Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) emerged as the big winners with over 124 seats in a house of 272 directly-elected members at the national level. Pakistan Peoples' Party suffered heavy losses everywhere except in rural Sindh province. Imran Khan's forecast of PTI tsunami did not quite materialize but his party still emerged as a strong challenger with 27 seats, almost as many National Assembly seats as the much older and better established Pakistan Peoples' Party.
There have been rigging charges by losing candidates and parties in a number of constituencies. However, international observers all agree that the elections were by and large free and fair. In its interim report, the European Union, which deployed the largest foreign election observer mission in Pakistan, said the voting at 90% of the polling stations remained ‘satisfactory’.
In my view, the fact that the Taliban violence selectively prevented ANP, MQM and PPP from campaigning freely raises more serious questions about the freeness and fairness of the elections than what happened at a few polling stations on polling day. But I believe that elections are never 100% fair anywhere-much less in Pakistan. There were serious questions about President John F. Kennedy's win in Chicago Illinois and George W. Bush's win in Florida but in each case the opponents chose to back down in the larger interest of the country. Unlike Pakistan's May 11 elections in disputed constituencies, the 1960 and the 2000 general elections were very close with the difference of just a few thousand votes.
I hope the rigging claims are peacefully resolved by re-polling in affected polling stations where there is solid evidence of irregularity. It's not in Pakistan's or any of the political parties' best interest to plunge the country into yet another crisis. I hope sanity prevails here. Leaders like IK need to play a role here to calm the situation.
Expectations of Nawaz Sharif's Government:
In his prior stints in government, Mr. Nawaz Sharif managed the economy poorly. Pakistan was nearly bankrupt with about a billion dollars in reserves in 1999. He ran afoul of the powerful military as well as the media and the judges.
Pakistan has changed a lot since 1999 when Mr. Sharif was removed from power by General Pervez Musharraf and few tears were shed for him. Pakistan has since gone from a low-income to a middle-income country and its economy is now almost 4 times larger. The country has nearly $12 billion in reserves. New power centers have emerged in the form of powerful mass media and highly assertive judiciary.
Pakistan now faces huge challenges. The state must fight a fierce Taliban insurgency and address crippling energy shortages. It must also revive the economy and increase tax revenues to invest in education, health care and infrastructure.
|Pakistan's Macro-economic Indicators (Source: State Bank of Pakistan)|
I congratulate the incoming Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his PML (N) party on their victory and I welcome the emergence of PTI as a third powerful force in Pakistani politics. I hope PML leadership is now more experienced and mature and up to the challenge of leading Pakistan out of its current crises of security, energy and economy.
As to Imran Khan's PTI, it has come from nowhere to become almost the second largest party in the National Assembly and the new governing party in KP. It has the potential to transform the future of Pakistan if PTI does well in governing KP and forces change at the center to bring in much needed reforms. It's a big test of PTI and and a great hope for Pakistan.
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