Further information: Pakistani general election, 2013 § Results
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.
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.
Azadi March (2014)
Further information: Azadi March
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. 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). 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’.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.
Panama Papers scandal (2016)
Further information: Panama Papers case
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. 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. 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”.
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.
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.
On 10 July 2017, JIT submitted a 275-page report 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.
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. 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.
A wave of violence derails campaigning ahead of Pakistan's elections
All signs pointed towards violence ahead of elections in Pakistan, but little had been done to protect election candidates. On the contrary, many were stripped of protection.
Within the space of a week, Pakistan’s hopes for a peaceful general election campaign have been rendered asunder by terrorists determined to belie the government’s simplistic claims of “mission accomplished” against an elusive, ruthless enemy.
The ongoing campaign of suicide bombings, waged in tandem by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the so-called Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (Daesh), has targeted prominent candidates from across the political spectrum in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.