Design: Hussain Afzal
Design: Hussain Afzal

General Elections 2024: some key players and their electoral background

  • From PML-N to ANP, some are seen as standout candidates owing to several reasons
Updated 30 Jan, 2024 01:32am

As Pakistanis gear up for the much-awaited 2024 general elections scheduled for February 8, the political landscape is buzzing with activity. Several key players are vying for the public’s mandate, and polls promise to surprise followers and stakeholders alike. Let’s take a closer look at some of the prominent figures who are shaping the course of the upcoming elections.

Contesting elections from his stronghold Lahore’s NA-130, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif has made his return to Pakistan ahead of the elections, almost seven years after he was ousted from premiership. The three-time prime minister is considered among the front-runners with main rival Imran Khan currently incarcerated, and his party stripped of the electoral symbol. Let’s take a look at his political background.

Born on December 25, 1949, in Lahore, Nawaz is a prominent Pakistani politician. He served as the Chief Minister of Punjab in the mid-1980s and later became the Prime Minister in 1990 and 1997. Despite achievements in economic reforms and infrastructure development, his terms were marked by controversies and tensions with the military, leading to resignations and a coup in 1999. Nawaz made a political comeback in 2013, securing a third term as Prime Minister, but faced challenges, including corruption allegations. His complex political journey reflects the dynamic nature of Pakistani politics.

Nawaz Sharif’s influence in Pakistani politics has endured through legal battles, periods of exile, and comebacks. His role as a three-time Prime Minister and leader of the PML-N underscores his significant impact on the country’s political landscape, despite facing challenges and controversies throughout his career.

It would be interesting to see how he deals with the establishment if his party wins the elections.

Nawaz Sharif’s daughter and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz is contesting elections from NA-119, and NA-120, and multiple seats in the Punjab Assembly, such as PP-159, PP-160, PP-165, and PP-80. Though she is new to electoral politics, she has been at the forefront of PML-N’s mantra following Nawaz Sharif’s ouster from power.

Starting her political career in the early 2010s, Maryam emerged as a vocal advocate for her father and the PML-N. Her passionate speeches and strong social media presence have garnered her a following, particularly among the youth.

However, Maryam Nawaz’s political journey has not been without challenges. In August 2019, during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s tenure, she faced legal troubles and was incarcerated over money laundering charges.

Despite the legal hurdles, she secured bail in November 2019, citing fundamental rights and humanitarian reasons. This period of legal scrutiny added a layer of complexity to Maryam Nawaz’s political narrative, reflecting the intricate dynamics of Pakistani politics and the legal landscape surrounding key political figures.

Shehbaz Sharif, former premier and PML-N President, is a prominent figure in Pakistani politics with a distinguished electoral history. Born on September 23, 1951, in Lahore, he has played a crucial role in Punjab’s political landscape, consistently participating in elections across various constituencies. His influence extends beyond regional politics, notably during his term as the Prime Minister of Pakistan within the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) government.

Shehbaz Sharif also holds the record for the longest tenure in Punjab’s history as chief minister, spanning over 11 years and covering the 1997 Nawaz government, the 2008 Pakistan Peoples Party’s regime, and the 2013 PML-N’s rule.

In the upcoming elections, he is vying for a seat in Kasur’s NA-132 constituency, emphasising his unwavering commitment to electoral politics. Despite legal challenges, including his September 2020 arrest on charges related to money laundering and possessing assets beyond known means by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Shehbaz Sharif has powered through.

Released on bail on April 14, 2021, he maintained political prominence as the opposition leader, guiding PML-N’s reconciliation policy. This approach played a pivotal role in the party’s resurgence to power in April 2022 after a successful no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, showcasing Shehbaz Sharif’s enduring influence in shaping Pakistan’s political trajectory.

Born on September 21, 1988, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is a prominent Pakistani politician and a member of the Bhutto family. Following the tragic assassination of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007, Bilawal took on the role of Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

A graduate of Oxford University, Bilawal played an important role in leading the PPP during the 2018 general elections, resulting in the party becoming the largest in Sindh and the third-largest in the country. He took oath as a member of the National Assembly on August 13, 2018. His advocacy centres around principles of democracy, human rights, and social justice. Bilawal has been an outspoken critic of the presidential system, a defender of freedom of expression, and a proponent of women’s rights, actively opposing child marriages.

During the PDM’s government, Bilawal served as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan from April 27, 2022, to August 10, 2023, where he notably adopted a resolute stance on the Kashmir issue, asserting Pakistan’s right over the region.

In a noteworthy departure from his stronghold in Larkana, Bilawal chose to contest the election from Lahore’s NA-127. His campaign is anchored in a ten-point agenda, encompassing initiatives such as the youth card, the creation of millions of jobs, the provision of low-cost houses, and the promise of free electricity for underprivileged households.

Asif Ali Zardari, the current co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and former President of Pakistan (2008-2013), boasts a multifaceted political story woven with both triumphs and controversies. Known for his adept ability to forge cross-party alliances, Zardari has earned the moniker “king of reconciliation” while simultaneously navigating a landscape of accusations and challenges.

Emerging from the shadow of his wife Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari carved his own path in Pakistani politics. As Investment Minister under Benazir Bhutto, he navigated both political triumphs and accusations of corruption. Following her tragic demise, Zardari took the helm of the PPP and ascended to the presidency in 2008. His turbulent term faced economic hardships, security challenges, and military friction.

Zardari’s political acumen extends beyond his own term. He played a decisive role in the no-confidence vote that toppled Imran Khan’s government in April 2022. His influence within the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition cannot be understated, as evidenced by his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s appointment as Foreign Minister.

Zardari’s ambition for his son is an open secret. He is believed to harbour desires to see Bilawal ascend to the Prime Minister’s seat, potentially solidifying a Bhutto-Zardari dynasty in Pakistani politics. However, Zardari’s own legacy remains a subject of debate, with supporters hailing his political sagacity and detractors pointing to corruption charges and a perceived authoritarian streak.

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, contesting election from PP-32 Gujrat, is the current President of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). His political journey spans across various key roles, showcasing a dynamic and influential career in Pakistani politics.

Before assuming the presidency of PTI, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi served as the President of the Punjab chapter of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). His political prominence extends to his role as the former Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, where he played a crucial part in legislative affairs.

Notably, Pervaiz Elahi has twice held the office of Chief Minister in Punjab. His initial term, spanning from 2002 to 2007, was followed by a second term from July 2022 to January 2023. This dual tenure as Chief Minister underscores his experience and leadership within the province.

In the political arena, Elahi demonstrated strategic acumen by leading the PML-Q alliance with PTI in both the 2013 and 2018 general elections. His pivotal role in these alliances culminated in him becoming the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly in 2018.

Despite his previous affiliation with the PML-Q, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi took a bold step in April 2022 when he went against his party’s stance to stand with PTI and Imran Khan during a crucial no-trust vote. This decision showcased his commitment to a cause beyond party lines, and earned him a second, though limited, term as the Chief Minister of Punjab. Further solidifying his political allegiance, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi left PML-Q, his parent party, and joined PTI in March 2023.

Elahi has been in jail since May 9, post PTI worker riots. NAB filed a corruption reference of over Rs 1 billion against him, his son Moonis Elahi, and others, accusing them of plundering the national treasury and receiving kickbacks

Arrested in August, initially in a Rs70 million graft case related to misusing development funds for Gujrat district, he has remained in detention. Despite occasional releases, he has been re-arrested multiple times on charges like money laundering and illegal appointments in the Punjab Assembly, adding complexity to his political profile.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a prominent figure in Pakistani politics, stands as both a religious leader and a vocal political force. As chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) party and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, he holds considerable sway both within the religious sphere and on the national political stage.

His political history is marked by strong opposition to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, culminating in his leadership of the PDM alliance that successfully ousted Khan’s government in April 2022. Previously, Fazlur Rehman served as Chairman of the Kashmir Committee during his time as a Member of the National Assembly.

While his influence and leadership within the JUI-F and PDM are undeniable, his political stance and alliances have drawn both support and criticism. Regardless of perspective, Maulana Fazlur Rehman remains a key player in the Pakistani political landscape, with his previous role in the PDM likely ensuring his continued prominence in the years to come.

Jahangir Khan Tareen, a prominent figure in Pakistani politics, boasts a multifaceted career marked by both high-level positions and controversies. Once a close ally of Imran Khan and former secretary general of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Tareen is running for seats in the National Assembly from both Multan and Lodhran constituencies.

His political trajectory took a turn in 2021 when he faced an inquiry into the sugar scam, leading to a rift within the PTI. In 2022, Tareen’s independent group within the party played a role in PML-N’s ascent to government in Punjab, further distancing him from his former comrades.

Most recently, Tareen charted his own course by founding the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) in 2023, marking a new chapter in his political journey.

Maulana Siraj-ul-Haq, the current chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, navigates a complex political landscape as both a religious leader and a national politician. As the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, he holds significant influence within the religious sphere. Maulana Siraj ul Haq will contest elections for the National Assembly seat (NA-6) from Dir.

His political history reveals a period of collaboration with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), joining their government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2013 to 2018. However, a strategic shift led him to leave the PTI alliance months before the 2018 elections, opting to contest on a combined platform with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F).

This highlights his independent political maneuvering and willingness to pursue alliances beyond traditional alignments.

Aimal Wali Khan, grandson of Pakistani Pashtun nationalist leader Abdul Wali Khan and son of former Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Asfandyar Wali Khan, navigates the political landscape of Pakistan as President of the Awami National Party (ANP) in the province. He entered politics in 2007 through the ANP’s student wing and later served as the party’s acting General Secretary for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Although unsuccessful in his 2018 bid for a provincial assembly seat, he rose to lead the ANP in the province in 2019. Khan’s political journey continues as he contests the National Assembly elections from NA-25 Charsadda, carrying the legacy of his family’s prominent role in Pashtun nationalist politics within the ANP.

Syed Saad Hussain Rizvi, son of late Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi, emerged onto the political scene following his father’s death in 2020. He assumed leadership of the TLP, a far-right religious political party known for its vocal advocacy of blasphemy laws and its controversial protests.

Rizvi’s political journey has been marked by electoral participation, contesting in two National Assembly seats including Attock and Manchanabad, and involvement in TLP demonstrations that have sometimes led to clashes with authorities. While Rizvi carries the legacy of his father’s influence within the TLP, his own political trajectory and future actions remain to be seen.

Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, currently the convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), has navigated a dynamic political landscape marked by shifts in government alliances.

He served as Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication from 2018 to 2020 within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. Notably, he resigned his ministerial position months before a no-confidence vote that ultimately ousted the PTI government in 2022. In the wake of that political shift, Siddiqui aligned with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition, which successfully formed the current government.

Mustafa Kamal is a prominent figure in Karachi’s political landscape. He served as the city’s mayor from 2013 to 2016, representing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). However, in 2014, he parted ways with the MQM due to internal conflicts. Two years later, he co-founded the Pakistan Sar Zameen Party (PSP). In 2023, Kamal’s political journey took another turn when he merged the PSP with the MQM-Pakistan. This move saw him assume the position of Senior Deputy Convener within the MQM-P. Currently, Kamal is contesting the upcoming elections from the NA-242 Karachi constituency.

Note: The list does not feature Imran Khan or some other prominent PTI leaders as they haven’t been allowed to contest elections.


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