Pakistan is witnessing its second change of civilian to civilian government in its 70-year history punctured by frequent Martial Law and rule by the Army. As of now it appears that cricketer Imran Khan is in striking distance of the prime ministerial office, having surged ahead of all other parties. Though his rivals have alleged mass rigging of the elections, it appears that the election results reflect the mood of the masses who were clearly disenchanted with corrupt rule of Pakistan Muslim League headed by Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party led by Bhuttos and Zardaris who had alternated in power since 1988.
Mr. Khan inherits a Pakistan deep in mess. First, short of majority—he has around 115 seats in the 272-member National Assembly—Khan’s party is short of halfway mark of 137 and will have to find allies from among smaller parties or Independents. This will compel him to compromise on several key promises he might have made during the electioneering. Secondly, a weak government suits the country’s Army, known as ‘the establishment’ in Pakistan. Third, his playboy image and flamboyant persona may haunt him and on occasions restrain him from taking independent decisions.
The Pakistani establishment’s involvement with extremist forces in Kashmir and Afghanistan has cost Pakistan dearly. Having provided moral, material, monetary and diplomatic support to these forces, Pakistan has earned universal infamy and the taint of being the fount of terrorism. With suicide bombings being the order of the day, it suffers from the pathetic plight of a country simply ill-equipped to tackle the militants that it trained and groomed. Pakistan’s Army has developed a vested interest in a weak government and still weaker institutions. Corruption is rampant, unemployment is high and foreign exchange reserves are running low, threatening a crisis in balance of payments. Pakistan’s expat workforce in the Gulf is returning home, spreading gloom in thousands of homes. Foreign sports teams have been spurning Pakistan, what with the safety and security of players being in peril. Pakistan’s balance sheet is too heavily tilted on the minus side to expect an early arrival at a dignified place among the world’s nations.