An electoral campaign marred by violence has finally come to an end in Pakistan. Electoral returns showed that Nawaz Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League, are expected to win easily and have a commanding hold on government.
This is a remarkable turnaround for Sharif, who was previously prime minister for two terms until being overthrown in a coup d'état. Sharif and his party may have won the election but will have to govern a Pakistan marred by religious and sectarian violence, a collapsing economy, systematic corruption, and a crumbling infrastructure.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League is expected to get at least 130 seats out of the 136 needed for a majority in the Pakistani parliament. The main loser of the election was the secular Pakistan People's Party, who will go down from leading the government to roughly 32 seats in parliament.
Imran Khan, the former cricket player, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) Party gained 34 seats in their best showing since the founding of the party. His anti-corruption message was massively popular in the country and was reported on widely in western media. He also called for a halt to U.S. drone strikes against suspected militants on Pakistani soil.
Khan said that his party would investigate allegations of voting irregularities during election day. His supporters protested in Karachi outside the Election Commission office, demanding new elections for some seats.
Sharif served two terms as prime minister before being overthrown in the military coup that saw Pervez Musharraf come to power. He would be jailed and later exiled. He returned to Pakistan in 2007.
Despite violence for religious and sectarian militants, the voter turnout was estimated to be around 60%. On election day, over 20 people were killed and 20 injured in several bombings around the country.
Sharif may have won the election but he faces a country mired in turmoil. Domestically, Pakistan will have to deal with religious and sectarian strife along with a worsening economic situation. Internationally, he will have to deal with Pakistan's relationship with the United States with regards to the "War on Terror," along with determining a policy to face Pakistan's traditional rival India. Sharif may have won the election, but the true test of governing begins now.