Accusations of military interference, encroaching extremism and a series of deadly attacks have cast an alarming shadow over Pakistan’s hopes for a rare democratic transition of power in next week’s election. Observers have slammed “blatant” attempts to manipulate the ballot, which will see the brother of a recently jailed three-time prime minister face off against a former World Cup-winning cricketer for leadership of the nuclear-armed nation, whose short history is peppered by coups and assassinations. A series of deadly attacks in mid-July has further darkened the mood, denting optimism over hard-won security for the country of 207 million.
“Whatever its result, the July 25 election will only increase Pakistan’s instability,” says former Pakistan diplomat Husain Haqqani. “It will be an election without winners.”
Nearly 106 million Pakistanis, including more than 19 million new voters, will choose a successor to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which took power in 2013 and hopes for a new mandate under leader Shahbaz Sharif.