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Imran Khan to Bilawal Bhutto: Key players in Pakistan elections 2018

Political analysts believe smaller parties may ultimately profit in the case of a hung Parliament, which seems to be becoming a distinct possibility. The mainstreaming of extremist organisations have also alarmed political observers.

world Updated: Jul 25, 2018 08:21 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Pakistan general election,key players,extremist organisations
A billboard in Karachi displaying photo of Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, ahead of Pakistan elections.(REUTERS)

When Pakistan goes to polls on Wednesday, three big parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — will likely walk home with the lion’s share of seats in the new Parliament.

Ironically, it is this very certainty that may help the smaller parties shine. Political analysts believe it is they who will ultimately profit in the case of a hung Parliament, which now seems to be becoming a distinct possibility.

Here’s a look at the main players in the upcoming Pakistan elections, to be held under the watchful gaze of its all-powerful military.

Shehbaz Sharif (PML-N)

If the PML-N manages to scrape through the majority mark, either through public approval for its governance or sympathy for jailed leader Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz will likely become its top candidate for prime ministership. Unlike his elder brother, Shehbaz prefers to keep his cards close to his chest. He has not challenged any state institution in public, and has always maintained cordial relations with the military high command.

However, like Nawaz, he also believes in normalising relations with India. Despite being in his brother’s shadow so far, Shehbaz has always been seen as one of Pakistan’s most effective politicians. In his three stints as chief minister of Punjab province, he has raised social indicators, revitalised trade and industry, and helped overcome its chronic power shortage.

Unlike his elder brother, Shehbaz Sharif has not challenged any state institution in public, and has always maintained cordial relations with the military high command. (AFP/File Photo)

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (PPP)

The chances of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari becoming the next PM may be slim, but his exhaustive tours across the country to meet thousands of supporters have won him many admirers. But the party chairman is aware that his position as the son of Pakistan’s first woman PM Benazir Bhutto has given him big shoes to fill.

Also disconcerting is the knowledge that the PPP has slipped a long way from being a truly national party in 2007 to one largely restricted to Bilawal’s home province of Sindh. The PPP, which is plagued by warring leaders and disillusioned supporters, is unlikely to do well in the elections.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari‘s exhaustive tours across the country to meet thousands of supporters have won him many admirers. (Reuters/File Photo)

Imran Khan (PTI)

PTI chairman Imran Khan may have catapulted to global fame as a World Cup cricket champion and celebrity playboy, but the man is now known better as a populist anti-corruption reformist with his eyes set firmly on Pakistan’s prime ministerial position. Although critics believe that he is backed by the country’s powerful military, Khan denies all charges — promising that his only allegiance is to the dream of building an “Islamic welfare state” if the PTI is voted to power. And his chances look good. Recent polls show the PTI’s popularity climbing nationally even as arch-rival Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N limps behind in comparison.

Critics believe Imran Khan is backed by the country’s powerful military. (AP)

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (Independent)

Interior minister in the Nawaz Sharif cabinet, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan wanted to succeed him as PM. However, upon being rejected, he cut his losses and decided to contest from national assembly constituences 63 and 59 as an independent. Although the PML(N) has fielded two of its candidates — Mumtaz Khan and Raja Qamar Islam — against him, exit polls indicate that Khan may just win the electoral battle. Strongly supported by the Army, Khan is a hardliner against India.

Extremists in the fray

Causing domestic observers considerable alarm is the fact that a number of religious extremists with stated anti-India views are attempting to enter the democratic process through this election. The Lashkar-e-Taiba has been mainstreamed through a party called the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, and although its leader — Hafiz Saeed — is not contesting, he has led the campaign from the front with vitriolic speeches against New Delhi. Other extremist groups trying to make a mark in this election are the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat and the Tehreek-e Labbaik-e-Rasool Allah.

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 16:57 IST