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Pakistan General Elections 2018

July 25, 2018 | Expert Insights

Millions of voters in Pakistan go out to decide between cricket legend Imran Khan and brother of former PM Nawaz Sharif, Mr.Shehbaz Sharif. However, the election campaign has been marred by violence due to the bomb blast in Quetta, increasing death toll upto 30. 


The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a country in South Asia, bordered by India, Afghanistan, China and Iran. It also shares a maritime border with Oman. Pakistan was the site of many ancient cultures, including the great Indus Valley Civilization. It is the only country to have been created in the name of Islam, born out of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Its east wing seceded in 1971 to form the state of Bangladesh.

In 1977, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq grabbed power in a coup. He promoted Islamization, turning against minorities and supporting the Mujahideen who were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had also ordered the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of Pakistan’s most beloved politicians. Shortly after his term, Pakistan detonated its first nuclear devices in 1998. Pervez Musharraf toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and stayed in power till 2008. He is considered responsible for pushing Pakistan into an unnecessary and endless war on terrorism.

The military has remained one of the country’s most powerful institutions, and frequent martial law has changed the political culture of Pakistani society. Political parties have been dominated by dynastic rule, and there is little tolerance for opposition. The lack of acumen of Pakistan’s political class to formulate comprehensive strategies has given the military establishment, reason to intervene. They have made extensive use of religion to win the support of people. With military forces intent on determining the outcome of elections, citizens have become increasingly depoliticized, making political life stagnant. 


Pakistan’s general elections on June 25th are said to be the second democratic transition of power in Pakistan’s 70-year coup-studded history. With a population of 207 million people, the country has about 106 million registered voters. The tense election was marred by allegations of military interference and a series of deadly attacks. 

The voting in the Pakistan election will see more than 3,000 candidates contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly. The three key parties contesting are former PM Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) , and former (late) PM Benazir Bhutto's party Pakistan Peoples Party. The contest is said to be a close one between Nawaz Sharif's party and Imran Khan's party. 

Huma Baqai, a professor of international relations at Karachi university, sums up Mr. Imran Khan’s appeal,“He is hope in the midst of hopelessness. He has no past political experience, he has committed blunders. But we have tried the two main political parties and they have not delivered.” A win for his opponent, Shehbaz Sharif, would keep the Sharif family in power. But it too, could spell an end to the political status quo. Victory for Mr. Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party would bring to an end decades of domination by the Bhutto and Sharif families. 

The election result will be particularly important for the US after President Donald Trump’s decision to commit thousands more troops to Afghanistan in an effort to end America’s longest-ever war. That push will require more support from Pakistan, analysts say - something that is far more likely to come from Shehbaz Sharif than Mr. Khan, who has complained about US policy in Afghanistan and criticised former administrations in Islamabad for co-operating with it. 

While both candidates talk effusively about China’s plans to spend $60bn on Pakistan’s infrastructure, the outcome of the election is not only important for nuclear-armed Pakistan’s role in the world, but also because Mr. Khan has pledged to spend big on public services in an attempt to create what he calls an “Islamic welfare state”. However, experts warn that his attempts to do so could be knocked off course before they have even begun, by a looming currency crisis which could send any new prime minister running to the IMF for a bailout within months of taking over. 


Analysts says that Mr. Imran Khan’s agenda of sovereign foreign policy, Islamic welfare state and affinity for a China model will make him the worst pick for both Pakistan and India. 


Our assessment is that Pakistan’s people will make their choice amongst a field of moderate choices. We feel that the outcome of the election may not transform the internal status-quo of Pakistan but certainly will tell us the course of its foreign policy towards India, US and China. As stated earlier, we believe that the PML-N might lose ground to PTI in the Punjab province, while the PPP is expected to hold to its rural base in Sindh province.