Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Voters win in Pakistan poll

JUNE 2013: WITH an astounding 60 percent voter turnout in the recent Pakistan elections, Altaf Khan of Deutsche Welle applauds the Pakistani people as the real winners. Voters exercised their democratic rights despite fears of Taliban reprisals.

Nawaz Sharif, the new prime minister, could be the man to make peace with Afghanistan, writes Akbar Ahmed in The New York Times. This is provided he can placate the Taliban forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and convince the military to surrender power to their new civilian leader. This may be a big ask.

The Economist says Sharif was “a dreadful prime minister” but concedes that “even politicians can change for the better.” It argues that so long as Sharif focuses on Pakistan’s “desperate need for electricity and roads” and mends relations with India, success will follow. The market seems to share this faith, as share prices skyrocketed after his victory.

The New York Times comments that in order to stabilise the economy, Sharif must “reduce a bloated public sector, end energy shortages and persuade Pakistanis to pay taxes.”  Mending damaged relationships with the USA will also be challenging, and it is up to Sharif to demonstrate how strong leadership can truly bring about change in this fractured land.

Mohammed Hanif in The Guardian says that in an ideal world, Imran Khan – whom he characterises as a charismatic and well known player – could have been victorious. However, Hanif believes that while Khan’s appeal was strong with a select few – namely Pakistan’s educated middle class – this may not have been sufficient to enable Khan to hold on to power.

Bharkha Dutt of the Hindustan Times adds that while Khan demonstrated enormous public appeal, there are shortcomings to any analysis of “public mood” utilising phone chat and messages. She comments that “if Twitter were a ballot box, Imran would be PM,” but social media, albeit important, is only fractionally indicative of a candidate’s public popularity.

The Guardian points out that Khan has support amongst the north-western regions of Pakistan, which are home to tribal populations. Khan may yet make a useful ally for Sharif. Says Saeed Qureshi, both Sharif and Khan have a strong sense of what Pakistan’s political scene has been lacking and what must be done in order to economically, politically and culturally “shake the society upside down.” Qureshi suggests that the two politicians join hands and “become coalition partners”. – Anjali Menon