The official results of the Pakistani General Election are not due to be released until Thursday evening, however charismatic former cricketer, Imran Khan, who has been looked on as the favourite to win this election for weeks, has taken the lead in the polls and is set to become Pakistan’s new Prime Minister.
Candidates and final results…
The PTI were projected to win between 107 and 120 seats out of a total 272 in the lower-house. This has handed Khan the role of PM for the first time ever, dealing a major blow to the two other front runners who looked to continue their families political dynasties. Shebaz Sharif’s brother being the recently jailed former PM, Nawaz Sharif, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s mother is the assassinated former PM, Benazir Bhutto.
Candidates from extremist parties were allowed to enter the race this year, following a decision by Pakistan’s army to “mainstream” religious extremists with ‘foul-mouthed cleric’ (Guardian, 26.07) Khadim Rizvi, leading the far-right Islamist group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP). However, the election campaign and polling day itself was still marred by violence and explosions.
Women and the election
New rules mean at least 5% of each party’s candidates must be women meaning a record 558 women are standing for national and provincial parliament seats this week. This may seem very enlightened, but most are allocated seats they are unlikely to win. Also a pattern began emerging of female candidates faces being blanked out from official election posters; in one case PTI candidate Syeda Zahra Basit Bokhari’s husband had his photo used in replacement of hers. ‘Justifying the act, Bokhari’s campaign manager said that the contender is a “Syed” and “Syed women do not publicise their pictures”‘ (India Today, 23.07).
Nosheen Khan Jatoi is Awami National Party’s (ANP) first female candidate in Punjab, who is contesting on a general seat. ‘She rides a motorcycle to interact with constituents in order to garner their support. The candidate is going door-to-door conveying her party’s message.’ (Geo.tv, 18.07). Like funerals, women do not attend political rallies.
Last year, Pakistan’s Election Commission said at least 10% of voters must be women in each constituency for an election to be valid and refused to accept a council election result in Dir because of that.
The daughter of slain politician Salmaan Taseer, Sara Taseer, drew criticism on social media yesterday for a tweet that seemed to praise the large turnout of female voters, but questioned their intelligence and suitability to vote.
“Love seeing this turnout of women #PakistanElections2018, but then I think would I allow these ladies to make a decision even about what will be cooking in my kitchen today? And these ladies will decide on the future of the nation. Scary thought.”
Attempting to defend her tweet (that has since been deleted), Sara decided to dig a deeper hole:
“The father of Western philosophy Plato, believed one must elevate oneself in thought & learning prior to being able to delve in democratic tradition. I must admit I’ve always felt one must attain a level of education prior to attaining voting privilege #justsaying.”
In a country that saw female politician Benazir Bhutto voted in as Prime Minister twice, it is hard to believe that attitudes towards women in Pakistan are not growing more progressive.
It was noticeable during the election campaign that the military had taken a shine to Imran Khan. Pakistan’s army has held direct power for nearly half of Pakistan’s 70-year existence and is closely involved in the country’s politics when not in direct control. The PMLN has claimed for months that the establishment was “engineering” the vote against it as a result of its attempts to curb the power of the military while in office.
‘The party’s former leader Nawaz Sharif, who on 13 July began a legally-dubious 10-year prison sentence for corruption, has accused the deputy head of the country’s all-powerful ISI spy agency of leading a campaign against the PMLN. He said it included pressure on its candidates to defect, a spate of court cases and the silencing of supportive media channels. As election workers sorted through massive piles of paper ballots, almost all the parties – except the PTI – alleged that their polling agents had been excluded from polling stations.’ (Guardian, 26.07)
The late arrival of election results has fueled accusations of vote-rigging. This has been denied by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) who have blamed the delay in announcing the official results on a technical issue with the Results Transmission System (RTS).
All of the main party leaders have condemned the elections results coming in:
Shebaz Sharif, PLMN – “Today what has happened, we are taking Pakistan 30 years into the past. This kind of public mandate, of millions of people who voted in all of Pakistan, that mandate has been disrespected and dishonoured…We completely reject this result, completely.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PPP – “It’s now past midnight & I haven’t received official results from any constituency I am contesting myself. My candidates complain polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable and outrageous.”
Khadim Rizvi, TLP – “This is the worst rigging in history.”
Why does the military support Khan?
Khan has regularly expressed strong support for the military as anyone with political ambition in Pakistan needs to do if they want to get anywhere in politics. However, why he is their choice for PM is unclear. The army generally prefers a predictable and pliant leader whereas Khan is incredibly self-confident and a celebrity in his own right which suggests that he would not be willing to defer to a higher authority.
Khan’s views are also not inline with the military, he is pro-India for one – this is an issue that got Nawaz Sharif in trouble with the army. On the other hand, it is likely that Khan will defer to the army on matters of foreign policy.
Jemima Goldsmith tweeted her message of congratulations to Imran that seemed to include a veiled warning to her ex-husband:
“22 years later, after humiliations, hurdles and sacrifices, my sons’ father is Pakistan’s next PM. It is an incredible lesson in tenacity, belief & refusal to accept defeat. The challenge now is to remember why he entered politics in the first place. Congratulations @ImranKhanPTI”
Sources and Further Reading:
Pakistan election in disarray as incumbent rejects result
Pakistan elections 2018: All the latest updates
Is Imran Khan the Pakistani military’s ‘favourite son’?
Pakistan’s 2018 election, explained
Pakistan General Elections 2018: Faces of women candidates missing from posters
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