The most remarkable elections in Pakistan’s history have just concluded. Under the threat of violence and despite the use of bombs and guns, the people refused to be intimated, so strong was their resolve. The numbers of votes cast, instead of declining due to fear, rose to an unprecedented level. This has been a most resolute response to intimidation by the militants, whose bluff has been called. It is likely to reduce the ability of the latter to blackmail and hold the nation hostage any further.

The European Union Election Mission has “appreciated the strong commitment shown by political parties, candidates and voters, despite high levels of militant attacks in parts of the country.” In their report, they stated: “The violence in the campaign [to sabotage the elections] was terrible, but must not be allowed to overshadow the achievements of the process. The turnout in defiance of the threats was an extraordinary vote of confidence in democracy itself.”

Whether we have noticed it or not, a new Pakistan has already arrived on the scene, and is alive and kicking. Pakistani politics is coming of age. In the last 65 years, hardly anyone ever accepted defeat and resigned after their party was trounced in the elections. But this time people are doing just that. The resignations of PPP’s Vice Chairman Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Watto, along with the Punjab Governor, within hours of the declaration of election results, are unprecedented events. This shows the strength of the public today.

It was never like this in the past; in fact, the opposite was sometimes witnessed. In the 1997 elections, the PPP’s seats in the National Assembly were reduced from around 100 to a mere 16. Obviously, Benazir should have resigned as Chairperson of the party. Perish the thought! Instead of resigning, she immediately got herself elected chairperson for life!

So, you see, there is a wind of change, and it is getting stronger by the day. A great deal of it is due to dozens of round-the-clock TV channels. Within seconds of an undesirable act, everyone knows about it, and the pressure becomes unbearable. This is as it should be, and it is the only way forward. However, in all fairness, the Chairperson and Co-Chairperson of the PPP ought to have resigned, taking responsibility for the disaster, and should not have left it to the second rank.

The other aspect of this new Pakistan is the single-party federal government that is coming into being. The coalition governments of the recent past were unmitigated disasters. The major ruling party had to fulfil not only the unreasonable demands of the legislators, but also had to accede to the dictates of their allied parties. Good governance was the casualty; the policies were at the level of the least common denominator.

Mian Nawaz Sharif faces a daunting challenge; the first and foremost being the insurgency and the terrorism.His visit to Imran Khan will help to better relations between the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) governments. Both of them realise the seriousness of the situation, and cooperation between them could produce results. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is trying to rob Imran’s mandate to rule KPK. Now that they have emerged as the biggest party, it is not fair to obstruct PTI’s mandate.

Loadshedding will require Mian Sahib’s attention on an urgent and comprehensive basis. The economy could revive to some extent due to confidence resulting from the removal of a notoriously corrupt government. However, the state of the finances is precarious and will require very deft handling.

Last but not the least, overpopulation is a big problem, which results in the shortage of everything. Like Bangladesh, Mian Sahib should send the senior-most religious leaders to planned parenthood conferences abroad, and they will come back convinced that the whole world, including the Muslim world, is concerned over the matter; they will then facilitate population control, as has as happened in Bangladesh.

The problems are many, but none that cannot be solved given political will and concerted efforts. In the meantime, we wait and hope for the return of peace and progress to the motherland.

The writer is a former principal of the King Edward Medical College, and former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan.