Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan’s party vowed today to oust the country’s “corrupt” rulers, as the nuclear-armed state announced it will hold general elections on July 25. The poll will bring to a head political tensions that have been building since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges and later barred from politics for life.
Khan is hoping to achieve a years-long dream of leading the country as its prime minister, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is the main challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was headed by Sharif until his ban. PTI leaders have said they are confident they will be able to defeat the PML-N. “The Pakistani nation… can see the dawn of a new Pakistan, which will not be ruled by the corrupt,” the party said in a statement posted today on Twitter along with a graphic that read “Mafia’s Game Over”.
“Stop us if you can,” it said in another tweet. The bullish comments came after Pakistan’s president Mamnoon Hussain yesterday approved July 25 as the date for the elections, which offer the prospect of what would be only the second-ever democratic transfer of power in the South Asian country. The current government, led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is expected to hand over power to a caretaker administration in the coming days.
Despite Sharif’s ouster, the ruling party says it has invested in improving Pakistan’s rickety infrastructure and attracted billions of dollars in Chinese investment. It has also denied allegations of graft against its leadership by opponents like Khan. PTI has vowed to fight corruption, presenting itself as a polar opposite of what it calls status-quo politicians.
Since he was ousted, Sharif and the PML-N have become increasingly vocal in their confrontation with the country’s powerful military establishment and the courts, claiming there is a conspiracy afoot to reduce the party’s power.
Political analyst Hasan Askari said PTI was heading into the election with momentum on its side, but stopped short of predicting a win at the polls that would allow the party to form a government. “One thing is clear that PTI seats will increase and PML-N’s seats will decrease, but by how many, we can’t say at this stage,” Askari told AFP.