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Opinion

Capital suggestion

July 22, 2018
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Who will be the PM?

Opinion

Capital suggestion

July 22, 2018

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Who will be the PM: Imran Khan, Shahbaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari or Sanjrani (not the person but the Sanjrani-model)? I see the PTI bagging around 100 National Assembly (NA) seats; the PML-N half that many; the PPP and Independents around three dozen seats each. Lo and behold, the ‘bat’ and the ‘jeep’ can take Imran Khan where he wants to go (a total of 119 independent candidates have been allotted the ‘jeep’ as their electoral symbol).

Will Nawaz Sharif’s presence in Pakistan increase the PML-N’s vote-bank? Will Pakistani voters buy Nawaz Sharif’s anti-establishment, anti-court narrative? The battleground lies between Rawalpindi and Multan, with 95 directly contested NA seats spread over 25 districts. Remember, governments are won in the rural areas of Punjab and brought down in the urban areas.

Of the 95 directly contested seats in upper Punjab some six dozen are rural seats. If the 10 general elections held over the past 45 years are an indication, corruption of a leader has very little influence on voter-behaviour. If the 10 general elections held over the past 45 years are an indication, court decisions have very little influence on voter-behaviour.

If the 10 general elections held over the past 45 years are an indication, the three most powerful factors driving rural voter-behaviour are: thana-kutchery, biradari and in-whose-favour-are-the-electoral-winds-blowing. The PML-N’s ‘election machine’ has enjoyed a stronghold over the rural thana-kutchery politics. Dr Mughees Ahmad in his research paper, ‘Voting behaviour in rural and urban areas in Punjab’, has identified Jatt, Rajput, Arain, Baloch, Gujjar and Kharal as the only biradaries winning elections.

Interestingly, the biradaries also keenly watch ‘in-whose-favour-are-the-electoral-winds-blowing’. In other words, rural Punjabi voters do not want to waste their vote on a losing candidate. In other words, rural Punjabi voters vote in favour of candidates who can help them in thana-kutchery matters and are also in a position to redistribute state assets (or patronage politics). To be certain, electoral winds are currently blowing in favour of the PTI.

The region between Multan and Rahim Yar Khan has 46 NA seats spread over 11 districts. If the 10 general elections held over the past 45 years are an indication, electables from this region have a long-held tradition of bowing in favour of electoral winds. Yes, five ex-NA members, including Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, and 13 ex-Punjab Assembly members have joined the PTI.

The voter profile in this region is very different from the one in upper Punjab: lower education levels, lower income levels and lower media penetration. Plus, this region is home to a large number of ‘dependent voters’ – dependent on their landowners or female voters voting as per the instructions of their husbands (there are around seven million female voters between Multan and Rahim Yar Khan).

In 1977, the PPP bagged 60 percent of the votes polled nationally, and by 2013, the PPP’s share had declined to 15 percent. The PPP is now restricted to a region between Thatta and Sukkur with 40 NA seats. Imagine, out of 141 Punjab constituencies there is no sign of the ‘arrow’ in 104 constituencies.

The declining value of the rupee, an empty treasury, the price and debt bombs and a sharply polarised citizenry. Who will wear the crown of thorns? Who will walk on burning coals? Will it be Imran Khan or Sanjrani (not the person but the Sanjrani-model)?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh

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