As Pakistan goes into general elections on Wednesday, will this be a historic marker for democracy or another let down for its people?
More than a 100 million eligible voters in Pakistan will go to the polls on Wednesday to elect a prime minister. The one reason to celebrate is that this is only the second time in Pakistan’s 70 year history that civilian to civilian electoral transfer is taking place.
But few people in Pakistan are celebrating the elections as the campaigns were marred by a series of attacks on candidates and campaign rallies, accusations of military manipulation and censorship of news media. Despite everything, the elections on Wednesday will be a kind of plebiscite on some of the most crucial issues facing the country.
To get a better understanding of the elections, here’s a look at the key players running for the seat of the prime minister.
The former international star cricketer of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), stepped into Pakistani politics more than a decade ago. He has held a seat in the national assembly, but has never run a government. Many have observed that there is military’s support to him this time and they might be working together to cripple their rivals. The party is supported by controversial groups.
He is the successor and brother of Nawaz Sharif and until recently was the chief minister of one of the most populous and prosperous provinces in the country, Punjab. After his brother, Nawaz Sharif, three time prime minister, was disqualified last year sighting corruption charges, he has led the campaign for PML-N (The Pakistan Muslim League). Convicted by the Pakistani court and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Nawaz Sharif claims that the military conspired against him because he openly criticised them.
Bilawal bhutto Zardari
Son and grandson of two former prime ministers from PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party), he is the latest addition to political candidature. Both, his mother Benazir Bhutto and grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were killed. It’s the first time for the 29-year old Oxford educated leader to be standing for parliament. He says he wants to implement his mother’s vision of a “peaceful, progressive and democratic Pakistan”.
Among the parties seeking seats in this election, there are some reconstituted versions of the previously banned, extremist parties who may not fare well in terms of seats, but are known for spreading pro-jihadi and anti-minority vitriol.
While PPP is popular among the rural class and its vote bank is concentrated in the southern Sindh, the province of Punjab is a stronghold of the PML-N — Nawaz Sharif’s homeland. It has more than half of the 272 directly elected seats in the National Assembly. PTI will have to make serious encroachments in this part to win the election.
Who do you think will emerge as the winner? Let us know in the comment section below.
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