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Pakistan elections do not augur well for President Zardari

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Many surprises sprung by Saturday's elections in Pakistan will have grave repercussions for the political spectrum with the Pakistan People's Party confined to Sindh, the Awami National Party facing a split and President Asif Ali Zardari denied a second term in office, says Shaheen Sehbani of The News.

The PML-N sweeps across Punjab (the most populated province of Pakistan), has ensured that Mian Nawaz Sharif will not need any coalition partners, except for the sake of keeping a federal face by including some PML-Functional, Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F men in his cabinet.

According to Sehbai, the elections results have also washed away all chances of President Zardari getting a second term in office. "Mian Nawaz Sharif has been reported as saying in private meetings that he would like to see a president from a smaller province and Sindh is out of the running."

Zardari was elected President in September 2008 for a five-year term.

President Zardari has not yet congratulated Nawaz Sharif over his party's success. Sources close to the president said he would wait till final results are announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Only then he would invite the PML-N to form the government, according to Dawn.

The PPP was routed in the elections with around 32 seats in the National Assembly while also Pakistan Tehereek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan got captured 32 seats and PML-N got about 127 out of 272 seats.

Now that the PPP has lost its political clout, it would also be interesting to see how President Zardari is treated by the judiciary and various organizations which carry out accountability, specially National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigating Agency and others.

Once the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Istaqlal leader Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid are in parliament, Mian Nawaz Sharif will be under a lot of pressure to complete the task of accountability that was left in abeyance because of the position President Zardari enjoyed. That situation changed on May 11.

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As unofficial returns rolled in Sunday, a day after the election, state TV estimates put Sharif close to the majority in the national assembly needed to govern outright for the next five years. Even if he falls short of that threshold, independent candidates almost certain to swing in Sharif's favor would give his Pakistan Muslim League-N party a ruling majority. Sharif's party was leading in contests for 127 seats, just short of the 137 directly elected seats needed to form a majority, state TV said.

The former ruling party, PPP,   was soundly beaten in Saturday's election. The PPP was ahead in contests for 32 national assembly seats, a significant drop from the 91 seats the party won in the 2008 election.

Under President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, over the last five years, the PPP -- traditionally perceived as the party of the working classes -- has succeeded in what the ruling elite and the two military dictatorships, General Ziaul Haq and General Parvez Musharraf failed to do. It has alienated itself from the working masses.

Nawaz Sharif somewhat more nationalistic

Sharif is expected to be somewhat more nationalistic and protective of state sovereignty when it comes to relations with the U.S. than the outgoing government, the Associated Press said. "He defied U.S. opposition to Pakistan's nuclear test in 1998 and has criticized unpopular American drone attacks targeting militants in the country. But that doesn't mean the relationship will radically change, especially since the army often plays a dominant role in foreign policy issues."

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"At the end of the day, Sharif is a businessman, and he looks at these things through a kind of pragmatic analysis," according to Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. "I don't see any reason for him to want ties with U.S. to be poor, tense or troublesome."

Meanwhile, the Nation Special Correspondent from Washington reported:

The American print and electronic media is highlighting the election-related developments in Pakistan, with major newspapers pointing out that the two main contenders for power -- PML-N's Nawaz Sharif and cricket legend Imran Khan -- had pledged to limit US influence in the South Asian country.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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