Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced on Wednesday that he will advise the president to dissolve the parliament, three days before its five-year term expires. The move is seen as a prelude to the general elections, which are expected to be held in October.
Sharif, who heads the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, said he had taken the decision after consulting with his allies and opposition parties. He said he hoped the elections would be free, fair and transparent, and that the people would choose their representatives wisely.
The dissolution of the parliament will pave the way for the formation of a caretaker government, which will oversee the electoral process and ensure a smooth transition of power. The caretaker prime minister and cabinet will be appointed by consensus between the ruling and opposition parties, according to the constitution.
The PML-N, which came to power in 2018 after defeating the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led by former cricketer Imran Khan, is hoping to secure another term in office. The party claims to have delivered on its promises of economic development, infrastructure projects, energy security and social welfare.
However, the PML-N has also faced several challenges and controversies during its tenure, including corruption allegations, judicial activism, civil-military tensions and regional instability. Sharif’s elder brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court in 2019 over a graft case and is currently living in exile in London.
The PTI, which is the main opposition party, has accused the PML-N of misgovernance, nepotism, money laundering and rigging the 2018 elections. The party has also campaigned for accountability, reforms and change in the country. Khan, who is widely popular among the youth and urban middle class, has vowed to create a “new Pakistan” if elected.
The upcoming elections will also see the participation of several other parties and alliances, representing various regions, ethnicities, ideologies and interests. Some of the prominent ones are the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari; the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which represents the Urdu-speaking community in Karachi; the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), which is a religious conservative party; and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which is a coalition of 11 opposition parties that was formed last year to challenge the PML-N government.
The elections will be held under a mixed electoral system, with 272 seats in the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament) being contested through direct voting, and another 70 seats being reserved for women and minorities. The electoral college for the Senate (the upper house of parliament) consists of members of the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly. The Senate elections were held in March this year, with the opposition parties gaining a slight edge over the ruling coalition.
The elections will be a crucial test for Pakistan’s democracy, stability and security, as well as its relations with its neighbours and allies. The country faces multiple challenges such as terrorism, extremism, poverty, inflation, unemployment, health crisis, water scarcity and climate change. The voters will have to decide who can best address these issues and lead Pakistan towards a prosperous future.