Pakistan elections: Who are the main candidates for prime minister?

This election will mark the first transfer of power from one government to another without any military interference. Here is a look at the main candidates for prime minister.

3. Pervez Musharraf, All Pakistan Muslim League

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    Pakistan's former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf (c.) leaves after appearing in court in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, April 17.
    Anjum Naveed/AP
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After four years of self-imposed exile, former president and military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan this year to, in his words, “lead” the country out of economic turmoil and problems with terrorism.

If he can find a district to let him run – he’s been barred from running in four districts at the time of writing but is said to be looking to appeal those – he will still have a number of challenges ahead.

Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, after ousting the government of Nawaz Sharif in a coup, just as Mr. Sharif tried to replace him.

Under his regime Musharraf aligned Pakistan with the United States in the “war on terror” after Sept. 11, while at the same time providing a haven for Taliban fleeing from Afghanistan. He was popular for liberalizing the media by allowing private broadcasters to operate for the first time in Pakistan's history.

But after nine years, he was, himself, forced out of the presidential office when Mr. Sharif and Benazir Bhutto’s party joined to impeach him through the Parliament. Facing legal battles, including charges of having a role in Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, and treason, he fled the country.

In 2010, from England, he created his own faction of the Muslim League political party called the All Pakistan Muslim League, and announced his intent to return to politics. 

He has a centrist approach. He hopes to appeal to Pakistan's younger generation who started careers during his tenure, as well as the business community that became rich overnight during his tenure because of the financial and real estate boom, and of the PakistanI diaspora. 

He lost popularity as a leader when he tried to suspend the Constitution in 2007, and fired a number of judges. Still, when he returned to Karachi last month he said he expected hundreds of thousands to show up and support him. Yet only a couple thousand people welcomed him. 

Musharraf doesn’t have strong candidates in his party. And at best, analysts say, even if he is able to overcome the legal and registration hurdles he faces, he will only secure a seat for himself, making him irrelevant in a 342-seat Parliament.

He recently admitted to CNN that he gave the CIA permission to launch drone attacks inside his country, directly contradicting repeated claims by the Pakistani government that it has never authorized them. The claim has puzzled analysts since the former leader is beset by court cases and a lack of popular enthusiasm for his election campaign.

On top of those hurdles, Musharraf also faces threats from the Pakistani Taliban, which has openly vowed to assassinate him; he cracked down on affiliated groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi back in the early 2000s.

UPDATE: On April 18, A court revoked his bail and ordered Musharraf's arrest over his attempt to impose house arrest on judges in March 2007. He fled the courtroom and issued a statement saying he would make an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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