— 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.
Pakistan Muslim League supporters release fireworks to celebrate after initial results gave their party the lead in parliamentary elections, Lahore, May 12, 2013.
Supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif celebrate after initial results from parliamentary elections put his party in the lead, Islamabad, May 12, 2013.
Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League party try to control dancing horses performing during a celebration after parliamentary elections at a party office in Lahore, May 12, 2013.
A man walks past posters of former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League party chief Nawaz Sharif, displayed on his party's office building in Lahore, May 12, 2013.
Election banners showing cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, and other members of his party, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 12, 2013.
Supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan stand beside a wall covered with posters of Khan at a PTI office in Lahore, May 11, 2013.
Women line up to enter a polling station and cast their ballots, on the outskirts of Islamabad, May 11, 2013.
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.