Pakistan’s date with democracy marked a high day on Thursday when buttons of power changed hands smoothly in tune with democratic norms. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) or PML-N led by Sharif family has made way for Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) of Imran to take guard of Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad as the PTI has won the mandate on Pakistani people in July 25 general elections. Though the election results were on expected lines as the Sharifs were marred by the allegations and convictions in widespread corruptions but it was still a well fought victory for the cricketer-turned-politician. Imran as choice emerged for the people of Pakistan for his clean image. He has not held any public office earlier and he represents a rare honest image in Pakistan presently. As cricketer and captain of his national team Imran had a hero’s image not only in Pakistan but also in almost all the cricket-playing nations. He took plunge in politics almost 20 years back but caught public imagination only in 2016 after Panama leaks revealed endemic level of corruption in Pakistan government led by Nawaz Sharif. The Sharif family, according to Panama leaks, has off-shore assets worth thousands of crores of rupees. That alarmed the people of Pakistan and anger against Sharif spread to every nook and corner of the country. That provided Imran Khan to make use of his clean image. He consolidated this anger and channelized it into a public rebellion against Nawaz Sharif. In November 2016, Imran Khan brough tens of thousands of people from almost all the provinces of Pakistan to lay siege of Islamabad, the national capital and nerve centre of the country. It sent the country into a serious chaos. However, Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened and the court ordered enquiry into the allegations of corruption against Nawaz Sharif and his family. The intervention of the court forced Imran Khan to call off the Dharna. The allegations of corruption against Sharfis were found correct by the court and he was removed from the office of the Prime Minister in July 2017. Early this month Nawaz along with his daughter Maryam was convicted and imprisoned for 10 years, and Maryam for seven years.
However, despite clean image, some serious sections in Pakistani media were apprehensive about Imran Khan for his “immature” and “reprehensive” language he would often use against his detractors. During election campaign too Imran could not resist the temptation of using acrimonious and derogatory language against Nawaz Sharif and others. That had made them to feel that Pakistan was still way far off having a matured political leader. But the Imran Khan changed the tact moments he sensed the victory, a rethinking of sorts is emerging among them. In his victory speech Imran Khan spoke like a genius and matured politician who had all the ability to lead the country. Imran gave a detailed view of his foreign policy in which peace with neighbours appeared to be central to it. He said that he would better ties with the United States as well. On India, he said if they (India) walk one step, he would take two steps towards India. Khan’s critics often referred to him as the military’s favourite. But the people in general overlooked this allegation mere for the fact Khan, an extremely ambitious, strong-willed person, is neither a businessman nor has commercial stakes anywhere. Nobody has been able to accuse him of corruption and this is his biggest asset.
The big takeaway from Pakistani elections was the rejection of extremist elements by the people. Hundreds of candidates including those of associated with Hafiz Saeed’s newly formed political group were completely rejected by the voters. Even traditional politico-religious parties with almost a liberal image including Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiatul Ulema Islam were also made to eat the dust. These parties had gathered under the banner of Muttahida Majlis Aml (MMA). They could win just 7 seats in a House of 273. With this Pakistan has ushered in into a new era, it is matter of time how Khan makes use of his opportunity.