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Tuesday June 18, 2024

What awaits Punjab?

By Editorial Board
June 04, 2023

With the PTI in disarray, it seems that Punjab is up for grabs before the general elections. Many political players have suddenly become active while there are rumours of a new party (or parties?) in the making. There are also speculations that those who took a ‘break’ from politics after leaving the PTI are now busy forging a new bloc of PTI deserters. Ever since former chief minister Usman Buzdar was made to resign by the PTI during the no-confidence days last year to woo Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to their side, the largest province of the country has not seen any government that lasted long. From Hamza Shehbaz’s ouster due to the rewriting of the constitution in the Article 63A saga to Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, we saw the musical chairs come crashing down following Imran Khan’s decision to dissolve the PTI’s two provincial assemblies much to the chagrin of PTI’s own members and leaders. Now there is a caretaker government that should have gone home by now but because elections have not taken place in Punjab within 90 days due to various reasons, it seems that this caretaker government may last longer than Hamza and Elahi’s governments did – something no government should be proud of. The general elections are set to take place in October or November, depending on whether the assemblies are dissolved (a possibility, per some analysts) or the term of the government ends naturally. It is in this context that we are now seeing a flurry of activity in Punjab, particularly in Lahore.

First off, PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari is in Lahore, and several electables and PTI deserters from southern Punjab have announced joining the PPP during his trip. He also met Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who heads the PML-Q. We have seen in recent days how the PML-Q’s chief organizer Chaudhry Sarwar has been active politically and it is not lost on anyone why he has been holding meetings left, right and centre with potential candidates. Then there’s Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) who is said to be forming a new party with the aid of Aleem Khan and others. While some say that it may just remain a forward bloc of the PTI, there is also a chance that the Tareen group will again be ‘kingmakers’ in the upcoming elections – just like it was in 2018. Political experts are divided on whether Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who is still with the PTI and is under arrest, will stay with Imran or go back to the PML-Q, whose leadership says he is not welcome in their party anymore.

Finally, there is the question of whether all this is part of a ‘minus-Imran’ formula. Imran has already nominated Shah Mahmood Qureshi to lead the party, which must have perturbed many, including Asad Umar and Pervaiz Elahi. Since everything is moving so fast and the situation is quite fluid, many are wondering if there will be two PTIs contesting in the upcoming elections – one led by Imran Khan (whether disqualified or not) and one by PTI deserters who have suddenly become active in politics again after an astoundingly short break. In the midst of it all is the PML-N, which has been missing in action of late. After the vote of no-confidence and due to the grave economic crisis, the PML-N had been written off by quite a few political observers, at least for the 2023 elections due to its unpopularity and Imran Khan’s popularity. But with the post-May 9 events, fortunes may have reversed somewhat. In the end, Punjab might turn out to be a hodgepodge of different political parties, each securing their own share but not enough to form a government. As things stand at the moment, things do not look ‘stable’ for Punjab again.