In October last year, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in a public address stated that Pakistanis should stop worrying, “ Ghabrain nahin , hausla rakhain (do not worry, have fortitude).” But after five months of waiting for the government to deliver on its numerous promises, perhaps it is now time to really start worrying. A different mandate In each of the three recent elections in Pakistan, in 2008, 2013 and last year in July, a different political party won and formed the government.
The Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, had two Prime Ministers in its five-year tenure; but with Asif Zardari as President of Pakistan, this five-year tenure is better known as Mr. Zardari’s government. Similarly, after 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League’s Nawaz Sharif made a remarkable reappearance in Pakistan’s political scene and became Prime Minister for the third time, only to be debarred and removed from office, and subsequently imprisoned, and was replaced by one of his party members as Prime Minister. The 2013 government, even with Mr. Sharif behind bars, was known as his government. The third transition, or ‘experiment’ as it has been called since last year well before the elections took place, was for Pakistan’s military and judiciary, the so-called ‘establishment’, to work together and ensure an electoral victory for the third political party in as many elections, with Imran Khan winning.
The electoral results in 2008 and 2013 were not unexpected. After Benazir Bhutto’s killing, a sympathy wave led to her party winning enough seats to form a coalition government, but with its particularly poor performance in its five-year tenure, Mr. Sharif’s victory was also not unexpected. Despite the incarceration of Mr. Sharif and the multiple cases against him in 2017 and 2018, the general perception was that his party would probably get re-elected, albeit with a smaller majority.
Mr. Khan’s victory followed on a multi-month strategy by the establishment to ensure that he would win, with ample evidence suggesting that he was ushered in with much help from behind the scenes. His shell-shocked victory speech a few hours after the elections suggested that even he was taken aback when victory was handed to him.