Does Imran Khan’s victory mark a new beginning for Pakistan?

28 Jul 2018

In a surprising turn of events in Pakistan’s history, former cricket star Imran Khan has triumphed in last week’s general election. Yet despite the jubilation on the part of Khan’s supporters, the new Prime Minister faces pressing challenges both abroad, and at home.

 

Immediately after exit polls suggested Khan was ahead, the incumbent government rejected the result. This comes on top of an election mired in allegations of vote-rigging by all parties other than that of Khan’s, yet the electoral commission in Pakistan has stated that the election was ‘100% fair and transparent.’

 

In Pakistan, 172 seats are needed to form a majority government, or 137 to form a ‘simple majority’ in which a government would just be able to pass basic reforms and laws. Imran Khan is the parliamentary chairman of the Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, which although victorious has fallen sort of the 172 figure needed to secure a certain victory. As a result, it is likely he will need to form an unofficial coalition.

 

According to The New York Times, Khan has stated that he wants the claims of vote-rigging properly investigated, as well as to push through other political changes such as transforming the Prime Minister’s official residence into an educational education. This symbolic gesture, he believes, will demonstrate his commitment to securing safe places to learn, one of the essential institutions young Pakistanis lack.

 

On the world stage, Khan is equally ambitious. He has said he wants a more honest and open foreign policy that involves a stronger relationship with the United States, and to fix diplomatic relations with Afghanistan and India. This is a momentous task, given the unpredictability of America’s president.

 

This election has also been historic in that a woman, Dr Fehmida Mira, has been elected to the parliament for the fifth consecutive time. A former speaker of the National Assembly, she switched allegiance at the election from the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) to the Grand Democratic Alliance.

 

Another prominent figure to emerge in this contest in Pakistan was Bilawal Bhutto Zadari, leader of the PPP which Mira recently left. Followers of the nation’s politics will be familiar with the name, as Bilawal is the son of two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007.

 

The outgoing government has faced a tough contest as the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined £8m on corruption charges relating to the purchase of four luxury flats in London. The sentence prohibited Sharif and three of his family members from participating in politics for ten years.

 

This has not stopped Nawaz’s brother, Shahbaz, from inheriting the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League, although it has damaged the party’s standing nationwide.

 

Imran Khan is similar to Trump in that he comes from an unconventional background – whereas Trump was a television star, Khan was a popular sportsman before turning to politics. It awaits to be seen whether he is up to the doubly-challenging task of reforming his nation at home and improving its standing abroad, all without being mired in the corruption which his predecessors have paid for either with jail time, or with their life. 

 

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