Islamabad, July 24: Pakistan is set to vote for National Assembly and Provincial Assembly Elections 2018 on Wednesday, July 25. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), over 3,400 candidates will contest on National Assembly seats while 8,400 are in the running for 577 provincial seats. Even as there are fears of an Army coup, poll pundits have predicted the election going in favour of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI).
Pakistan Elections 2018 are witnessing a fierce fight between PTI and jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N. While the PPP is also in the fray, poll pundits say it won't have much to celebrate. Opinion polls have said that Imran Khan's PTI may be seen forming a coalition government with PPP even as Khan has ruled out such a possibility. All eyes are now on who will be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. (Live updates of Pakistan elections 2018)
Here's a look at top 3 PM candidates in Pakistan
One of the most celebrated cricketers of Pakistan, Imran Khan, started his political career in 1996 when he formed PTI. He fought his first election in 1997 and lost. Khan saw his first poll victory in 2002 when he won the NA Mianwali seat. This election, Khan is contesting five seats in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad Capital Territory.
Khan is said to enjoy the support of Pakistan Army as he has, at several occasions, expressed willingness to work with the military. It is being said that the Army would want Khan at the helm of affairs in Pakistan. He has, however, also been termed "Taliban Khan" for having shown willingness to hold a dialogue with Taliban.
His image in the recent past also took a hit when his former wife Reham Khan wrote about Khan's life of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” in her recent book. Khan has dismissed all such allegations against him.
What goes in Khan's favour is that he is seen as a clean political leader, someone free from corruption cases. He has designed his campaign around 'New Pakistan', promising to eradicate corruption from the country's system.
The younger brother of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 67-year-old Shahbaz Sharif, is also being seen as a strong candidate to be the next prime minister. Shahbaz Sharif took over as the PML-N party President in March this year after his elder brother was convicted and disqualified.
The three-time Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab, Shahbaz, is lauded for his development of the province. He has promised to bring Pakistan at par with Malaysia and Turkey. “If I do not end load shedding crisis in six months, you can change my name,” he had said, addressing a rally recently.
The Metro Bus project in Pak Punjab is considered to be among his top achievements, making him being seen as an effective administrator. While he respects his brother, Shahbaz is known to have a softer stance on civil-military relations. He has said in the past that the civilian and military authorities must work together to ensure Pakistan's progress.
Shahbaz Sharif is contesting on four seats this election.
Fighting his first election and aspiring to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto is the grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and son of Benazir Bhutto. Bilawal gained prominence after the assassination of his mother Benazir in 2007. At 29, Bilawal is the youngest PM face in Pakistan this election.
Bilawal has often been compared to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, having gone through similar tragedies in the family. However, Bilawal is seen as a more upfront and outspoken leader. He has always come out in the open, accusing Pervez Musharraf of having a hand in his mother's assassination.
Fighting this election on the PPP's original slogan of "roti, kapda aur makaan", Bilawal has favoured cordial relations and dialogues between India and Pakistan. Bilawal is fighting election on three seats.