Pakistans Election Week: Challenges Loom Amidst Legal Disputes and Uneven Playing Field.image/NDTV
Pakistans Election Week: Challenges Loom Amidst Legal Disputes and Uneven Playing Field
Pakistan is poised for elections on Thursday, but the lackluster campaign has been marred by legal disputes and allegations from rights groups suggesting an uneven electoral playing field. Here’s an overview of key players:
Known as the “Lion of Punjab,” Nawaz Sharif leads the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Anticipated to secure sufficient seats for a solo governance or coalition formation, Sharif eyes a fourth term as prime minister. Despite his wealth and a family legacy rooted in the steel business, Sharif has faced intermittent stints in power, opposition, and periods of incarceration or exile due to multiple graft convictions. Admired for his down-to-earth demeanor, he advocates fiscal conservatism, economic liberalization, free markets, and improved relations with India.
Considered Pakistan’s strongest institution, the military has wielded influence over half of the nation’s history. Controlling foreign and defense policies, the military safeguards the nuclear arsenal since Pakistan’s atomic power status in 1998. With a substantial force of 1.5 million active members, the military denies interference in elections, yet its support significantly influences the rise and fall of political leaders. The military’s presence extends to economic decision-making bodies, charities, sporting associations, and state enterprises.
A former prime minister ousted in April 2022, Imran Khan faces exclusion from the current elections due to jail sentences, including graft, treason, and an allegedly illegal marriage under Islamic law. Despite constraints imposed by the military, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party may still perform well. Khan, a charismatic former cricketer, gained popularity in 2018 but fell out with the military establishment. His influence persists despite challenges, as he waged a daring campaign against the military, culminating in his supporters attacking an army commander’s HQ.
Shehbaz, Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, assumed the prime minister’s role in 2022 following Khan’s removal through a vote of no confidence. While seen as less charismatic, Shehbaz is a workaholic known for his safari suits. Leading PML-N’s subdued election campaign, he often takes the stage in his brother’s absence. Despite potential disagreements on military matters, Shehbaz is likely to play a significant role in any government formed by his brother, possibly overseeing a key planning ministry.
Bilawal, the son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, represents the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Coming from a politically prominent family with a tragic history, Bilawal enters the election with limited statesmanship experience, having served as foreign minister in the coalition that ousted Khan in 2022. While the PPP may not secure enough support for independent governance, its dominance in southern Sindh province grants leverage in potential coalition formations.