By Azam Khan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Inzuna) – May 11th, 2013 was a historic day in the history of Pakistan. General elections marked the beginnings of the country’s first democratic transition of power. Despite militants’ threats, elections were held in a peaceful environment. Ignoring warnings from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), there was a huge turn out from all four provinces. More than 60 percent of eligible voters came out from their homes to vote for their favorite candidates.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) ‘tsunami’ showed its face mainly in the militancy hit province Khyber Pakhunkhwa (KPK) but admitted that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz won in the largest province of the country, Punjab. Political analysts believe that Pakistan will end up with different parties governing in each province.

Major Challenge Before PML-N and PTI

Despite differences, a common challenge for PML-N, who will make the government, and PTI will be to fulfill their promises to halt US drone strikes in KPK. PTI will govern the province making an alliance with the radical religious party Jamaat-e-Islami. Both parities pledged to reshape terms and conditions with the US.

PPP Confined to Sindh Province

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which ruled the country during the last five years, has faced major set backs in these elections confining their winnings to the province of Sindh mainly. Many top leaders of the party lost their seats particularly in Punjab. PPP, currently, has the majority in the upper house of parliament for at least another year and a half ahead. Major legislation would not be possible for the new ruling party without consent of the PPP.

In the 1970 elections Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto led PPP with an almost clean sweep in Punjab, with Lahore being considered one of the party’s hubs for some time after. But yesterday unofficial results show that the party is once again confined to Sindh, as it was in 1997 when the Benazir Bhutto-led PPP secured less than 20 National Assembly seats. The party tried hard to restore its image in the Punjab during the last five years but its poor performance destroyed those dreams. PPP also announced to divide Punjab into two provinces during the campaign but voters were not persuaded. At one time the PPP also imposed governor rule in the Punjab and sent PML-N packing.

In the 2008 general elections, President Asif Ali Zardari, leading the PPP, secured 97 National Assembly seats. After getting 24 reserved seats for women and four reserved seats for minorities, the total number of National Assembly seats of PPP was 124 in the house of 340. The party succeeded to rule the country with its allies MQM, ANP and JUI-F. The former ruling party’s allies also faced set back in the 2013 elections. The Awami National Party, a liberal left wing party, could not secure even a single seat in the National Assembly. The party could not campaign amidst the TTP’s threat.

Other notable politicians defeated in the election include former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, two sons of the former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, former information ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira and Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Punjab President of PPP, Manzoor Ahmad Watto, former Public Account Committee chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal, the wife of Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ehsan, PPP’s central leader and former federal minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal and Tasleem Qureshi.

Reaction

PPP Senator Babar Awan tweeted, “Waqt karta hai parwarish barson/Haadsa aik dum nahi hota” while another PPP diehard tweeted that “bad news, [the] Gillanis also lost their seats in Multan.”

MQM Sabotage Elections in Karachi

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday conceded its failure in Karachi for holding free, fair and transparent elections in the city, mainly due to violence by an ethnic party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Chief Election Commissioner, Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, predicted reelections on some seats of the metropolitan city. A top official of the commission told The Express Tribune that a formal announcement in this regard will be made soon but that one thing is very clear, not only the ECP, law enforcement agencies and the Army also failed to perform their duties accordingly in Karachi.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, the Secretary of the Election Commission, Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, said that a meeting of the Commission under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner would be held today to discuss the rigging complaints in Karachi. He said the commission would bring the true picture before the nation about happenings in Karachi. Further, he said that there was a delay of two hours in the beginning of polling in some constituencies of Karachi as the Returning Officers concerned could not hand over election material to the President Officers in a timely fashion. He said there were complaints from these areas in the afternoon. Khan said that the Army was present all over Karachi and its strength had been increased in the extended three hours to address complaints. He said that nothing would be concealed from people and that the commission would not shy away from telling the truth as it enjoys the backing of 180 million people. Khan said that the commission has fulfilled its responsibility of holding elections in a fair and transparent manner and voter turnout was also good. He said polling in Punjab remained peaceful with the exception of snatching of ballot boxes at two places. The Chief Secretary of Punjab has been asked to recover ballot boxes and arrest culprits. He said people in KPK and FATA also exercised their right to vote in a satisfactory manner and that there has been no untoward incident in Balochistan except at Qila Abdullah where the exchange of fire took place between two groups. The ECP top official regretted that despite the fact that polling time was extended by one hour‚ some private television channels started giving results of polling stations of different constituencies early.

Small Party Positions

The 2013 elections have lived up to their expectations, as it sprung up many surprises. The unofficial results so far indicate that the fortunes of religious and other smaller political parties have changed. The Awami National Party, which not only ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but was also part of the coalition government in the center during the past five years, was all but routed by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party. In the 2008 elections, ANP won 13 national and 54 provincial assembly seats. But in this election, if one goes by the progressive results, the ANP will not win a single national assembly seat.

The extent of their routing can be judged from the fact that some of its party stalwarts including Asfand Yar Wali and Gulam Ahmed Bilur lost their constituencies. Former Railway Minister, Bilur, even conceded defeat from NA-1 Peshawar where PTI chief Imran Khan emerged as the winner. Not only ANP but also the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (Fzal), which always has a stronghold in the province, is struggling to retain their 2008 position. In the last election, the JUI-F won 7 national and 26 provincial assembly seats respectively. The Jamaat-e-Islami, which boycotted the 2008 polls, appears to dent the JUI-F in the province.

The 2013 elections also proved fatal what was formally known as the King’s Party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q). In the 2008 polls, the Q league bagged 54 national assembly seats while it also won 118 provincial assembly seats. But this time it is finding it difficult to even reach a double digit. Though Chaudhry Parvez Elahi won his home constituency Gujarat, he lost elections from NA-61 Chakwal. Among the small political parties, it appears that only Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will be in a position to retain their past position. In the 2008 elections, the MQM had 25 national assembly seats while it also won 51 provincial assembly seats from Sindh. The figures include reserved seats for women. The nationalist parties particularly Pakhtoonkhawa Mili Awami Party (PKMAP) has made a comeback in Balochistan. The PKMAP Chief, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, won his national assembly seats from Quetta while his other party candidates are also expected to do well in the province.

Follow Azam Khan on Twitter at @azamshaam

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