Despite the fact that official results are not expected until late on Sunday, it is unlikely at this point that Imran Khan will become Pakistan's next prime minister. The loss, although fairly expected, is sorely felt most amongst the youth and the urban cities of Pakistan. However, before you all start mourning, there's one massively important thing to take note of — win or lose, Khan fulfilled his promise of tabdeeli, or change, and has indelibly altered Pakistan's politics for the better.
Since it's birth, Pakistan has alternated between military dictatorships and corrupt "democratically elected" regimes. No party other than the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — both parties who have treated politics as a birthright — has been able to seriously enter Pakistani politics. However, now Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) has emerged not only as a national party, but as the second largest party, changing up the course of Pakistan's politics in the long-run.
Khan's entry in politics isn't recent. He has been slowly building his party for the past 17 years, receiving almost no support in his earlier days. It wasn't, in fact, until sometime in 2011 that Khan's party really arrived. His clean record, his dedication to Pakistan, and his integrity all appealed to the youth, the urban crowd, and the educated electorate, drawing him a much larger circle of support than ever before.
And, despite his loss, the kind of change Khan brought was seen both on the May 11 election and throughout the campaign process. In a country where election turnout was historically abysmal, unprecedented numbers of voters had turned up and waited in long queues to make sure their voices were heard. Even prior to election day, Khan was successful in mobilizing Pakistan — and most significantly, the youth — in his campaign rally where thousands upon thousands showed up to hear him speak.
Moreover, Khan will now be exactly what Pakistan needs him to be — a strong opposition to the ruling party. Prior to this, Sharif had been in opposition while PPP held power; however, Sharif had continuously been accused of running a friendly opposition. In other words, there was no real opposition.
But, as Khan has proved through his rhetoric in the past, he will indeed be a force to be reckoned with as the opposition, especially now that he has won a parliament seat of his own and his party is walking away with, at the bare minimum, 35 seats.
Lastly, PTI has been victorious in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and will be forming a government in the KPK region. This is the chance that PTI desperately needs to demonstrate to Pakistan its credibility as a serious political party.
In the end, Khan may not have won, but that's okay. Win or lose, PTI deserves due credit for finally emerging not only as one of the most serious threats to Pakistan's status quo parties, but also the youngest and most enthusiastic party. Khan may not have won, but he has certainly arrived, and his party will indeed prove to be the strongest opposition the country has seen yet.