Saturday December 09, 2023

PPP in Punjab

By our correspondents
March 28, 2017

PPP Co-chairperson Asif Zardari ventured outside the PPP’s electoral comfort zone and gave a fiery speech in Punjab this past Sunday, where he vowed that he and his children would all participate in the next general elections and that they would be ready to compete in Punjab. Zardari issued the familiar refrain of all losing political parties and claimed that the only elections the PPP didn’t win were those conducted by returning officers – a reference to alleged rigging. It is hard to tell if Zardari is trying to convince himself or a sceptical voting public that the PPP has any chance of being competitive in Punjab next year. In the 2008 elections, the PPP had all but given up on Punjab and barely campaigned there, so it should hardly come as a surprise to the party that it is struggling to make inroads in the province. The last decade has not kind to the PPP. Its five years in government were marked by allegations of corruption and poor governance, which ended up overshadowing positive achievements like the 18th Amendment, the agreement of a National Finance Commission Award and the Benazir Income Support Programme. The party was reduced to holding power only in Sindh after 2008. In Punjab, it is the PTI and not the PPP that is the most likely challenger to the PML-N. The PPP’s governance in Sindh has been the same combination of nepotism and neglect. Its leadership in Dubai has grown distant from the country. The occasional speech by Zardari promising better days ahead just isn’t going to cut it for the PPP.

The PML-N has responded to Zardari’s speech with barely-concealed mockery. However, the ruling party needs to note that, just as the PPP faces an uphill task in Punjab, the PML-N has hardly given Sindh any attention – till now. Despite PM Nawaz looking to build a constituency in Sindh – having visited the province a number of times recently, including yesterday – the PML-N should not expect any miracles in a province that has not been on its radar for a very long time. The PML-N usually has not expected to win in the province and often its candidates withdraw in favour of other parties. Now, though, it seems to be focusing on if there is space for another party to break the hegemony of Sindh’s ruling parties. As far as the PPP’s election standing is concerned at the moment, the party has no positive record to run on and the party organisation in Punjab is decimated and demoralised. In his speech, Zardari reminisced about how a Benazir visit to Lahore would bring the city to a standstill. It shows how far the party has fallen that Zardari’s politicking in Lahore was barely a footnote and that he could only fall back on the glory days of yore. The PPP is still stuck in the past; to reach that level again it will have to convince the electorate that is has learnt from the mistakes it made the last time it was in power.