This article was updated on July 28 at 9:41 p.m.
On July 25, Pakistanis went to the polls to elect a new government in what would be only the second transition of power from one civilian government to another in the country's seven-decade history. That might be cause for celebration, except that the vote was hardly a peaceful or squeaky-clean affair. Despite the 371,000 soldiers stationed at polling places around the country—five times the number out in force during the previous vote—bloodshed still marred the day. The worst bombing took place in the city of Quetta, where a suicide attack killed 31. Moreover, accusations of vote rigging in favor of the winning party, the former cricketeer and man-about-town Imran Khan’s PTI, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome. Should PTI’s victory be understood as further proof that this volatile republic, traumatized by decades of war and impoverished by a self-dealing elite, is doomed? Or is it an indication that this youthful country, with a median age of under 24, is ripe for a post-ethnic politics of reform?
In the short time since the party's founding, the PTI and Khan have been accused of many things. Whereas some observers, and at times Khan himself, have characterized the movement as a modernizing—even liberalizing—anti-corruption force, others have pointed out Khan's appeals to Islamism and purported ties to the military, which has ruled the country for much of its history. During the latest vote, according to C. Christine Fair writing for Foreign Affairs, “the army was hell-bent upon securing Khan’s victory and even encouraged political parties with overt ties to terrorist groups to field several hundred candidates, alongside some 1,500 candidates tied to Pakistan’s right-wing Islamist parties.”