Event ReportsPublished on Apr 13, 2013
Former The Hindu correspondent in Pakistan, Nirupama Subramanian, thinks that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has a better chance to head the next government in Pakistan. The thing to be watched is whether he will be able to do so on his own or in coalition with other parties, especially Imran Khan's PTI.
Will Imran Khan emerge as the king-maker in Pakistan polls?

The Asif Ali Zardari government in Pakistan, which has completed its five-year term, has not only made the Constitution stronger but also exposed the ’true colours’ of the Army, according to Ms Nirupama Subramanian, Associate Editor of The Hindu.

Participating in an interaction on "Five years of democracy in Pakistan" at ORF Chennai on Saturday, April 13, 2014, Ms Nirupama, who was the special correspondent of the paper in Islamabad, said this period of the elected government was the first time when the people of Pakistan did not look up at the Army as an alternative governing authority. She also talked about the constant five-year tussle the Government has had with the Judiciary. She said this judicial activism has pulled up the term "judicial coup" in Pakistan’s lexicon.

Nirupama painted the changes that the democratic Government has brought about in the country. She pointed out a few milestones of the PPP Government such as the 18th, 19th and the 20th Amendments to the Constitution, the passage of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2012, ordaining free and compulsory education for all up to the age of 16. She said these amendments have made the system more transparent and has paved way to set-up the stage for fair and free elections now.

A self-confessed ’diehard optimist’ on India-Pak relations, Nirupama said "there is an eagerness among the democratic parties in Pakistan to have better relations with India". The reason behind is to harness the "growing economic power horse" for the benefit of Pakistan, she said.

Nirupama, however, was of the view that the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) could be voted out in the upcoming parliamentary elections in May. She said an anti-incumbency mood was prevalent among the nation’s voters at present.

She said "the youth voters would play an important role in this election". She said more than 30 per cent of the registered voters were between the ages of 18 and 29 years. She referred to a survey conducted by the British Council where more than 58 per cent of Pakistani youth between ages 18 and 29 disagreed that democracy had done good for India while 40 per cent of them preferred the Sharia law for governing Pakistan.

Discussing the electoral prospects of various political parties, Nirupama said this election would be marked by the rise of Imran Khan. Though Imran Khan’s PTI won just a single seat in the last election, Nirupama said, this time the party is bound to win a substantial number of seats and vote-share, too. She said that party workers themselves are being disgruntled with the PPP and are moving to other parties.  

However, she made it very clear that though Imran Khan was rising up in Pakistani politics, there was no way he could form a government on his own. All he could do is to take away a portion of vote-share. Nirupama gave a hint that PML-N leader, Nawaz Sharif, had a better chance of becoming Prime Minister, but the one thing to watch for is whether the government would be, and would have to be formed in coalition with Imran Khan.

Nirupama described the reasons for the likely setback for PPP in this election. She said that while President Asif Ali Zardari is not campaigning in the election, his son Bilawal is very reluctant to lead the political campaign. She drew a parallel between Bilawal and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in India, in terms of their reluctance to get actively engaged in politics. The one who’s running the show for PPP is Zardari’s sister, who stepped into politics after the death of Benazir Bhutto.

With Imran Khan seen as emerging as the ’deciding factor’, and given his perceived anti-India stance, Nirupama referred to his recent media interviews, where his sole slogan was, "Change, change, change". He also seems unlikely to share the dais with PML-N or PPP - who had been in power in the past. Instead, he could go with Jamat-e-Islami. Also, Nirupama referred to some news reports which said Imran Khan, a conservative leader, was a sympathiser of the Taliban. But Imran Khan has clarified that he was just against ’war on terror" and not giving his affiliation to the Taliban militancy.

Nirupama said Imran Khan would work for better trade and border relations with India. She pointed out that one thing to be noted was that Imran Khan was the only party leader whose party was able to run a proper political campaign. None of the other political parties has released their lists of candidates.

(This report is prepared by Ramalingam Va, First-Year BA, Journalism & Mass Communication, S R M University, Chennai)

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