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On May 11, 2013, 90 million Pakistanis will cast their vote in one of the most troubled regions of the world. Amidst terrorist attacks, violent clashes, assassination threats and target killings, Pakistan is polarized in the wave of terrorism and corruption.
Pakistan’s election campaign managed to carry on till its final day, May 9, 2013. However, in the last few days leading to elections, the campaign has taken a new dangerous turn. On the final day of the election campaign, gunmen abducted Ali Haider Gilani, son of Pakistan’s former prime minister, a contestant in the Punjab provincial assembly, and injured several others. According to Guardian, “The attack on the son of Yousaf Raza Gilani could seriously upset Pakistan’s historic election due to take place on Saturday.”
The former Prime Minister told BBC that his son Ali Haider – a candidate for the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) – was seized in the central city of Multan. On May 3, 2013, CNN reported that “Gunmen in Pakistan killed a leading prosecutor working on high-profile terrorism cases and an anti-Taliban politician and his son, the latest violence ahead of next week’s national elections.” On May 8, Reuters reported that the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, had issued written instructions ordering militants to carry out suicide bombings across the country during polling on Saturday.
Who will replace the current infamous government of Pakistan? Is it Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) (movement for justice) ex-cricketer, humanitarian worker? Or will it be Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) owner of steel mills, ex-Prime Minister, who served Pakistan twice in the past and who was famously ousted in a military coup and spent years in exile in Saudi Arabia? Whatever the outcome, May 11, 2013 will determine the faith of one of the most dangerous, unstable and vulnerable regimes on earth.
Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has had only a few leaders that were able to bring change in such a tumultuous environment. However, since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the country has slid further and further into the throes of terrorism. Since 2003, over 44,000 people have died in terrorist attacks. Upsurge in violence leading to the elections has killed 118 people and injured 494 people. In recent years the country’s political and military situation has deteriorated considerably. The debt-burdened country has also been in the news for sectarian killings of Shias to border clashes with Afghanistan to drone attacks in its border areas by its key ally America.
The country faces many serious problems, including corruption, a struggling economy, internal unrest, soaring inflation, security issues, terrorism, judicial issues, international debt, a failing health infrastructure, and a deteriorating human rights record. The country’s fundamental challenge lies in its governance and development. Campaigning politicians have all expressed interest in ensuring that the country addresses these challenges and becomes a peaceful, stable democracy. The upcoming elections will dramatically affect the country’s prospects —which in turn will dramatically affect the future of its position in the world.
Perhaps it is in this time of desperation that young people have mobilized around the iconic figure of ex sportsman Imran Khan. Famously dubbed as ‘son of Pakistan’, he is a strong candidate in the upcoming elections in a country where the voting system is controlled by feudal lords and where the political elite in the past has failed to govern effectively.
His supporters across the world have been working indefatigably to spread his election campaign. The PTI office in London has been at the forefront with its campaign work and has been arranging flights for ex-pat Pakistanis from London to Lahore to participate in upcoming elections. His supporters hope to harness the millions of voters across the country to keep his campaign for new Pakistan alive.
Khan has been busy, making appearances across the country even in the most-troublesome conflicted zones such as Waziristan, Baluchistan, FATA areas. He has been meeting voters and holding press conferences, making promises that once in power he will end corruption in 19 days and terrorism in 90 days. According to Khan, a political tsunami is coming which will sweep him to power.
“I assure you that PTI is going to make a new Pakistan, where corrupt rulers will be taken to justice. I will hold (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) Nawaz Sharif and (Pakistan People’s Party leader) Asif Zardari accountable after coming to power as these kings of corruption won’t hold each other accountable,” he told an election rally.
According to France 24, “Khan is not just campaigning against the ruling elite; he also wants Pakistan to review its policy on the War on Terror. It’s a war in which the country’s military has been playing a double role by unofficially talking with the Taliban while working closely with the West since 2001, when Musharraf made Pakistan a front-line state in the War on Terror.”
Though Imran Khan is one of the strong, his key rival Nawaz Sharif is a front line runner in upcoming elections. A poll published by Pakistan’s Herald magazine suggested Khan and Sharif may be neck and neck. Over 25 percent of respondents in the poll said they intend to vote for the PML-N in the May 11 general election, while 24.98 percent said their vote would go to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
According to Ahmed Rashid, of Pakistan on the Brink, “It is not a failed state, but as its febrile state worsens, it is sliding down the path of becoming one.” According to Rashid “It still has a powerful army, and a corrupt and run-down but functioning bureaucracy, judiciary, and police force; its economy would be viable if its problems are properly addressed, and its population is hard working.” However, despite all the problems, Pakistanis are hopeful for credible, revolutionary elections on Saturday. What remains to be seen is who will save the country from its worst plight in history, Imran Khan or Nawaz Shairf?
Image credit: AP