Pakistan Election 2013: Imran Khan Becoming Pakistan's Game-Changer

With only a little over a week left until the general elections, Pakistan’s politicians are starting to boost their campaigning efforts for the final stretch and one candidate in specific – cricketer turned politician Imran Khan — has been gaining momentum unlike any other. If things go his way, as polls indicate, this election could be exactly what Pakistan needs to break away from the “status quo” and turn things around for the better.

As of the most recent polls, Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) currently leads Nawaz Sharif, president of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), who was previously thought of to be the favorite for prime minister by a 3% margin — not a landslide, but undoubtedly significant as to what it indicates for the upcoming elections.

The two parties are also head-to-head in reference to choice of political party, with Pakistanis equally preferring to vote for PML-N and PTI. However, although they both are holding steady and receiving 38% of the vote each, it is noteworthy that PTI has seen an increase in Punjab – Nawaz Sharif’s one and only stronghold — by 50%. PTI is also the most popular party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Hazara Belt.

And it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone — except maybe Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan’s slogan, Naya Pakistan, or, a new Pakistan, has resonated with everyone who is tired of the state of their country’s affairs, which, at this point, is just about everyone.

Moreover, his slogan has spoken to what is arguably Pakistan’s most important demographic in this election — the youth. And in return, they have shown up in unprecedented numbers at rallies all across Pakistan and have demanded change alongside Khan.  

The success for Khan, whose symbol is a cricket bat — perhaps a tribute to both his past and future — is hardly unwarranted. His credentials are strong, his rhetoric is even better, and most importantly, unlike many of Pakistan’s politicians, the track record for both him and his party, which he has nurtured carefully for the past 17 years, is clean.

And this much, he has taken note of himself. Making corruption within the government a key issue in his campaign, he said, “I can tell you 80% of people in high office in Pakistan are criminals … I'm not exaggerating, I have doubts about the other 20% too. Were they in a Western democracy they would be in jail.”

And it is precisely because of this that he feels as if the “people have already decided," referring to the enormous surge of support he has seen this election year. “They have tried these guys over and over again. I believe in this Abraham Lincoln saying: 'You can't fool all of the people all of the time.’”

Khan may win, or he may lose. With Pakistan’s roller coaster-like politics, one can never say for certain what the outcome will be despite indicators such as polls. But one thing is for certain: whether he is the next prime minister, a member of the next coalition or merely just a voice in opposition, Khan, has certainly become a force to be reckoned with in Pakistan.