The two main opposition parties in Pakistan have a clear majority after yesterday’s parliamentary elections - and it looks like they’ll may be putting aside their differences to try and form a coalition.
Meanwhile, the jihadist parties received very little support – and observers say the elections appear to have been free and fair.
So is the perception of Pakistan as an easy home for Islamic militants with little interest in functioning democracy a long way from reality?
We asked two people ‘in the know’ for their opinions, and you can hear what they’ve got to say on today’s programme. Here’s a brief outline of what they said.
Kamila Shamsie, novelist based in London and Karachi.
“Right now I’m in Karachi watching the election results come in. I know that a lot of people who live outside Pakistan think that Pakistan is a militant place across the board, that there is strong support for extremism and the religious groups. In fact that’s not true, and one of the frustrations of being away from Pakistan for the last few years has been hearing that point of view. Typically, Pakistanis have rejected the religious parties when it is time to vote. The only exception was in 2002, when the religious parties did well. This was partly due to a successful anti-American campaign, because of the American presence in Afghanistan. But these elections are a good reminder that Pakistanis do not want militancy and extremism, but a better, democratic set up”.
Professor Iftikhar Malik, senior lecturer at Bath Spa University.
“Pakistan is one of those sad cases where you don’t often get a good press. The news is always bad. But Pakistan is also rare among post-colonial Muslim countries, because it has a long tradition of political parties. Pakistanis have used their right to vote, and they’ve shown that they’re optimistic about their future. They’ve gone to the polling stations and conducted their democratic right, and all of a sudden there’s a good feeling, a sense of achievement, and a feeling that perhaps that’s the way to fight religious extremism”.