As Pakistan’s election officials continue vote count after glitches in the electronic system in the country’s 13th general elections, the trends are clear. Former cricket star Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Party) is on the course to win enough seats in the National Assembly to form the next government. PTI is likely to win between 110-120 seats in a house of 272, paving the way for Imran Khan to become Pakistan’s 19th prime minister. Early reports indicate that PTI received 41% of the popular vote.
Pakistan Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who just started his ten-year jail term after he was found guilty of corruption, trailing a distant second, receiving 33% of the popular vote, and followed by Pakistan People’s Party of former president Asif Ali Zardari, which received 13% of the total cost vote.
Sharif’s party rejected the election results hours before the first winner was officially announced, alleging massive rigging. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads the Muttahida Majlis e Amal alliance of religious parties, was among the prominent politicians losing the election. He also alleged electoral fraud, which has become a tradition of Pakistani politicians. Elections are fair if they win and rigged if they lose, so goes the saying. Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Sardar Raza Khan rejected claims of rigging, insisting the exercise was conducted in most transparent manner.
PTI is also sweeping elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and was expected to comfortably form the government. The party won majority seats in 2013 elections and formed a coalition government. PTI and PML-N were going neck-and-neck with the latter slightly ahead of Khan’s party in Punjab province. Even though it’s too early to project who will form the government Punjab, home to the majority of National Assembly seats. Punjab is considered power base of Sharifs. But not in 2018 elections. Sharif’s Muslim League is struggling in Punjab, losing significant ground to PTI.
In Sindh, PPP of Asif Zardari maintained its traditional hold and is expected to comfortably form the provincial government. PPP also won a majority of National Assembly seats from the southern province.
In Balochistan, the nationalists, regional and religious parties won, setting the stage for yet another coalition government. Quetta, the provincial capital, saw the worst violence where 31 people died in a suicide attack on a polling station. More than 130 people, including an election candidate of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Siraj Raisani, died in a terrorist attack in the Mastung area on July 13.
The elections saw two other candidates, Haroon Bilour of Awami National Party and Ikramullah Gandapur of Pakistan Tehirk e Insaf were also killed in terrorist attacks. Bilour lost his father in another terrorist attack in 2013 elections.
The elections saw some controversy as the results reporting system that the Election Commission of Pakistan was using for the first time, broke down, delaying the announcement of winners for many hours.
Imran Khan’s becoming the next Prime Minister will break the power of dynastic politics in Pakistan. He will assume office at a time when Pakistan is facing a serious economic crisis, a new wave of terrorism an increasingly unstable region. The rise of Islamic State and increasing Taliban violence in Afghanistan is casting new doubts about peace in the war-torn country. President Donald Trump’s open-ended Afghanistan policy, reports of Russia’s renewed interest and growing Chinese and Indian influence have created new security and geostrategic challenges for Khan, who has no prior experience of governance.
Considered a tough taskmaster, Khan is expected to pursue a much independent foreign and economic policies and a major push against corruption. But much will depend on Khan’s performance and will need greater political stability. Post-election reactions of many political parties, who rejected the results, indicated that he may not have a smooth sailing.