Elections 2018 held on July 25 is a great leap forward in the political history of Pakistan as it is the third time on the trot that a government has been elected in a relatively free and fair countrywide election. We can cautiously dub them free and fair polls because on the Election Day people, according to national and international media, were freely exercising their right of suffrage.

The results of 2018 elections are out and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of the cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, has turned out to be largest party with 115 seats, followed by the outgoing ruling party PML-N with 64 and the PPP with 43. The PTI is well on its way to form government with Imran Khan as prime minister. But there may well be a different scenario because the seats tally of the second and third political parties — the PML-N and the PPP — are such that if they join hands and also invite parties like the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) which has 12 seats and some independents then they will be in a position to form government. But obviously such a government would be extremely weak and unstable. While the picture will be clear in a few days from now, at the moment, let’s analyse some important aspects of the July 2018 elections.

The most important aspect of the 2018 elections is that neither the incumbency factor nor the corruption of Nawaz Sharif family could greatly damage the PML-N politically and electorally in Punjab, its stronghold. The party has bagged 64 National Assembly seats, mainly from constituencies in Punjab. It also has 127 seats in the Punjab’s provincial assembly as against the PTI’s 123, and can form government in the country’s biggest province.

Another very important dimension of the July 25 polls is that the myth has been shattered that the inhabitants of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province never re-elect an incumbent political party. The PTI has nearly swept the K-P province in case of both national and provincial elections. This trend demonstrates that the K-P voters are once again demonstrating political maturity because the PTI’s last government in the province performed quite satisfactorily and to the expectation of its dwellers.

The 2018 elections also revealed that family politics in Pakistan is on the wane. Members of important political families like Asfandyar Wali Khan of the ANP, his son Aimal Wali, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the same party, Ali Musa Gillani of the PPP, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F and his brother Attaur Rahman, Aftab Sherpao of the QWP and many others have failed to win elections. However, it is a long way that family-based politics in Pakistan would give way to individualistic and libertarian democratic politics in Pakistan.

The July 25 election has yet again shown that the religio-political parties have failed to win a sizable number of votes and parliamentary seats in the country. This is despite the fact that the right-wing alliance, the MMA, was revived to counter the PTI. Even the newly formed parties of the right like the Allahu Akbar Tehreek and the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) could not win a handful of seats. However the last-mentioned party did put up a good show in most parts of the country and bagged votes in thousands from almost every constituency.

Importantly, ethno-linguistic groups like the ANP in K-P and the Pakhatunkhwa Milli Awami Party in Balochistan and even parties claiming to represent the Urdu-speaking community like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) in urban Sindh fared poorly in the 2018 elections.

Thus the July 25 polls would have far-reaching impact on the political culture of Pakistan and may set new trends which could be decisive for the quality of governance in the country and its political and economic stability.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2018.

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