The Power of Democracy: The 2013 Pakistani Elections

Hassan Sayed ’15

As polls opened at 8:00 AM on May 11, Pakistanis flocked to thousands of voting booths across the nation. The 2013 Pakistani parliament elections marked the emergence of a third major party in Pakistani politics:  The Pakistan Justice Movement Party party led by former cricket player and philanthropist Imran Khan, a major figure in motivating the young people of Pakistan to participate in the polls. Khan vied for the top spot against the Pakistan Muslim League’s Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan who was ousted in 1999.

Imran Khan at a political rally in Multan on May 6.4 (NPR)

Yet the importance of these elections lies not in the entry of Khan’s party nor the outcome of the polls. For the first time, an elected government will properly hand over power to the next after the allotted five year terms; previously, governments gained power through military coups or other such disputes.

Moreover, the 2013 elections marked the largest voter turnout in Pakistan’s history at over 60%. While this success is partially a result of Khan’s involvement as a popular figure, it is mainly attributed to the increasing interest surrounding the country’s future and issues such as corruption, terrorism, and development plaguing the nation.

Citizens, men and women, young and elderly, braved the intense heat to reach the polls. Yet at the same time, they persevered through the imminent fear of death and destruction. The Pakistani Taliban vowed to release at least 300 suicide bombers on the day of the elections to heavily hinder the voting process. And there was violence: at least 29 were killed and dozens more wounded as conflict ensued in Balochistan and other areas of Pakistan. But despite this danger, the Pakistanis carried on to the voting booths.

Ultimately, the elections show the power of democracy, the willingness of the people to risk their lives for the welfare and future of their country. And while a troubled Pakistan still has a ways to go, the elections mark a step in the right direction for the nation.