Stage is set for general elections in Pakistan on Wednesday. As the high profile and violence-hit campaign ended on Monday, according to various assessments,
former cricket icon-turned-politician Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is said to be poised to make significant gains in this year’s polls.
While Indian observers are keeping a close watch on developments unfolding in the western neighbouring country, Mr Khan-led PTI is seen as a front runner. There are also talks about his links with Pakistani army, a charged denied by the former cricket star.
“According to the insinuations of some top leaders with the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, the military is working behind the scenes to engineer an electoral outcome that results in a government helmed by Khan. It’s a theory – one could certainly call it a conspiracy theory – embraced by many commentators inside and outside Pakistan,” says a write up by Michae Kugelman, an US commentator and considered a leading specialist on Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan in Aljazeera.com.
“Indeed, Pakistan’s army – which has held direct power for nearly half of Pakistan’s 70-year existence, and has enjoyed an outsize role in politics when not in direct control – does have a strong incentive to undercut the PML-N, with which it sparred frequently in recent years,” he says.
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has promised a progressive Pakistan with a ‘commitment’ to democracy. On the last day of campaign, Mr Zardari addressed election meetings in Shahdatkot, Garhi Khairi, Jacobabad and Shikarpur.
According to reports in Pakistani media, Mr Zardari also visited the graves of former prime ministers his mother Benazir Bhutto and grand father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Former cricket star Imran tweeted exuding confidence and wrote urging people to build a ‘Naya Pakistan’. “I want to thank the people of Karachi for coming out in such large numbers to show support for Naya Pakistan,” he tweeted.
Mr Khan further wrote: “This has been the culmination of 22 years of struggle. I can honestly say I have given my best for Pakistan. Now I leave the rest to Allah”.
“By Monday night I had done 60 different jalsas in the most difficult times under serious terrorist threats – especially in Bannu and Karak – and in the hottest weather. I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of people who came to these jalsas,” he wrote.
Mr Khan’s former friends in the cricket field Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have wished him for the polls. “It was in your leadership skip @ImrankhanPTI that we became world champions in 1992. It is in your leadership that we can again become a great democratic country,” wrote Wasim Akram with the hashtag ‘#nayapakistan’.
Though taken aback by various developments, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of the Sharif family is equally sounding optimistic banking perhaps mostly on sympathy factor.“Despite all odds PML-N is winning the July 25 polls. We will form the government at the Centre and in Punjab as our victory is certain,” PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said at an election gathering, according to newspaper ‘Dawn’
Addressing various meetings, Mr Sharif spoke about the achievements of the PML-N government and urged people to vote for his party to “free Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from jail”.
The campaign in Pakistan has been marred by a major suicide bombing in Balochistan that killed 149 people among other incidents of violence. A suicide bombing on Sunday in northwestern Pakistan killed Ikramullah Gandapur, a PTI candidate. It is also said by Pakistan observers that Pakistan’s next government will faces stiff challenges from hardline Islamist parties and also on economic front.