31 people were killed in a bombing last Wednesday, the day of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections, and over 40 others were wounded as a result of the attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for the event, which was carried out by a suicide bomber near a polling station in the city of Quetta after a motorcyclist drove his vehicle into a crowd and exploded. The blow was delivered a matter of hours after voting began for the election. Pakistani citizens cast their ballots to choose members of the National Assembly, the majority of which would then be able to select a prime minister (PM). Despite accusations that the results were skewed, the PTI party of Imran Khan, a former cricket player, won 116 of the 272 seats in parliament.
Earlier this month, another suicide bomber killed another candidate – Ikramullah Gandapur, from Khan’s PTI – and injured four other people. The attack occured while the prospective politician was on his way to a political convention. In addition, 149 people lost their lives as a result of another suicide bombing, which ranked as one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s history. The assault took place at an election rally in the province of Balochistan. Among those killed was Siraj Raisani, who was set to be a candidate in the recent election. Both ISIS and the Pakistani branch of the Taliban claimed to be behind the attack. These bombings, along with others, have brought the death toll to around 203 leading up to the election, with many others injured. The violence led to 800,000 government forces being stationed at polls around the country to maintain peace.
The last election was considered to be high stakes. As mentioned above, whichever party took the majority in the National Assembly would be able to choose the PM. Former PM Nawaz Sheriff is currently imprisoned for corruption, yet is still the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. This party won 64 seats in the National Assembly while the Pakistan People’s Party won 43 seats. The other 49 seats are occupied by smaller political groups. While the PTI party is now the Assembly’s largest party, it does not hold the majority. Imran Kahn is still likely to become prime minister, but he will need to join with other smaller groups to form a coalition government. Kahn already began conversations with a smaller party and some individual politicians and he will likely be sworn in as prime minister by August 14th, which marks Pakistan’s independence day.
As previously mentioned, Imran Kahn first became known as a professional cricket player. He led Pakistan’s team to win the cricket World Cup in 1992. Later that decade, he turned his attention towards the world of politics. His charming and charismatic nature contributed to his popularity as he worked to change his image from a celebrity womanizer to a righteous political figure. Kahn’s platform has centered around calls for changes in the nation’s governance, citing problems with corruption of government officials. One of his goals is to take on political dynasties in the name of good governance and equality. Mr. Kahn has refused to live in the prime minister’s mansion, stating that he would be embarrassed to do so in a country with such widespread poverty.
Kahn’s methods have come under criticism surrounding his campaign. Last year, the PTI party gave three million dollars to an Islamic seminary. This donation has sparked criticism as the group is under the leadership of an individual known as “father of the Taliban,” and is called by some the “University of Jihad.” Opponents have accused the Pakistani military of giving Khan an advantage by cracking down on the opposition. The PML-N party, as well as some other groups, reported candidates being intimidated by the military, as well as censorship of the press in favor of the PTI party. According to the European Union’s Election Observation Mission report, the election did not take place on an equal playing field. In addition to the pre-election intimidation, there have been claims against the integrity of the vote-counting process. The PML-N party claims that the results of the election were rigged and the results unfair. According to Al Jazeera, the EU report states that “[c]ounting was sometimes problematic…polling staff did not always follow procedures and had difficulties completing the result forms.” The military has denied any involvement in the election, aside from providing protection. Khan himself announced the election was free and fair, and that any claims of tampering or rigging will be investigated.
These concerns of legitimacy will be just one of the challenges faced by Khan’s PTI party in dealing with the country’s difficulties. As noted above, Mr. Khan intends to take on the corruption that plagues the nation. He has pledged to hold everyone equally accountable to the law. Khan must also address Pakistan’s precarious economic state concerning the devaluation of the rupee and the nation’s growing debt to China. He has also vowed to take on the problem of poverty. Approximately 24 percent of the Asian nation people live in poverty, according to Pakistan Today. Unemployment is a major issue, as many Pakistani men leave the country in search of work. In addition, Kahn hopes to improve relations with the United States, as President Trump has cut foreign aid and accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists from Afghanistan. In this context, he hopes to amend Pakistan’s relationship with India and facilitate talks to settle the Kashmir dispute.
In order for these issues to be adequately addressed for the benefit of all of Pakistan, all parties must move to ensure peace. Khan’s PTI party must follow up on its promises to carry out investigations regarding the election. To guarantee that these investigations are carried out truthfully and objectivelythey should be facilitated by a third party. Pakistan’s government should allow the international community to take the lead in investigating the electoral process. If it was as fair as Khan has affirmed, then he should have nothing to hide. And if the results are found to be legitimate, Khan’s opponents simply must accept their defeat and lend their support to constructive steps for the nation. If nothing is done to confirm the results of the election, then Khan’s opponents may not accept his position as legitimate. The result may be further division and unrest in Pakistan. As such, to avoid conflict and bring peace to the nation, Pakistan’s government leaders must proceed with transparency and candor.