Pakistan Election 2024: With the National Assembly consisting of 336 seats, 266 candidates will be elected through direct voting, while 70 seats are reserved.
Pakistan elections are set to be held on Thursday, marking a highly anticipated event that will determine the formation of a new government. While initial election results are expected to trickle in on Thursday evening, official outcomes will be declared on Friday.
With the National Assembly consisting of 336 seats, 266 candidates will be elected through direct voting, while 70 seats are reserved. Among these reserved seats, 60 are designated for women and 10 for non-Muslims, allocated based on each party’s representation in the Assembly.
Political parties in the fray
There are three major parties that dominate Pakistani politics – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
A total of forty-four political parties are contesting the elections.
According to ARY News, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has closed the canvassing period for the general elections, with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leading the pack with the most extensive public rallies nationwide.
After 54 days of intense campaigning, political factions are now preparing for the polling slated for February 8.
The PPP has emerged prominently in leading campaign efforts across various regions, including Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan.
- Nawaz Sharif
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a leading contender to helm the country, having resolved a longstanding dispute with Pakistan’s influential military, as analysts suggest.
The 74-year-old is the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and a three-time former prime minister, who returned from a four-year self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom last year. His return followed contesting the previous election while incarcerated.
Despite corruption convictions, which he refutes, and a lifetime political ban initially imposed on him, courts have overturned these rulings. His party asserts his ambition for a fourth term as prime minister, citing intentions to revitalise the nation’s ailing economy and curb rampant inflation.
However, concerns linger regarding his health and willingness to govern, particularly if his party fails to secure a decisive majority and must form a coalition government.
- Maryam Nawaz Sharif
Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif, wields significant influence within the PML-N party and has been positioned by her father as his political successor. Serving as the senior vice president of the party, Maryam, 50, emerged prominently in the political arena, particularly during her father’s period of self-imposed exile.
Despite never holding an official position, Maryam has been a prominent figure in leading rallies and advocating for her father’s cause, particularly during the 2018 elections when both were imprisoned on corruption charges, later overturned.
In recent weeks, Maryam has taken a prominent role in PML-N’s campaign activities, often assuming the role of primary speaker at political gatherings, a shift noted by analysts from her father’s traditional role.
- Shehbaz Sharif
Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, led a coalition government for 16 months after Imran Khan’s removal in 2022 until parliament’s dissolution in August, paving the way for national elections.
Shehbaz, 72, previously held the position of chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, and played a pivotal role in averting a financial crisis by securing a deal with the International Monetary Fund last year after prolonged and strained negotiations for another bailout package.
The exact role Shehbaz will assume upon his elder brother’s return to Pakistan remains uncertain. However, it is widely believed that he maintains closer ties to Pakistan’s influential military than Nawaz and has served as an intermediary between the military and the Sharif family for a significant period. This intermediary role could be crucial if his party secures victory and forms the government.
- Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari
Bilawal Bhutto, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), is the son of Benazir Bhutto, the first Muslim woman leader elected as prime minister, who was assassinated in 2007. His father, Asif Ali Zardari, served as Pakistan’s 11th President from September 2008 to September 2013. Often referred to as a millennial candidate, Bilawal rose to prominence within Pakistani politics.
In 2022, Bilawal made history as Pakistan’s youngest foreign minister in the coalition government led by Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which ousted Imran Khan. However, despite his previous ministerial position, he has stated that he will not assume the role of the country’s top diplomat under Nawaz Sharif’s leadership if the former prime minister returns to power following Thursday’s election.
- Imran Khan cannot contest in this election
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the primary opposition leader, is ineligible to participate in this year’s general election. Barred from contesting the polls due to a series of prison sentences, Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), emerged victorious in the 2018 general election, leading him to assume the role of prime minister until his removal via a no-confidence vote in 2022.
Currently incarcerated and facing four criminal convictions, three of which were handed down last week, Khan is disqualified from running in elections or holding public office. He has been sentenced to concurrent terms of three, 10, 14, and seven years, with over 150 other legal cases pending against him. Khan’s party alleges unfair treatment, stating they are not receiving a fair opportunity to campaign.