With the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) establishing an insurmountable lead over other parties in the Pakistan National Assembly, the interest was primarily on who would emerge runner-up — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Since the Election Commission was putting out results only after all the paperwork was completed — by 8:30 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, results of only 59 National Assembly seats were announced — television channels were the only source of information. And, they added to the confusion as each channel had a different tally. By evening, the doubts being expressed about the veracity of the results became so loud that the Election Commission Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed had to brief the media to set at rest such speculations. He attributed the delay in the formal announcement of results to the failure of candidates to complete their paperwork; pointing out that this was a new requirement introduced to ensure free and fair elections.
While the PPP and the Awami National Party quietly accepted the drubbing they received at the hustings, the PTI alleged rigging despite picking up over 30 seats in the National Assembly and becoming the single largest party in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly with nearly one third seats in its kitty.
The PML(N) leadership met in Lahore while awaiting the formal announcement of results. Party head and Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif reiterated his Saturday night victory speech in which he said that his attempt would be to carry all political parties with him. Borrowing a leaf out of the previous dispensation’s book, he said whatever was said in the heat of the campaign was forgiven; indicating that there would be no vendetta politics that was the staple of Pakistani politics in the 1990s.
In view of the confusion over results, there was no clarity as to who the PML(N) would choose as its allies. With a sizable number of independents entering the National Assembly, the general assumption is that the PML(N) would prefer to do business with them rather than stitch up an alliance with any of the other political parties. In any case, no one anticipates any difficulty for the PML(N) in finding allies.
Many political analysts see PML(N)’s performance in these elections as a repeat of its 1998 performance and are keeping their fingers crossed for the party in its third attempt at ruling the country. While the machinations of some established powers ousted Mr. Sharif’s first government in 1993 midway into its tenure, he was overthrown in his second premiership in a direct coup by the then Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf in 1999.
While the fears of a military intervention remain, the historic turnout – rough estimates put at around 60 per cent – despite terror threats is an indication that the people of Pakistan have spoken up in favour of democracy.