Pakistani general election, 2018

Pakistani general election, 2018

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All 342 seats in the National Assembly
172 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls

  Mian Shehbaz Sharif.JPG Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - 2012 (7268800476) (cropped).jpg Imran Khan - portrait (cropped).jpg
Leader Shehbaz Sharif Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Imran Khan
Leader since 6 March 2018 30 December 2007 25 April 1996
Leader's seat Swat-II
Dera Ghazi Khan-IV
Karachi West-II
Karachi South-I
Karachi East-II
Last election 166 seats, 32.77% 42 seats, 15.23% 35 seats, 16.92%
Seats needed Increase 6 Increase 130 Increase 137

Incumbent Prime Minister

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

General elections are scheduled to be held in Pakistan on 25 July 2018 to elect the members of the National Assembly and the four Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan.[1][2] Most of the opinion polls suggest an overall Pakistan Muslim League (N) lead with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf being the close second.[3]

There have been allegations of pre-poll rigging being conducted by judiciary, military and intelligence agencies to sway the election results in favor of PTI and against PML (N).[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]


2013 elections[]

Following the elections in 2013, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), led by twice Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, emerged as the largest party with 166 seats out of a total of 342 in the National Assembly. Although this was short of a majority, Sharif was able to form a government after several independents joined his party.[13]

During the election campaign, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by prominent cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, was widely expected to have huge success in the polls. The party fell short of these expectations, instead only taking 35 seats. It became the 3rd largest party in the National Assembly and formed a coalition government in the restive north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[14]

Azadi March (2014)[]

PTI had initially conceded the elections to PML (N), although they asked for manual recounts to be carried out in several constituencies where rigging had been allegedly carried out. [15][16] These calls were not answered by the government or the supreme court, despite a 2,100 page white paper by the party which allegedly contained evidence of vote-rigging in favour of the PML (N).[17] An ‘Azadi March’ was started by Khan on 14 August 2014 which would demand the government to call a snap election. This march continued for 126 days, until the 2014 Peshawar school massacre, which forced Khan to end the long march for the sake of ‘national unity’.[18] A judicial commission was formed by the government which would probe the allegations of vote-rigging: it found the election to have been conducted in a free and fair manner.[19]

Panama Papers scandal (2016)[]

On 3 April 2016 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) made 11.5 million secret documents, later known as the Panama Papers, available to the public.[20] The documents, sourced from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, among other revelations about other public figures in many other countries, included details of eight offshore companies with links to the family of Nawaz Sharif, the then-incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan, and his brother Shehbaz Sharif, the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab.[21] According to the ICIJ, Sharif's children Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.[22]

Sharif refused to resign. Instead, he attempted to form a judicial commission. This, however, was not done, which led opposition leader Imran Khan to file a petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 29 August seeking the disqualification of Sharif from the premiership and as a member of the National Assembly. Political leaders Sheikh Rasheed and Siraj-ul-Haq also supported this petition. Khan called, once again, for his supporters to put Islamabad in lockdown until Sharif resigned, although this was called off soon before it was meant to take place.[23]

On 20 April 2017, on a 3-2 verdict, the Supreme Court decided against the disqualification of Sharif: instead calling for a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to be created which would probe these allegations further.[24]

On 10 July 2017, JIT submitted a 275-page report[25] in the apex court. The report requested NAB to file a reference against Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and his sons under section 9 of National Accountability Ordinance. Additionaly, the report claimed that his daughter Maryam was guilty of falsifying documents, as she used the Calibri font in a document from 2006, despite the font itself not being available for public use until 2007.[26]

Disqualification of Nawaz Sharif (2017)[]

On 28 July 2017, following the submittal of the JIT report, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that Sharif was dishonest, therefore not fulfilling the requirements of articles 62 and 63 of the constitution which require one who holds public office to be ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ (urdu for ‘Truthful and Virtuous’). Hence, he was disqualified as Prime Minister and as a Member of the National Assembly.[27][28] The court also ordered National Accountability Bureau to file a reference against Sharif, his family and his former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on corruption charges.[29]


Major by-elections (2017-2018)[]

Following the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, several by-elections were held throughout Pakistan.

Lahore by-election, September 2017[]

The first of these was the by-election in Sharif’s former constituency, NA-120 Lahore, which is located in the capital city of the Punjab province, a province where the PML (N) was the ruling party. It retained this seat, albeit with a much reduced majority due to gains by the PTI and minor Islamist parties.[30]

Peshawar by-election, October 2017[]

The second of these was a by election in Peshawar, capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the PTI was the ruling party. NA-4 once again voted for PTI, despite a reduced majority: once again mainly due to the rise of Islamist parties. These by-elections largely were largely seen as indicators that the ruling parties in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab were still electorally strong.[31]

Lodhran by-election, 2018[]

On 15 December 2017, Jahangir Khan Tareen, General Secretary of the PTI, was disqualified from holding public office. Hence, his NA-154 Lodhran seat was vacated.[32]

In a previous by-election in this constituency in 2015, Tareen won this seat with a majority in excess of 35,000 votes. Therefore, this seat was seen as a stronghold for the PTI.

In what was seen as an upset result, Iqbal Shah of the PML (N) won this by-election with a majority over 25,000 votes against Jahangir Tareen’s son, Ali Tareen. Many saw this as a failure on the PTI’s behalf, and the result led to a drop in morale for PTI workers. [33]


The National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Pakistan dissolved as early as 28 May for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, and as late as 31 May for Punjab, Balochistan, and the National Assembly.[34]

The assemblies dissolved during the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month where Muslims worldwide refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sundown. Hence, most major parties did not start campaigning until late June.[35]

Nomination papers[]

On 4 June, parties and individuals started filing nomination papers for the elections. This process continued until 8 June.[36] After this, the returning officer in each constituency began scrutiny of the nominated candidates and decided whether or not to accept the nomination papers.

The scrutiny resulted in many high profile politicians having their nomination papers rejected: Imran Khan (chairman of PTI), Farooq Sattar (chairman of MQM-P and Pervez Musharraf (chairman of APML and former Military President), had their nomination papers rejected (Khan’s nomination papers were later accepted).[37][38][39]

Additionally, politicians Fawad Chaudry (Information Secretary of PTI) and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (former Prime Minister) were disqualified from contesting these elections by election tribunals due to the non declaration of assets in their nomination papers. This was controversial because election tribinals were seen as not having the jurisdiction to disqualify candidates, rather only to accept or reject their nomination papers. The Lahore High Court eventually overturned these judgements and allowed the respective candidates to contest their elections. [40][41]

Pre-election violence[]

On 10 July, there was a suicide bombing attack on political rally of Awami National Party (ANP) in YakaToot neighborhood of Peshawar in which fourteen people were killed and sixty five injured. Among the killed was ANP's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly candidate, Haroon Bilour. Bilour was son of Bashir Ahmad Bilour who was also killed in a suicide bombing attack in December 2012. Elections for Constituency PK-78 were postponed to an disclosed date by the Election Commission. [42]

On 12 July, a spokesperson for former Member of National Assembly Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi was killed and another citizen was injured after unidentified men opened fire at the spokesperson's car in Peshawar.[43]

On 13 July, 4 citizens were killed and 10 were injured after a planted bomb exploded near the car of JUI-F candidate Akram Khan Durrani in Bannu.[44] In a separate incident the same day, a suicide bombing killed 131 people and injured over 300. Among those killed was BAP's candidate for the Balochistan Assembly, Nawabzada Siraj Raisani.[45]

Electoral system[]

The 342 members of the National Assembly are elected by two methods in three categories; 272 are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting; 60 are reserved for females and 10 for ethnic and religious minority groups; both sets of reserved seats use proportional representation with a 5% electoral threshold. This proportional number, however, is based on the number of seats won rather than votes cast.[46] To win a simple majority, a party would have to take 137 seats.[47] For less distinguished and less fortunate people, who are interested in contesting election on any political party ticket, access to political leaders is very difficult.[48]

General Elections 2018 will be held under new delimitation of constituencies which was result of 2017 Census of Pakistan.[49] As per the notification issued on March 5 2018, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) will have three constituencies, Punjab 141, Sindh 61, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 39, Balochistan 16 and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) will have 12 constituencies in the National Assembly.[50][51][52]

Likewise in provincial assemblies, Punjab will have 297 constituencies, Sindh 130, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 99 and Balochistan 51.

Electoral reforms[]

In June 2017 the Economic Coordination Committee approved the procurement of new printing machines with a bridge loan of 864 million rupees.[53] The government has also developed new software for the Election Commission of Pakistan and NADRA to ensure a "free, fair, impartial, transparent and peaceful general election."[54] The former Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid elaborated that youth reaching the age of 18 will automatically be registered as voters when they apply for a CNIC from NADRA.[54]

Contesting parties[]

Party Political Position Leader Seats won previously (FPTP)
Pakistan Muslim League (N) Centre-right Shehbaz Sharif 126
Pakistan Peoples Party Centre-left Bilawal Bhutto Zardari 33
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Centre Imran Khan 26
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Left Wing Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui 19
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Far right Fazl-ur-Rehman 14
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Left wing Mahmood Khan Achakzai 3
Awami National Party Left Wing Asfandyar Wali Khan 2
Pak Sarzameen Party Left Wing Syed Mustafa Kamal 0
Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan Far Right Khadim Hussain Rizvi 0
Balochistan Awami Party Centre Jam Kamal Khan 0

Electoral analysis[]

A pre-poll "swing" analysis showed that out of a total 272 constituencies, 30% were ’big wins’. Out of these, 56% belonged to Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), 18% to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), 16% to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and 9% to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The same was also reflected in Election Hattrick's analysis, in which there were 22% Hattrick seats out of which 47% belonged to PML-N, 24% to PPP and 15% to MQM. As the PTI didn’t contest the 2008 elections, it was excluded from this list of seats.

The role of electable candidates was only a major factor in 4% of constituencies (20% of Hattricks constituencies). Swing constituencies (about 70%) greatly rely on opinion polls, the latest of which show the PML-N and PTI being in a close contest.[55][56]

Opinion polls[]

Graphical Summary[]

Each coloured line specifies a political party and how strong their voting intention is nationwide for the National Assembly, based on a 3 point moving average. Parties which poll below 10% are not shown.

Individual polls up to one year before the elections[]

Date Pollster Publisher Sample PML-N PTI PPP MQM-P JUI-F ANP Others Lead
04 July 2018 IPOR[57] GSP 3,735 32% 29% 13% 2% 3% 1% 20% 3%
06 Jun 2018 Gallup Pakistan[58] Geo/Jang 3,000 26% 25% 16% N/A 2% 1% 30% 1%
28 May 2018 Pulse Consultant[58] 3,163 27% 30% 17% 1% 4% 1% 20% 3%
May 2018 Gallup Pakistan[59] Self 3,000 38% 25% 15% 22% 13%
Mar 2018 Gallup Pakistan[60] WSJ 2,000 36% 24% 17% 23% 12%
01 Nov 2017 Gallup Pakistan[61] Geo/Jang 3,000 34% 26% 15% 2% 2% 2% 19% 8%
25 Oct 2017 Pulse Consultant[61] 3,243 36% 23% 15% 2% 1% 1% 22% 13%
24 Oct 2017 IPOR[62][63] GSP 4,540 38% 27% 17% 3% 1% 1% 14% 11%
11 May 2013 Election 2013[64] ECP 45,388,404 32.77% 16.92% 15.23% 5.41% 3.22% 1.00% 25.57% 15.85%

Allegations of pre-poll rigging[]

There have been reports suggesting there is a plan between judiciary and military bodies to influence the outcome of the election. The alleged goal is to halt the party of Nawaz Sharif from coming into power and to bring the results in favor of PTI, so that Imran Khan - who is considered close to the military - can be installed as the prime minister.[4][5][6] There have been claims of PML (N)'s campaign material being ripped apart by authorities while leaving alone material belonging to PTI.[65] There have been suggestions that candidates belonging to PML (N) have been coerced by ISI to switch to those parties whose future government can be better controlled by military.[66][67] On the last day of scrutiny of nomination papers, seven PML (N) candidates from Southern Punjab returned their tickets leaving no option for PML (N) to field replacement candidates, depriving them an opportunity to win those seats.[68] There have also been reports of election engineering by army and intelligence agencies in Balochistan province in favor of Balochistan Awami Party.[69]

Reports further suggested that there was evidence of collusion between the judiciary and military, in that two military officials were appointed to the Joint Investigation Team to investigate corruption allegations against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which were further strengthened by the circumstances of the Avenfield case verdict against the Sharifs.[4][5][6] There have been allegations that the micromanagement of political parties and the censorship of the newspapers, social media and TV channels is to further influence the election result.[10][8][70] An official from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that "The level of army interference and political engineering is unprecedented."[66] Another institution, the National Accountability Bureau has been described as being used by military intelligence agencies, including ISI, to bring politicians in line by threatening to bring corruption cases against them.[11][12]

See also[]


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