Pakistan’s Change of Guard

For the first time since 1977, in Pakistan, a democratically elected civilian government has completed its full term, and is handing over the governance to another democratically elected civilian government. 

With many a coup, the political timeline of Pakistan shows alternating governments between civilian and military. 

But with these Saturday’s elections, Pakistan can now be proud once again that democracy has triumphed. It can be proud that the people of Pakistan did not fall for the twisted ideology and the ominous threats of violence by Taliban, which had asked people to boycott elections.

The people have spoken. They have given their verdict.  And, it looks like Nawaz Sharif will be the Prime Minister for the third time. It could be without even the need for asking other parties for a coalition.

It is indeed a remarkable achievement for this former Prime Minister who came back fighting with determination, despite being ousted out in a coup, jailed for a while, and exiled to another country. 

His coming back to Pakistan during the last elections and his cautious, patient, resolute stay in the parliament, as the main opposition leader, has finally – and triumphantly – paid off. 

The fact that the incumbent Pakistan People’s Party(PPP) has lost, and the fact that Pakistan’s Tahreek-e-Insaaf(PTI) has been unable to get the seats that it hoped for, vindicates Nawaz Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

In a BBC radio interview I heard, a few weeks ago, Imran Khan of PTI had been very positive that the young voters will help him break years of dominance of the Bhutto-family-led PPP and of Sharif-led PML-N in Pakistan politics.

But he is now proven wrong. His physical fall from a stage during one of his election rallies got him a lot of sympathy, but it did not get him a lot of votes.

So, Imran Khan will have to possibly be satisfied just sitting in the parliament among the opposition. This is still very good progress for him because PTI getting 30 plus seats is way higher than that one single seat it got earlier.

Despite allegations of voting irregularities in many places by the defeated candidates, it looks like Sharif and his party is now here to stay and here to rule.

The challenges facing the incoming Prime Minister are myriad and varied.  He now has to shift not only the global image of Pakistan, but also the reality of the country into that of a more robust economy; into one, where the government has a firmer grip on law and order.

On the one hand, internally, he has the roaring Taliban to control, and on the other hand, externally, he has that Pakistan’s oldest rival India to befriend again.

He has to revitalize infrastructural development, and at the same time he must re-orient local attitudes towards a greater acceptability of foreign collaborations.

I feel the biggest task for him would be to change the image of the country from that of a breeding ground of terror into that of a land of stability and peace.

We all know that experience teaches well. And, once formalized, as an experienced three-time Prime Minister, he must perform like one. And, I think, he can do that.