling.
    Asfor the jeep-wallahs they mustsee thatthey are harming
    the country they claim to defend. In the 70 years since parti-
    tion Pakistan has been torn by war terrorism coups instabil-
    ity and religious extremism. It has lagged ever further behind
    India economically and on other fronts—including cricket. 7

Pakistan’s election

Foul play

Time for the generals to stop meddling in politics

China’s vibrant mobile market shows. Because Google Play is
not available there device-makers that use Android are not
compelled to install the firm’s apps but can pick and choose.
The web of rules elsewhere is designed above all to protect
Google’s search service and its moneymaking advertising
business. The commission is right to find Google guilty.
Yet its remedies fall short. The commission wants Google it-
self to come up with remedies which in effect meansdropping
all the restrictions it imposes on device-makers. But that alone
is unlikely to be enough to restore competition quickly be-
cause of the dominance of Google’s version of Android which
powers 80% of smartphones in Europe. A similar approach in
the market for comparison-shopping services has been inef-
fectual. Rivals still appear in only 6% of the slots available on
the European version of Google’s search engine. Tougher rem-
edies would include compelling Google to allow competing
app stores to distribute its apps which would make it easier for

other firms to launch competing app stores. Another option
would be to give consumers a choice when they first boot up
their phone over which apps they want to use as defaults
(much as the commission once required for browsers on PCs).
If it really wants to merit the accolades it gets for tackling the
tech titans the commission needs not only to be more forceful
but also to act more swiftly. The comparison-shopping case
was seven years old by the time it was decided; most of Goo-
gle’s rivals had already succumbed. Gearing up for a set-piece
antitrust battle is a mistake in such a fast-moving industry. The
commission should instead go for quicker wins for example
by rapidly knocking down any new limitations on rivals’ ser-
vices and apps.
Europe is a less friendly environment than America for the
tech giants. But it has not so far achieved much more in terms
of promotingcompetition than the regulators across the Atlan-
tic. That is a disappointment as big as any fine. 7
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