5 minute read
Ishaan Tharoor; Omar Waraich; Andrew Katz

A Political Tiger Returns From the Wild in Pakistan

As the results of Pakistan’s election became apparent in the early hours of May 12, cheering supporters of Nawaz Sharif spilled out into the streets of Lahore. Sharif’s party had beaten expectations and was cruising toward a convincing victory that gave it control of the national Parliament. Young men whizzed by on motorbikes, fluttering 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.

The tiger has been there before, though. In 1999, then Prime Minister Sharif was overthrown in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf. He was tossed 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, Sharif is set to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time, while Musharraf is under arrest and will possibly face trial for alleged crimes involving abuse of power.

Sharif, a pro-business politico with a religiously conservative bent, has much to do. He’ll have to resolve Pakistan’s crippling electricity shortages and boost its sluggish economy. He must confront the Pakistani Taliban despite a mixed previous record of dealing with domestic militants. And he must strike a balance between managing relations with Washington and assuaging anti-U.S. sentiment at home.

It was a disappointing night for cricket legend Imran Khan, the dashing candidate for “change” who surged into election day on a wave of support from youth and the urban middle class. His party failed to secure a breakthrough, finishing second and winning about 35 out of 242 seats in Parliament. Although Khan alleges widespread vote rigging, the former star athlete was no match for the reborn tiger.

Waraich writes about Pakistan for


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