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Elections in Pakistan: Any Hope for a Secular Government?

Elections run by a caretaker government in May will mark the first successful transition from one democratically elected Pakistani government to another without an intervening military coup or implementation of martial law. Given the importance of Pakistan to U.S. security interests — and record-low approval ratings of the United States in Pakistan — the results of this election will be closely observed.

With the declining popularity of the secular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the resurgence of Nawaz Sharif’s conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and the rising influence of former cricket hero turned devout Muslim Imran Khan and his party (PTI), the likely results of the election are far from predictable. The Pakistan Election Committee’s enforcement of decades-old articles added to the constitution under the military dictator Zia ul-Haq, which allow election officials to disqualify candidates based on knowledge of the Quran, casts a shadow on what should be an election process open to candidates without regard to their religious convictions.

Panel

Aparna Pande, Moderator

Hudson Research Fellow and Director, Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia

Farahnaz Ispahani, Panelist

Former Pakistani parliament member and media advisor to President Asif Ali Zardari

Dr. Mohammad Taqi, Panelist

Physician and frequent contributor to the Daily Times

Peter Manikas, Panelist

Senior Associate and Regional Director for Asia programs, National Democratic Institute

Experts

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