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Photo Credit: Sofia Says

The challenge faced by the losers is nothing compared to the challenges that await the victors

If one was careful not to get too caught up in the tsunami of change, the outcome of the recent elections could have been anticipated months ago. Retrospectively, they make sense. The ruling PPP and their allies getting hammered at the polls was an eventuality. The extent of PML-N’s dominance, however was something most people didn’t see coming. This alone has lent a lot of credence to claims of rigging against the PML-N.

What most people expected, or rather hoped, was that Imran Khan and PTI would edge out the PML-N on more fronts than they eventually did. This belief was further established when Khan’s tragic accident created an immeasurable sway of public sentiment towards him. In the end, old politics and political structures won over the rhetoric of “Naya Pakistan”, and the youth-powered juggernaut of change, that the PTI claims to be, must go off the boil for another five years. Now they face a sizable challenge of not letting their cause fizzle out. A provincial government in KPK and their considerable presence in Islamabad will go a long way in their quest to stay relevant.

But the challenge faced by the losers is nothing compared to the challenges that await the victors. Nawaz Sharif and Co. must now take over the reins of the battered and bruised State machinery and go about putting into action promises they’ve made in their manifesto. Considering their history of pulling off massive infrastructure projects, there is a lot of justified expectation from them to drag the country’s struggling industrial sector out of the mire. Their promises of tackling unemployment, the crippling energy crisis and the education emergency that the country faces require immediate and incisive action if they are to be met. Their heavy mandate shows that the people believe in their ability to meet these challenges. It also frees them from the political need of cutting deals with other political outfits. They can form a government comprising of independents and some of their allies and get down to business.

In the build-up to the elections, the PML-N came under a lot of fire on their stance on terrorism. Inches of column space were spent bashing the party leaderships’ continued silence in the aftermath of each incident of terrorism and sectarian violence. There is a feeling that the right-wing PML-N holds a soft spot for the Taliban and sectarian militant outfits like the LEJ and the SSP. The Sharif’s need to take this perception very seriously; it may not end in the column spaces of English dailies and the liberal timelines on Twitter. I fear that in the coming weeks the militants will test this theory. There will be incidents of terrorism, especially by the sectarian groups in Balochistan, to test their boundaries and see what they can get away with in the new regime. Maulana Ludhianvi getting pipped to the post by PML-N’s Sheikh Muhammad Akram means that sectarian outfits will go back to Plan A.  This is the real test for the new PML-N government. They need to immediately make their stance on terrorism very clear and at the first opportunity establish the writ of the state. If they fail to do this, they will find the parliament to be a very unwelcome place, especially in the PTI-dominated KPK.

These historic elections with 60% turnout, despite the unpleasantness of some incidents of rigging, are a reason for the nation to celebrate. However, the problems that plague the country remain and the victors must cut their celebrations short and get to the task of cleaning up the mess that has accumulated over the years. This could be the PML-N’s last shot at power.

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