Sharif is leading Pakistan's electoral race

Sharif is leading  Pakistan

Pakistan never ceases to amaze, even while making history. For the first time in its existence, a democratically-elected government completed its full...

Pakistan never ceases to amaze, even while making history. For the first time in its existence, a democratically-elected government completed its full five-year tenure in Pakistan. Emotional scenes were witnessed when the National Assembly held its farewell session before its dissolution on March 16, as nostalgic speeches were made and members embraced one another. It was a huge moment in a country used to dictatorial regimes never having seen peaceful and constitutional transfer of power that it is now close to. Credit for this must go both to President Zardari and General Kayani.

Opinion polls give Nawaz Shariff of PML (N) an edge over Imran Khan of Tehrik-e-Insaf, with the PPP lying third. Imran is in second place behind Mian Nawaz Sharif. He is most likely to be the next Prime Minister. Nawaz is the best-placed so long as Imran Khan does not eat too much into his vote bank in Punjab, which has more seats in the National Assembly than the other three provinces put together.

The situation could, however, change as elections draw nearer. Although Sharif remains a deeply conservative industrialist with close ties to the religious right, he has succeeded in projecting himself as a saviour of democracy while exploiting anti-incumbency to the hilt, thereby gaining ground throughout Pakistan.

Nawaz has a decent relationship with Kayani, the last of the Musharraf generals, and so should not have much of a problem with the Army. The next army chief in Pakistan is likely to be more unremarkable and even less troublesome. The PPP seems to be losing ground rapidly. Party loyalists would like to believe, as they say in Pakistan, "Zardari sab se bhari" but corruption and mismanagement have made it virtually impossible for the party to return to power.

It will still probably win Sind and the countryside in Southern Punjab but is unlikely to be in a position to dictate terms. Most Pakistanis say anyone but Zardari. And yet he is the most deft politician in Pakistan; the ultimate survivor. His main criticism is that all he did was to survive.

Imran Khan, undoubtedly Pakistan's greatest sporting hero and reckoned to be among the world's most influential leaders in 2012 with a passionate following among the urban youth, is the dark horse in the race. Whether he can bring about his much-touted tsunami or not he will be a big player in the forthcoming elections. Pakistanis looking for change are gravitating towards him.

Imran could even be a part of the ruling coalition if only he could control his ego; be more a politician than the 'Kaptaan' of yore. Imran despises Zardari more than anyone else and despite their overlapping and competitive constituency could even make a pact with his bête noire Nawaz Sharif. Imran's right hand man Shah Mehmood Qureshi contemplated joining the PML (N) before he joined the PTI. With three weeks to go for elections anything could still happen in Pakistan.

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