Although the voting figures have not been finalised it seems probable that Pakistan has a new single-party national government, formed by the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and one of Pakistan's most experienced politicians. He will need all his experience and help from many other quarters if he is to stabilise the country as a functioning democracy. Since it became independent in 1947 the Army has been in charge more often than elected politicians. The country's internal tensions are among the most difficult in the world yet it has managed to hang on to a democratic commitment and Mr Sharif will now have an opportunity to consolidate that objective. It will not be easy.

Other parties have majorities in the provinces; the economy is in shreds; antipathy towards India remains; relations with the United States are bumpy despite Washington's huge financial support; sectarian and racial disputes flare up constantly and the local Taliban influence is significant. Within this year a new president will be elected, and a new chief justice and new army chief appointed; if these positions are taken by supporters of Mr Sharif it should be possible for him to give the people of Pakistan the stability they need. The election turn-out last weekend was 60 per cent, the highest ever recorded, and perhaps a plea for a better kind of Pakistan.