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Pakistan is electing a new parliament. Here are the key players in Thursday’s vote

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan is electing a new parliament on Thursday. No less than 44 political parties are vying for a share of the 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly, or the lower house of parliament, where an additional 70 seats are reserved for women and minorities.

But in a country where civilian governments have been upended by military takeovers and where the army has ruled the nation for half of its 76 years of independence, it’s often the traditional elites that have called the shots.

Here are the key players ahead of the country’s elections.


Business mogul, multi-millionaire and three-time premier, Nawaz Sharif hails from one of the top two families that have dominated Pakistani politics for decades. His Pakistan Muslim League party won landslide victories in 2007 and 2013. But the 74-year-old Sharif has never completed a term in office and was ousted from power each time: once by the military, once by the Supreme Court, and once by the president.

Like other Pakistani former prime ministers, Sharif has been dogged by legal cases and prison sentences. A Pakistani court in 2020 issued an arrest warrant and threatened to declare him a fugitive from justice if he didn’t return from self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom to face corruption charges. Despite the years of controversies, he enjoys immense popularity and musters thousands of supporters at party rallies.

He has a clear path to a fourth term in office after courts overturned his convictions and prison sentences after his return to the country last October. With his archrival and nemesis Imran Khan now in prison, the stage appears set for a reversal of fortunes from the 2018 election,