Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ruled ineligible for his post after a Supreme Court decision last summer, and his recent conviction on corruption charges saw him arrested when he returned home from abroad last week. While many in the country celebrated this as a sign that Pakistan was finally bringing corrupt politicians to justice, the supporters of Nawaz's Pakistan Muslim League decried it as a witch hunt that they alleged was hatched by the military in order to tilt the odds in former cricketer Imran Khan's favor.
The leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which translates to the Pakistan Movement for Justice and popularly known by its abbreviation as the PTI, is just as famous for the development that he helped bring to the Afghan-bordering province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as part of its coalition government as he is for his sports exploits, and his relentless anti-corruption campaign has earned him millions of supporters all throughout the country. The Pakistan People's Party is also competing in the election by fielding Bilawal Bhutto Zardawi, the young scion of his famous mother Benazir, while Nawaz's party has nominated his brother Shehbaz, the chief minister of the most populous province of Punjab. Each party brings their own vision for Pakistan's future development to the race, which makes this a truly unique election.
Next week's vote will be taking place amidst very challenging domestic and international circumstances. A suicide bombing targeted a campaign rally in Balochistan over the weekend and killed 149 people, a troubling sign that terrorism is still creeping into the country from neighboring Afghanistan. On top of that, Pakistan's relations with its former American ally have been profoundly damaged over the past year and a half since Trump entered into office, which will be yet another serious issue that the country's next Prime Minister will have to deal with. No less important is the population explosion in the country and the pressure that this is placing on its already strained water resources, which altogether puts Pakistan at an historic crossroads ahead of the upcoming vote.
Sabena Siddiqui, Foreign Affairs Journalist focusing on the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC and South Asia, who also works as an op-ed writer at China.org.cn, South China Morning Post and Asia Times, and Waqas Mahmood Dogar, Pakistani political commentator who writes for "The Nation" newspaper, join the show.
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