UPDATE: “All Eyez on Me,” Pakistan

The pundits (is that really an appropriate word here?) were right, the Musharraf coalition suffered a crushing defeat. The party of the slain Benazir Bhutto, the PPP, gathered 31%of the national assembly seats(83/272), Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N gained 25% (69/272), and the Musharraf-backed PML-Q collected 16% (43/272).pak.gif

What we know from the votes?

  • The PPP, although the largest party at the center, will need a coalition partner. Whether it goes with the pro-Musharraf PML-Q or anti-Musharraf PML-N will have huge ramifications on the immediate future of the country. The PML-N has vowed to work towards Musharraf’s impeachment. The PPP has made no such indication at present. However, even if the two rivals – the PPP and PML-N – form a coalition, they will not have enough votes to impeach Musharraf.
  • At the state-level, the election shows the divided Pakistani populace. The PPP won a majority in the Sindh Assembly. Sindh has traditionally been the PPP’s base region. In the most populous state, Punjab, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is the largest party with more than 1/3 of the total assembly seats (101/297). Nawaz Sharif comes from a huge steel magnate family based out of Lahore.
  • The PPP is the only national party in Pakistan.
  • Musharraf is the biggest loser of the election in that his popularity was largely eroded due to his dealings with the Chief Justice and the lawyer protests, his invasion of the Lal Masjid, and his widely being blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
  • The religious coalition in the important NWFP, the MMA, unraveled and led to a victory by the ANP, a secular Pashtun nationalist party. It seems the attempt to impose harsh interpretations of shariat law led to the defeat of the incumbent MMA.

What happens from here?

The coalitions that develop will have a large influence. The PPP is in the driver’s seat, as it really is the only national party, and its coalition partners will influence the future of the country in the short-term.

Moving specifically to West Panjab, the return of Sharif’s PML-N bodes well for East-West Panjabi relations. Sharif oftens plays upon Panjabi notions in trying to defeat his rivals. Back in 1990, he won the national election using the slogan “Jaag Punjabi jaag, teri pag noon lagya daag.”(Wake up! Punjabi wake up!, your turban has a stain).

The PML-N is little different than the Akali Dal. It is mainly the party of big landlords, representing their feudal interests and conservatism. He has usually open to greater economic ties with East Panjab and for this reason has many Sikh well-wishers.

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All eyes turn to South Asia today, to our border on the West: Pakistan. While I will try to update throughout the day, for the best live coverage, check out pkpolitics.com

pakistan.jpgThe Players:

Some may follow Pakistani politics, but others may not. Here are some of the key players. Get ready for some alphabet soup. This elections pits those favorable to Dictator Pervez Musharraf (who became a civilian last year) against those that oppose him. He is supported by the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) or PMLQ. He is opposed by the party of the late Benazir Bhutto (PPP) and Nawaz Sharifs Pakistan Muslim League (N) or PMLN. Most pundits are expecting a low-turnout due to recent violence, but most are predicting the anti-Musharraf parties to win, despite the possibility of official vote rigging.

At Stake:

There are over 7000 candidates for 272 national assembly seats and 577 provincial assembly seats at roughly over 8 candidates per seat. [Akin to Congressional and State legislature elections.] There are 158 women candidates.

Possibilities:

Some cites, have guestimated that the PPP will win 29% of the seats, PMLN 28%, and the PMLQ 19%. The PPP is expected to be the largest single party, especially on a sympathy vote for its late slain leader. Then the question will be, who is will they form a coalition with: the anti-Musharraf PMLN, who has called for Musharrafs impeachment, or the pro-Musharraf PMLQ?

So we wait as the world waits on the Pakistani voters. Any thoughts?


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