The first unofficial results in Pakistan’s landmark elections for a new national assembly and government are in, and veteran politician and two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks set to lead the country once again. Pakistanis are looking to the new government with hope that it will be able to solve the country’s deep economic and security problems.
After a late night of celebrating Pakistan’s national election results, which showed Sharif as the big winner, Pakistanis woke up in the capital Islamabad Sunday at peace with the results, and with tough expectations from the country’s emerging leadership.
Analyst Raza Rumi says how effective the new government will be will depend on what kind of political coalitions Nawaz Sharif and his party will be able to build.
"Nawaz Sharif’s victory is almost landslide in his home province, but of course he needs support from other smaller provinces, and he needs to build a consensus on the three key issues that face Pakistan: First the economy and energy crisis, extremism and militancy which has disrupted Pakistani peace, and thirdly, most importantly, keeping the India policy on track for trade gains with the largest neighbor we have," said Rumi.
Despite heavy pre-election violence, voter turnout was high.
And as the ballots came in, Imran Khan, the former cricket star whose Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI party, entered the political fray for the first time, emerged as a strong regional political player. His supporters were ecstatic. Waseem Shahzad said Khan’s message of change had inspired voters.
"Imran Khan and his leadership has revived the confidence of people that they can bring the change through the electoral process, through the ballot, and today I think it is not Tehreek-e-Insaf, I think it is the people of Pakistan who have won today," said Shahzad.
The hope here is that Sharif, once a protégé of Pakistan’s powerful military until he challenged them and found himself in jail, will draw on his past political experience.
IT manager Sohail Minhas is optimistic where a Sharif government could lead the country.
"I think a better Pakistan. Why I say that, because you know the region, U.S. is pulling out from Afghanistan hopefully, Iran is another front which is a neighbor, India is another neighbor as well, and Nawaz has gone through all this. So, if he has got more sense in the last ten years, I think he should do a better prime minister this time," said Minhas.
With expectations running high, Sharif and his party could be under pressure to show progress soon after taking office.