Pak Elections 2018: A Bhutto Makes Debut, Imran Khan Goes All Out and What it Means for India
Pakistan will go to the polls on July 25 and the results are expected to be announced within a couple of days of polling.
File photos of Bilawal Bhutto and Imran Khan. (Image: Reuters)
New Delhi: In a month-and-a-half Pakistan will vote its next government to power. At the end of a decade of an unprecedented reign of elected governments in Pakistan, the country will hope to extend its record by another term.
The elections will have bearing not just on future of terrorism, economy and democracy in Pakistan, but on its neighbours, including India.
Pakistan will go to the polls on July 25 and the results are expected to be announced within a couple of days of polling. In the 342-member House, 172 is the halfway mark broaching which makes a political party the single largest and qualifies it to stake claim to form the government by itself. In case no party comes out with overwhelming numbers, a coalition of smaller parties, which are likely to be more extremist in their views, could behave more unpredictably and aggressively towards India.
The last time Pakistan voted in general polls, Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N fell short of six seats, but formed government comfortably by securing support of 19 independent MLAs.
India, which itself is scheduled for general elections almost a year later, will be watching the developments unfolding in its neighbourhood to understand whether the new Pakistani government will be friendlier towards India, and to determine its policy towards, among other things, Kashmir.
So who all are contesting the polls
Going by the popular opinion, PML-N, the party that just finished its term at the centre, has a strong chance to being re-elected. A recent Gallup poll has put PML-N with around 38% approval ratings, ahead of its rivals by a lead of 13%.
Though the party patriarch Nawaz Sharif has been barred from holding an elected office or a position in a political party, following a Supreme Court ruling in light of the ongoing investigations in the Panama-papers disproportionate assets case, he is still very much the face of the party and has been campaigning for it.
His brother Shahbaz Sharif replaced him as the caretaker PM after Nawaz Sharif's disqualification.
The chief challenger to Nawaz Sharif led PML-N is the former captain of Pakistani cricket team and the supremo of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf(PTI) Imran Khan. In the last general elections held in 2013, his party secured the second highest voter percentage. Building on an anti-corruption campaign, Khan's popularity has only been increasing of late.
The last big player in these elections will be Bilawal Bhutto Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party. Son of former, assassinated, Prime Minister of Pakistan - Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal is making his debut in these elections, leading what perhaps is the only mainstream left-leaning political party in Pakistan.
Apart from these three big players, some other notable participants are former military chief of Pakistan - Pervez Musharraf, the chief of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba - Hafiz Saeed through a little known political entity known as Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT).
There is also another hugely popular independent candidate fighting from a seat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region. Little was known about her till a Pakistani daily, Express Tribune, reported that Noor Jehan was a distant cousin of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.
The Kashmir agenda
PML-N led by Nawaz Sharif is seen to be the most moderate political entity in these elections. According to several reports, the BJP-led Indian government, which has experience in dealing with him already, may be most comfortable with a PML-N government for the little changes it would have to make it to its foreign policy.
The other two parties have been raking up Kashmir fiercely in their political campaigns.
Imran Khan is seen as a hardliner by India. This is because he has at several public fora "vowed to solve the Kashmir issue" and promised to raise "Indian aggression in Kashmir" at every international forum. He has also been opposing India's "interventionist" role in Afghanistan.
Bilawal Bhutto, the other contender, has also made his stance on Kashmir clear by criticising Nawaz Sharif for being too "soft" on India vis-a-vis Kashmir.
He has been a vocal critic of Modi-Sharif ties and, in an attempt to go one-up against Imran Khan, promised to "take back Kashmir, all of it, and not leave behind a single inch of it because, like the other provinces, it belongs to Pakistan."
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