13 May 2013

Pakistan elections: Sharif poised for victory

Nawaz Sharif is on the verge of forming a new government after Pakistan’s historic elections. He has said he will improve relations with India to address “mutual fears”.

Former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, appears on course to secure a majority in the country’s parliament and form the next government.

Unofficial election results suggest a clear victory, although he has reportedly opened talks with independents to guarantee a majority.

Sharif, 63, has also spoken at length with neighbouring India’s prime minister, Manmohan Sing, saying they would work together to ease mistrust and visit each other’s countries.

President Obama also pledged to work with the new administration, although has not yet named him as the winner of the elections.

Sharif in turn addressed Pakistan’s difficult relationship with the US by saying the two nations must “listen to each other”. US drone strikes in Pakistan have caused great anger and are seen by many as a breach of their sovereignty. A report from the American schools of Law, said the drone campaign was “damaging and counterproductive” and caused terror amongst women and children “24-hours-a-day”.

A triumphant return?

Sharif was toppled from power 14 years ago by a military coup. After Saturday’s historic elections, he claimed victory for the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party.

It is the first time in Pakistan’s 65-year history that a civilian government completed its full term and handed over power. Previous governments have all been toppled my military coups.

The election saw a huge turnout but was marred by violence. A bomb killed 11 people and injured 40 at the Awami Party offices in Karachi.

It is likely that although Sharif’s party has made great gains, they have not won enough seats for a majority and may have to form a coalition government. His two main rivals are former cricketer Imran Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) party and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“I am not against any coalition. But as far as Islamabad is concerned we are ourselves in a position to form our own government,” said Sharif. “All those who share our vision we will be happy to work with them.”

The incumbent PPP will hand over a raft of difficulties to the next government, including corruption, poverty and a Taliban insurgency. The economy will probably also require another bailout from the International Monetary Fund.