Nawaz Sharif’s Return to Power Brings Pakistan’s Challenges in Focus

On a historic election day, Sharif beat expectations, cruising toward a convincing victory

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Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party celebrate election results with fireworks on May 11, 2013, in Lahore, Pakistan

*This story was updated May 13, 2013

In 1999, Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup. His vanquisher, General Pervez Musharraf, was broadly welcomed in Pakistan, and later, by the international community. Sharif was first thrown in jail, and later dispatched into exile for seven years. In his absence, some claimed that Sharif’s party — and his political career — were finished. Now, in an astonishing turn of history, Sharif is set to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time, while his once powerful nemesis Musharraf is under arrest and possibly facing trial for alleged crimes to do with abuse of power. Sharif beat expectations, cruising toward a convincing victory that will allow his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PMLN) party to control the national Parliament and hold a two-thirds majority in the provincial parliament of Punjab, Pakistan’s wealthiest and most populous province. As the results became apparent in the early hours of Sunday morning, Sharif supporters spilled out into the streets of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, cheering. Young men whizzed through the streets, their speed lending a flutter to party flags attached at the back. “Look, look who has come? The tiger has come, the tiger has come!” they chanted, referring to Sharif’s election symbol.

If the elections could be boiled down to one issue, it was electricity. Throughout the country, voters listed a litany of their disappointments. They dreaded the near-daily terrorist attacks they suffer, not least during the campaign. At least 130 people were killed during the bloody election campaign, mainly supporters of Pakistan’s secular parties, in attacks on candidates, election rallies and campaign offices. Tales of greed also repulsed Pakistanis. All former ministers of President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were voted out in Punjab province.

(PHOTOS: Election Day in Pakistan: Defying Violence, Voters Make History)

But for many voters, their principal concern was the crippling power shortages they endure — sometimes for up to 20 hours a day — and the effect it has on the economy. Economists estimate that Pakistan’s energy crisis shaves off up to 5% growth each year. In big industrial towns like Faisalabad, where Sharif’s party won many seats, factories have been forced to shut down and tens of thousands of workers laid off. If the next government can diminish power cuts substantially, it may be enough to win the next elections. If it fails, it could suffer the fate of its predecessors.

Sharif appealed to voters, particularly in his native Punjab, as a businessman who has experience of governance and who may be able to lift Pakistan’s economy out of its current misery. In a country shifting toward a more conservative direction, Sharif’s social conservatism and religiosity was a plus. In 1997, when he last won an election, Sharif told academic Vali Nasr, he wanted to be “both the [Turkish moderate Islamist leader Necmettin] Erbakan and the [economically minded former Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir [Mohamad] of Pakistan.”

It was a disappointing night for former cricket legend Imran Khan, who was mounting an aggressive and high-profile campaign as the candidate for “change.” Despite a flood of publicity, claims of a solid youth vote behind him and a well-financed party infrastructure, he failed to secure the breakthrough he craved, winning around 35 out of 242 seats in Parliament. Khan came second in a vast number of seats, but failed to catch up to Sharif’s galloping tiger. Still, Khan will remain a force in Pakistani politics and could become the leader of the opposition in Parliament while his party, which swept the northwest militancy-wracked province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will form a provincial government there. On Sunday, Khan accepted defeat but said that his party was a victim of polling-day rigging. Several Khan supporters have pointed out incidents of shady electoral practices at polling booths across Lahore. The PPP is licking its wounds, suffering its second-worst defeat ever, but holding on to its stronghold in Sindh province.

(MORE: On Pakistan’s Election Trail, the Old Feudal Elites Struggle for Votes)

Sharif will face three major challenges when he comes to power. He will have to restore electricity and boost the economy. He will have to deal with domestic terrorism. And he will have to work with the U.S., trying to strike a balance between managing relations with Washington while assuaging anti-American sentiment at home. Sharif’s aides say that he is best placed to boost the economy, thanks to his free-market approach. “The best way to deal with the electricity problem is to privatize the energy sector and give the business community a stake in it,” says Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a leading PMLN member.

When it comes to the Pakistani Taliban, Sharif is less clear. In recent years, he has preferred to remain mostly quiet on the threat, as he did during the election campaign. While secular anti-Taliban politicians braved bomb attacks, Sharif and Khan were able to campaign mostly in peace. Sharif has said that he would like to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, an approach that is popular among conflict-weary Pakistanis but controversial. Critics point out that all peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban have failed and yielded them more space.

In 2010, Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who was chief minister of Punjab, made a controversial appeal to the Pakistani Taliban to spare his province because, like them, his party is “anti-U.S.” During his rule of Punjab, the younger Sharif was also criticized for not doing enough for religious minorities. The Ahmadi Muslim sect suffered its worst-ever attack in 2010. And the province’s Christians have faced two tragedies, earlier this year and in 2009, when a mob of attackers torched clustered colonies in Lahore and Gojra as the police stood by. Many observers are nervous about this trend continuing. Nawaz Sharif’s religious conservatism is what made the Bush Administration wary of him during the Musharraf years. The general’s self-styled “enlightened moderation” was more to their liking than Sharif, who during his second term in power, attempted to crown himself “commander of the faithful.” But in meetings with U.S. officials, Sharif has said he is “pro-American” and keen to work with the U.S. In a meeting with then U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson in 2007, according to a leaked State Department cable, Sharif’s ministers were “disappointed” and “hurt” to read that President Bush said he didn’t know Sharif. They also, according to the cable, “went to great pains to defend Nawaz’s pro-U.S., ‘anti-mullah’ history.” Now, Sharif aides and U.S. officials say both sides are willing to work with each other.

(MORE: Pakistan’s Election Season: When Courting Voters Means Courting Death)

Sharif will also try to establish a new relationship with Pakistan’s powerful generals. Although he emerged as a protégé of General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s longest-serving dictator, he ended up clashing with five successive army chiefs until he was ultimately ousted by Musharraf. Sharif was sharply critical of the army’s role in politics during Musharraf’s final years, but has cooled his rhetoric since. “I think the army will want to work with Nawaz Sharif,” says retired Lieut. General Talat Masood, an analyst. The relationship has been repaired over recent years with Sharif’s top aides often meeting army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

During his last stint in power, Sharif was capable of destructive confrontations with not just the army, but also rival politicians and critical journalists. Masood says that Sharif has matured over the years: “The time in exile has given him time to reflect and learn.” Surveying the election victory on Sunday, many Pakistanis hope that is true.

MORE: Pakistan’s Election Season Begins With Two Very Different Candidates

21 comments
fsaadi
fsaadi

A mere co-incidence: In 70's Awami League workers were brutally killed & people overlooked those atrocities; MQM workers are being killed day in day out, in Karachi...& "some people" are literally ignoring this bitter reality; Is history repeating itself?

kandw101
kandw101

Nice try, but nothing more. RELIGION, ignorance, greed and poverty will waylay any hope of Pakistan coming to the 21st century anytime soon, if ever.

myakub
myakub

We hope that Nawaz Sharif's victory will help to solve the India Pakistan Problems. During his last government he tried to do something similar. Thats why we hope for the best. Thanks news.myakub.net

KamranAfzal
KamranAfzal

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the reins of  party were given to Asif Ali Zardari according to the will of  Banazir. PPP got mandate in 2008 polls, completed its 5-year term in govt successfully. The PPP ministers and advisers added 50plus official cars in their cavalcades and wallowed in luxury, safe official bungalows, and unleashed the monster of price hike on people, who were weak and humiliated by the terrorist attacks.The inflation was so high the Pak rupee depreciated 40% in these 5 years. The party had detached itself from the grassroots level. In May 11 elections not only the PPP but its allies in the federal govt also faced elimination. People have replaced the PPP  Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf who is a runner-up. Sharif is a veteran politician and a powerful leader, and has promised bettermnet.



sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

The realities of Pakistan have surfaced in this election! A State created in a subcontinent, with numerous ethnic,cultural and linguistic differences, by seeking a common identity of Islam, was bound to unravel. Now, the MQM is calling for an Independent country for Karachi, the Baluchis are seeking the same and the Sindhis feel that the Punjabis will dominate. Sharif has won in Punjab, which is the majority and the rest of the country will become less relevant. India created a secular model because this was the only way to survive as a nation. I wish Sharif well. But Pakistan has to wonder if they need to revert to the vision of their Founder, Jinnah, who called for a secular State!

cloudrestmike
cloudrestmike

Anyone, especially those players involved in the life of Pakistan, would do well to read that classical work by Josephus, called the Jewish Wars.  In it is described the turmoil and Machavelin ( spelling ) politics of Israel during the time just before and after Jesus.

The way Jesus was treated was the way Israel / Jerusalem was ultimately treated by the heavens.

It is quite scary . History repeats itself.  Poor people who suffer.  Earthquakes and Floods come and the religious Mullahs and divines destroy and hold hostage the country.   Muslims would not have been taught the prayer in surah Fatihah if   the community or a section of it was not to go thru the same paths as had gone before. 

captainjohann
captainjohann

Will USA and its arm's lobby  allow Shareiff's quest for peace with India?

kumarjr10
kumarjr10

He may be able to meet peoples expectations on electricity problem.But will have a tough time in meeting challenges of terrorism and economic situation.

btt1943
btt1943

Sharif can be the premier again, but he will be overwhelmed by the multitude of long and practically unsolvable political and economic problems. For starters, he has to face terrorism, sectarian conflicts, shrinking economy, unemployment, corruption, women's right, etc. Moreover, the military may not lie dormant after the arrest of its former chief Musharraf.

Could he bring Pakistan's challenges in focus? (ttm1943, mtd1943

NoorAlam
NoorAlam

mian nawaz 19 june 1992gave birth order execution. I said, I am human, I am a Muslim. urdu once they die. So I was just, I do not give place to them. I'll go on stage at the time of death, the urdu
my country, my language is urdu. You should have told them more marale damage. I give my body to reach the people. I AM PAKISTANI NO NO TO YOU urdu people why 1947 after 1971 1972 1986 1988 1990 1992 1997 1998 1999 2013 why

NoorAlam
NoorAlam

mian nawaz 19 june 1992gave birth order execution. I said, I am human, I am a Muslim. urdu once they die. So I was just, I do not give place to them. I'll go on stage at the time of death, the urdu  
my country, my language is urdu. You should have told them more marale damage. I give my body to reach the people. "

NoorAlam
NoorAlam

Days. 9 months long bloody muktiyuddera through December 16, 1971, after the surrender of Pakistani forces Raider abisambadita The leader of the prisoners in jail, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman mahanayaka independence back in the day.

March 5, 1971, the Raider dibagata the Army unarmed peace-loving Bengalis barbarocita acts to continue the attack began. 6 March prahare Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first colonial regime in the Declaration of Independence was officially dropped the chain of subjection.

Political map of the world with the announcement of the new abhyudaya independent sovereign state of Bangladesh. Desh calling on people to take part in the war. Bangabandhu's call to unite the nation, dive armed struggle.

Immediately after the declaration of independence of Pakistan, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the occupying military junta then imprisoned in West Pakistan.

While in the custody of the secret trial and his execution was ordered solitary prison cell for just round the corner and was buried in the khora. The firm in question but he was unmoved. This fastness was rooted in the love and respect of his unhesitating.

The thami with all the passion ucchbasake muktikami own hrdayapate he set up an uncompromising disari release. Unlimited confidence of the political nation and the people who love and respect of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has always drrhacitta, unnatasira, infinitely brave and janabatsala.

The struggle of the Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman beyond the boundaries of love, freedom, democracy and human muktikami that took place in the heart. Fearing persecution of the world leaders in this abisambadita effective execution of Pakistani military forces to refrain from jantara.

197 of January 8 was released from prison in the piaiyera a special plane arrived in London.

He said the statement given to journalists, the authorities in the trial against me is a comedy program. The hearing ended after about half of the support of the Pakistani authorities for the appointment of a lawyer. The blind spot in the prison cell traitor I was waiting for death. But the most surprising, in my judgment, that the Tribunal was not in his judgment will not be published. Former Pakistani President Yahya Khan said that farce of a trial fitting device emtechilena kasthe me death. '

'The struggle of the people of the high-priced, so much horror and suffering bibhisikamaya life and did not want any more people to enjoy. The ruthless killings in order to blame the regime. If Hitler were alive today, the killing she would shame. '

'I am willing to stay here a moment longer. I want to go back to my people. '

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 197 of Britain's Royal Air Force on January 10 for a special flight nayadili ¬ palama arriving at the airport in the meeting with then-President bhibhi Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said after the speech,'' abhiyatra the light from the darkness, from captivity to freedom , abhiyatra hope to despair.

Finally, after 9 months, I'm going back to my beloved country of my dreams. At 9 months, the people of the century gave way. The haul was taken from me and my people, they kemdechila, I had to keep the prisoners, they had to fight them back in the day when I'm going, when they are winning. I am going back to their winning comedian raudrakare million. Our bijayake peace, progress and prosperity in that they managed to do it in front of you for joining us, I'm going back to my people.

197 of the Indian Air Force special aircraft on January 10, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his dream of an independent homeland in the land back then was an emotional speech over resakorsa ¬ uta up and said,'' people who have been killed in the war, who was killed by the brutal forces, their I have respect for every soul.

The country has been liberated after pranadanera million people. My life has been full of flavor. The independent Bangladesh. The farmers, workers, students, the public and have peace of. Tomara not like me.

Today it is one of my great freedom in exchange for leaving. 30 million people have died. It has life, has trouble. People will live in the open air. I will happily after, it was my pursuit.

Yahya Khan gave birth order execution. I said, I am human, I am a Muslim. Bengalis once they die. So I was just, I do not give place to them. I'll go on stage at the time of death, the Bengali, Bengali my country, my language is Bengali. You should have told them more marale damage. I give my body to reach the people. "

Maaq.
Maaq.

Bhuttos loved Pakistan and Pakistani's loved them, Not even the most power full dictators with all their efforts could have done what Mr. 10% have done to PPP.  Pakistan's political land scape is reduced to only regional parties.

Nimraa
Nimraa

Congratulations; I pray to Allah Almighty that Mian Nawaz Sharif’s win bring good for Pakistan. Landslide, bigger victory is for Imran Khan; His tireless efforts have put youth on the path, which will change the concept of politics from corruption to relentless service of country.

Imran should gracefully sit in opposition, get rid of corrupt labeled from party, deliver in Khyber PK and wait for next election.

sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

I fully agree Mr. Akub. In India too, Dr. Singh has been pushing for better ties with Pakistan, at a huge cost. We now have two Statesmen from Punjab, with similar vision. I would love to see Dr. Singh attend the swearing in of Mr. Sharif and the two leaders declare a peace treaty. This will allow both countries to deal the real enemy i.e poverty

NoorAlam
NoorAlam

@Nimraa note very good Mian Nawaz Sharif s win but Pakistan ? karachi sindh pk khyber pakhtoon kha all pakistan ?Days. 9 months long bloody muktiyuddera through December 16, 1971, after the surrender of Pakistani forces Raider abisambadita The leader of the prisoners in jail, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman mahanayaka independence back in the day.

March 5, 1971, the Raider dibagata the Army unarmed peace-loving Bengalis barbarocita acts to continue the attack began. 6 March prahare Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first colonial regime in the Declaration of Independence was officially dropped the chain of subjection.

Political map of the world with the announcement of the new abhyudaya independent sovereign state of Bangladesh. Desh calling on people to take part in the war. Bangabandhu's call to unite the nation, dive armed struggle.

Immediately after the declaration of independence of Pakistan, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the occupying military junta then imprisoned in West Pakistan.

While in the custody of the secret trial and his execution was ordered solitary prison cell for just round the corner and was buried in the khora. The firm in question but he was unmoved. This fastness was rooted in the love and respect of his unhesitating.

The thami with all the passion ucchbasake muktikami own hrdayapate he set up an uncompromising disari release. Unlimited confidence of the political nation and the people who love and respect of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has always drrhacitta, unnatasira, infinitely brave and janabatsala.

The struggle of the Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman beyond the boundaries of love, freedom, democracy and human muktikami that took place in the heart. Fearing persecution of the world leaders in this abisambadita effective execution of Pakistani military forces to refrain from jantara.

197 of January 8 was released from prison in the piaiyera a special plane arrived in London.

He said the statement given to journalists, the authorities in the trial against me is a comedy program. The hearing ended after about half of the support of the Pakistani authorities for the appointment of a lawyer. The blind spot in the prison cell traitor I was waiting for death. But the most surprising, in my judgment, that the Tribunal was not in his judgment will not be published. Former Pakistani President Yahya Khan said that farce of a trial fitting device emtechilena kasthe me death. '

'The struggle of the people of the high-priced, so much horror and suffering bibhisikamaya life and did not want any more people to enjoy. The ruthless killings in order to blame the regime. If Hitler were alive today, the killing she would shame. '

'I am willing to stay here a moment longer. I want to go back to my people. '

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 197 of Britain's Royal Air Force on January 10 for a special flight nayadili ¬ palama arriving at the airport in the meeting with then-President bhibhi Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said after the speech,'' abhiyatra the light from the darkness, from captivity to freedom , abhiyatra hope to despair.

Finally, after 9 months, I'm going back to my beloved country of my dreams. At 9 months, the people of the century gave way. The haul was taken from me and my people, they kemdechila, I had to keep the prisoners, they had to fight them back in the day when I'm going, when they are winning. I am going back to their winning comedian raudrakare million. Our bijayake peace, progress and prosperity in that they managed to do it in front of you for joining us, I'm going back to my people.

197 of the Indian Air Force special aircraft on January 10, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his dream of an independent homeland in the land back then was an emotional speech over resakorsa ¬ uta up and said,'' people who have been killed in the war, who was killed by the brutal forces, their I have respect for every soul.

The country has been liberated after pranadanera million people. My life has been full of flavor. The independent Bangladesh. The farmers, workers, students, the public and have peace of. Tomara not like me.

Today it is one of my great freedom in exchange for leaving. 30 million people have died. It has life, has trouble. People will live in the open air. I will happily after, it was my pursuit.

Yahya Khan gave birth order execution. I said, I am human, I am a Muslim. Bengalis once they die. So I was just, I do not give place to them. I'll go on stage at the time of death, the Bengali, Bengali my country, my language is Bengali. You should have told them more marale damage. I give my body to reach the people. "