Pakistan is set to enter into much-anticipated general elections 2018 amid qualms raised by different political parties whether the polls will be held on its scheduled date of July 25. It will be third successful democratic transition of an elected government after periods of junta rule in the yesteryears.
The country underwent several challenges after the first democratically elected government took charge under Asif Ali Zardari who was shortly installed as the Head of the State after his party took reigns. Zardari was in voluntary semi-exile in Dubai at the time, and, after spending numerous years in jail in Pakistan, was living a life of festive freedom. Realistically, the death of Benazir Bhutto had completely changed the political dynamics of the country, with faces that were perhaps little assumed to be ever on the mainstream actually turned up as the frontline players.
Critics as well as people in general public deem the PPP’s erstwhile five-year tenure as the toughest in terms on inflation, economic crisis and security challenges as a whole.
Irrespective of crisis facing the country, Zardari strongly toed the policy of reconciliation and spent five years of his government bragging to smoothly carrying the democratic dispensation. The Zardari-led government boasts of giving people the 18th Constitutional Amendment that empowers the democratically-elected government more than those wielding the Malacca cane.
Comes general elections 2013, bringing the same trepidations of years whether the polls could be held or some forces may engineer the transparent electoral process. Amid all those apprehension, the elections held and the Pakistan Muslim League-N led by Mian Nawaz Sharif came to power with absolute majority.
The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was measured as a major political force to dent the vote bank in the strongholds of Sharif brothers in Punjab and beleaguered Mutahidda Qaumi Movement in Karachi – the PTI did so, but not to an extent to allow Khan bring its own government.
Little did PML-N know the testing time was awaiting it soon after the party assumed power. The incumbent suffered an unprecedented jolt after opposition forces PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek led by religious cleric Dr Tahirul Qadri took to the streets with a vow to overthrow the elected government if their demands were not agreed upon. The protests and sit-ins continued for 128 days, inflicting major loss to the country’s economy as well as the global reputation.
A year later, PML-N braved a storm that it possibly didn’t imagine –the havoc caused by Panama Papers. The corruption cases not only cost the Sharifs their public standing but opening of more cases against their senior leaders, causing the party unparalleled damage.
The PTI hasn’t been tested in power and it pompously claims to eradicate corruption and streamline economy in no time. It’s pertinent to mention here that the National Assembly had 342 general seats until the government passed historic FATA merger legislation that would include Fata seats to the Khyber Pakhtonkhwa making the total number of seats to 336.
Similarly the provincial assembly seats in the Punjab Assembly are 372, followed by 168 in Sindh, 124 in KP, 65 in Balochistan. The 12 seats of Fata will now merge with the KP while two of Islamabad will be retained.
Now, the general elections 2018 are almost here and analysts believe that the considerable space is being carved up for the PTI to make it rule the roost. Similarly the positions of PPP, MQM, PML-Q, PSP in Karachi and new emerging religious players makes the competition interesting and quite unpredictable.
PML-N is reeling from clashes with the judiciary and hobbled by media restrictions and entering the electoral race with a stranglehold around. Such a series of blows suggests the Nawaz Sharif-led party is unlikely to repeat its success of the 2013 election, which left it with a majority in the National Assembly. Will the hung parliament come into being? And who will be the new faces to take the reins? The unpredictability factor goes parallel with all the electoral prophesies floating around.