Pakistan’s election day went off as well as could be expected. One bomb blast – 20 or so killed – allegations of rigging (especially in Karachi) and Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N) heading for another term in office. This will make Sharif Pakistan’s Great Survivor. He will have a historic third term (no Pakistani politician ever had this privilege) and he survived a coup, exile, corruption charges and a spell in prison. (N.B. In Pakistan, this last seems de rigeur if you have the gall to think you want to be in public life or certainly run for high office.)
Anyway, there was much to be heartened about this election. Eighty million registered voters; a 60 per cent turn out; great enthusiasm among young people (mostly on account of Imran Khan’s inspirational campaign); the return of large numbers of the diaspora for the express purpose of exercising their right to vote.
More to the point, the Army stayed away from it all, except for putting 70,000 men on guard outside ‘sensitive’ polling stations (which is to say half). Crucially, election day showed that the militants were not able to disrupt Pakistan’s date with democracy. If anything, election day proved that it can be done and Pakistan does not have to be a bleeding, mangled mess every moment of significance in its national life.
Perhaps it may be premature to say this, but might Pakistan finally be on the cusp of welcome change? It is comforting that it has got to this point – one elected government handing over to another; the Army constraining itself and politicians playing games (as they do) . Now, if it could but work on nation-building.