With Pakistan's elections out of the way, Pakistanis are eagerly anticipating two things sorely missed during the last five years of democracy: governance and leadership.
One would expect democracy – with its large quotient of accountability to the people – will have provided large doses of both governance and leadership to Pakistan. Not so. Since the removal of President Musharraf's regime, the only aspect of democracy visible to most Pakistanis has been an unmistakable slide towards anarchy.
The military, still smarting from the ignominies associated with the final few years of Musharraf's rule, stayed away from active politics. Moreover, the military is busy fighting Taliban militants bent on undermining the Pakistani state. It was left to an activist judiciary to try and maintain some semblance of control over an inept civilian government. The judiciary's controversial efforts unseated Prime Minister Gilani but failed to galvanize the government to implement any meaningful policy reforms.
Imran Khan, the white knight ever-ready to save Pakistan, made some electoral inroads in Election 2013. Khan's party was helped by the 'protest vote' against Pakistan's two mainstream political parties (vehicles for Zaradari and Sharif). Having won the most seats in the Khyberpukhtoonkhwa (KPK) provincial assembly, Khan has the opportunity to prove himself by forming the KPK government. Voters will be watching closely to see how his party fares in the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics.
Nonetheless, Nawaz Sharif won a handsome victory in Election 2013. People expect him to put his mandate to good use. Top of the nation's wish list are security and reliable electricity. Sharif has the reputation of being pro-business. Surely, a businessperson understands that electricity is a prerequisite for a modern economy!
Additionally, people outside of Sharif's stronghold of Punjab province will scrutinize his focus on Pakistan's three smaller provinces. Will he abandon the likes of Karachi, rural Sindh, KPK and Balochistan or will the federal government help to provincial governments' resolve pressing issues? If Sharif acts as the Prime Minister of Punjab, the strategic repercussions for the federation may be severe. Already, separatist forces are clearly at work in Balochistan. It will not take much for disgruntled elements to undermine the federation in the other provinces.
Zardari's government chose to compromise national interests in favor of competing personal interests. Sure, Pakistanis can vote out Sharif's government in five years if his party too fails the country. However, the country is fast running out of time; and five years is a long time in today's wired age.
Pakistan rightly expect Sharif's incoming regime to make progress in stemming the country's decline. Pakistanis may not tolerate another five years of supporting a political elite which does no more than attend the National Assembly a few times a year, while keeping themselves isolated from national consciousness behind multiple layers of state sponsored security.