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Opinion

July 27, 2018

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The verdict is out

On July 25, Pakistan achieved another milestone. The people of Pakistan came out in big numbers to choose their new representatives. This is the third civilian transition of power through a democratic exercise.

The people of Pakistan have given their verdict: they have given the PTI the mandate to form a coalition government in Islamabad. The PTI is going to win enough seats to put together a stable coalition government in Islamabad. At the time of writing this article, Imran Khan’s dream of becoming the prime minister is finally coming true.

The PTI can now form a coalition government in the centre with the help of Independents, the PML-Q, GDA, BAP and BNP-Mengal. But it could be facing a strong opposition from the PML-N, PPP and MMA.

The PTI has swept both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) provincial and National Assembly seats. In fact, the party has doubled its provincial assembly seats in KP from the last election. The PTI has become the first party in KP to have won consecutive elections in the province since 1997. The people of KP have re-imposed their trust in the PTI with an increased majority.

Big inroads have also been made in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and northern and southern Punjab by the PTI. The party has almost wiped the PML-N out in the third largest city of Pakistan: Faisalabad. Moreover, the PTI is also emerging as the largest party in Karachi. This verdict has made the PTI the new major political force in the country.

The biggest loser of the night has turned out to be the PML-N. It not only lost its majority in the National Assembly but might also be in danger of losing its majority in the Punjab Assembly. The party lost badly in its strong holds of northern Punjab and Faisalabad, The PML-N has suffered a shock defeat in Faisalabad especially – it had won all the 11 national and 20 out of 22 provincial assembly seats from the city in the 2013 elections.

The PML-N was expected to show a poor performance in southern Punjab as it had lost many of its potential candidates before the elections. It seems that the Panama verdict and the sentencing of Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges moved the independent voters away from the PML-N. The majority of independent voters, it seems, went against the party and paved the way for the PTI’s victory.

However, the PML-N has rejected the election results and is crying foul play. The party now needs to develop its political strategy in a post-Nawaz Sharif era. The party’s real test will begin if it failed to form the provincial government in Punjab. So far, it is most likely that the PTI will form the provincial government in Punjab too with the help of independent candidates, and the former will sit in the opposition in both Islamabad and Lahore.

On the other hand, the PPP not only retained its majority in the Sindh Assembly but also won the maximum number of National Assembly seats from rural Sindh. Despite all the media hype and big public gatherings, the GDA failed to make big inroads in the PPP strongholds in rural Sindh. Undoubtedly, the province has been a stronghold of the PPP, but it needs to improve its governance there. The PTI has replaced the MQM as the main political force in Karachi and can also pose a serious challenge to the PPP in Sindh.

As for the rest of the provinces, the PPP failed to make gains in Punjab, KP and Balochistan. The party was expecting a good performance in Karachi, but the PTI’s resurgence reduced its chances. The PPP now needs to think seriously about its revival in Punjab and KP; it cannot rely solely on Sindh to form government in Islamabad.

It seems that independent voters went decisively for the PTI and against the PML-N. Within the voters, there was a strong sentiment for Imran Khan to be given a chance to make his ‘Naya Pakistan’ and bring about the much-talked-about change. The PML-N failed to challenge the PTI’s corruption narrative because of which it won over many independent voters, who proved their importance in these closely contested elections. I had written on these pages several times during the course of the elections that independent voters are going to be decisive and can change the final outcome of the elections.

The new government does not have the time for a honeymoon period, as it is facing a worsening economic situation. It will have to take necessary steps and measures to stabilise the situation.

Now the PML-N, MMA and PPP are raising fingers at the fairness and transparency of the election process and results. The PML-N has already rejected the election results. A lot can be said about the election process and political manipulation, but this has not happened for first time in Pakistan. We hear the same arguments after every election.

The winning party should be given a chance to deliver on its promises. It is not a healthy tradition to point fingers at the winning party and accuse it of having won through rigging. The election process should be made more transparent, free and fair. The truth is that Pakistan needs reforms in its administrative, social and economic structures.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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