Editorial: Pakistan - an election that should hearten all democrats

It is vital that the new government capitalises on the euphoric mood to push for change


The last time a major news story broke out of Pakistan it was about a courageous schoolgirl who had been shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to assert that girls had a right to an education.

Today a country often presented as a semi-failed state overrun by Islamist militants has shown a different face following a general election in which the nation stood up and told the terrorists who have caused such mayhem in recent years how unrepresentative they are.

For Nawaz Sharif, the overwhelming winner of the election, the result is an astonishing turnaround. A Prime Minister in the 1990s, he was arrested in 1999 after a military coup and later fled into exile. Now the supporters of the so-called Lion of the Punjab have roared on his behalf, sweeping aside the old establishment dominated by the Bhutto family. 

Most Pakistanis are rightly rejoicing about what they see as a hugely important moment in their country’s troubled 66 years of independence. A corrupt dynasty has been snubbed, the Taliban and its friends – who vowed to bring the election to a standstill – have been humiliated and for the first time in Pakistan’s history one civilian government has completed its mandate and handed power in an election to another. There is more good news in the strong showing of the former cricketer Imran Khan whose party looks set to take second place in parliament and become the official opposition. Mr Khan, who was badly hurt falling off a stage in the campaign, is said to be disappointed with his share of the vote. Whatever he expected to win, it can only be good for Pakistan that such a trenchant foe of corruption has received the backing of a substantial portion of the electorate. It also bodes well that the new Prime Minister congratulated him on his achievement.

While the remnants of the Bhutto clan, the supporters of the old military regime gathered around General Pervez Musharraf, and the radical Islamists lick their wounds and reflect on what a disappointment Pakistan turned out to be, it is vital that the new government capitalises on the euphoric mood to push for change.

Besides religious extremism – now shown to be lacking popular support – and endemic corruption, the real devil in Pakistan is a catastrophic shortage of energy as a result of which large parts of the country have no power for most of the day and petrol stations lie empty. Unless this hole in the economy is plugged and a serious effort made to tap unexplored energy reserves, Mr Sharif’s campaign talk of turning Pakistan into an Asian Tiger will remain empty. The energy crisis is indivisible from the issue of corruption because it is thanks to the culture of cronyism that so many wrong decisions in the energy field have been taken.

Pakistan has seen false dawns before, above all after the last general election in 2008 when voters swept the Pakistan People’s Party into office on a wave of sympathy following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The government wasted those years, which have been characterised by growing poverty and often horrific levels of urban violence. At times it has seemed as if Pakistan were adrift and the Taliban had become a form of an alternative government. Economically, and by every other useful benchmark, the gap between India and Pakistan has yawned.

The people of Pakistan, and their many friends in this country, must hope that Mr Sharif fully realises the magnitude of the task ahead of him. In the meantime, democrats the world over should raise a cheer to the  hard-pressed voters of Pakistan who, in spite of it all, have not lost  faith with democracy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific