Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)
The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), led by Nawaz Sharif, won a landslide victory in Pakistan’s last election but has been battling corruption cases and disqualifications. The 2018 poll will see the party, led by Nawaz and his younger brother Shehbaz, fight for survival.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is a centre-right party that represents the biggest challenge to the PML-N, campaigning on a platform that is anti-corruption and promises to reform systems of governance. If the PTI wins enough seats in Punjab province, the PML-N’s heartland, it could wrest the government from the Sharifs.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his father Asif Ali Zardari, is centre-left and has been in government several times since its founding in the 1970s by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This will be the first election campaign for 29-year-old Bilawal, scion of the Bhutto dynasty.
Awami National Party (ANP)
The Awami National Party, an ethnic Pashtun nationalist party mainly based in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, seeks to replace the PTI in provincial government there. The party takes progressive, secular positions on policy, but has been dogged by corruption allegations since its last term in power from 2008 to 2013.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement was virtually the only political force in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and economic backbone, for close to three decades. A paramilitary operation that has targeted the party and its alleged connections to criminal enterprises in the city, however, have decimated it, seeing it break into three major factions. The MQM will battle the PTI, PPP, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and others to hold their political home.
Muttahida Majlis e Amal (MMA)
The Muttahida Majlis e Amal (MMA) is an umbrella group of several right-wing religious political parties, including Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). They will target Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the alliance was in government in 2002.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP)
The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party is a Pashtun nationalist group, mainly active in Balochistan province, where it was part of the ruling alliance in the last provincial government.
Awami Workers Party (AWP)
The Awami Workers Party is left-wing and a relative newer and smaller movement in comparison to the other mainstream groups. It is aimed at voters with an anti-austerity campaign.
This election will also be contested by a number of independents.
They are mostly defectors from the ruling PML-N in Punjab province and have not yet chosen which party they will be joining.
In addition, there are some youth-led independents without mainstream poltical affiliations contesting for the National Assembly.