By Bartholomew Madukwe with Agency report
As Pakistanis get set for their general election coming up July 25, party of the country’s cricket star-turned-politician, Imran Khan, on Sunday vowed to expel “corrupt” rulers in Pakistan.
Khan explained that with his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, he hoped to achieve a years-long dream of leading the country as its prime minister.
PTI party is the main challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was headed by Sharif until his ban.
PTI leaders have said they are confident they will be able to defeat the PML-N, reports AFP.
“The Pakistani nation can see the dawn of a new Pakistan, which will not be ruled by the corrupt,” PTI said in a statement posted Sunday on Twitter along with a graphic that read “Mafia’s Game Over”.
“Stop us if you can,” the party said in another tweet.
Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, on Saturday approved July 25 as the date for the elections, which would be the second-ever democratic transfer of power in the South Asian country.
The poll will bring to a head political tensions that have been building since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges and later barred from politics for life.
Pakistan’s current government, led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is expected to hand over power to a caretaker administration in the coming days.
Despite Sharif’s ouster, the ruling party says it has invested in improving Pakistan’s rickety infrastructure and attracted billions of dollars in Chinese investment. It has also denied allegations of graft against its leadership by opponents like Khan.
PTI has vowed to fight corruption, presenting itself as a polar opposite of what it calls status-quo politicians.
Since he was ousted, Sharif and the PML-N have become increasingly vocal in their confrontation with the country’s powerful military establishment and the courts, claiming there is a conspiracy afoot to reduce the party’s power.
Political analyst, Hasan Askari, stated that PTI was heading into the election with momentum on its side, but stopped short of predicting a win at the polls that would allow the party to form a government.
He said: “One thing is clear that PTI seats will increase and PML-N’s seats will decrease, but by how many, we can’t say at this stage.”
Political tensions have been building in Pakistan since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges and later barred from politics for life.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s seven-decade history — roughly half of it under military rule to be removed before completing a full term.
The country saw its first ever democratic transfer of power following elections in 2013, which the PML-N won by a landslide.
According to Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Miftah Ismail, “This is the second consecutive parliament to complete its tenure and we are now looking forward to the people to get their verdict on our performance”.
Despite the numerous court rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections, proving it will likely remain a powerful force.
It continues to enjoy large swathes of support in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, but will enter the election under increasing pressure.
In April, a Pakistan court disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for violating the country’s election laws, while Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot in the arm in a suspected assassination attempt by an Islamist gunman earlier this month.
Sharif also sparked a firestorm after suggesting Pakistani militants were behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, approaching what is seen as a red line in the country by touching on criticism of Pakistan’s military.