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April 12, 2021

Daska’s political significance

National

April 12, 2021

Daska’s election has its own political significance not merely the victory of the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz).

It has come at a time when some of the political pundits and analysts had predicted end to the party's popularity after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s controversial speeches which led to the blackout in the media. NA-75 result proved otherwise.

Daska’s victory has put new life in the PML(N) after its recent differences with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Though symbolic but the PPP’s decision to support PML(N) in the by-election may defuse the ongoing tension between the two parties.

Now it depends on how PML(N) and divided Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would take this victory, but indications are that some fresh efforts would be made to revive PDM as ‘resignations from the assemblies’ are no more the option left.

The PML(N) victory in some of the by-elections also showed that the party vote bank is intact, but it still does not has the capacity to bring people out for agitation.

It is also important to note former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s aggressive and controversial narrative did not have much impact on voter’s mindset. How carefully PML(N) would move now and what its next move would be interesting to watch.

As for Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the back-to-back defeats in the by-elections in the last two months clearly showed the decline in people’s support for PTI. Other problems are massive price-hike, bad governance and serious conflicts within the party.

The Jehangir Tareen factor has only added to the ongoing problems within PTI and it is now more than clear that it was this very factor which surprised Prime Minister during the senate elections in which MNAs did not vote for former Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh.

While the Daska’s outcome could hardly be the result of Tareen’s mini-revolt, it certainly balanced the division within the opposition’s rank and file. It has almost shaken Chief Minister Usman Buzdar who was even otherwise at the mercy of the Prime Minister.

Under these circumstances, it is now very difficult for the Punjab government or PTI to hold local bodies elections as per the directive of the Supreme Court. Thus, the government may drag the polls for at least a year as despite SC order for restoration of previous local bodies the government has not enforced the order yet.

PTI could satisfy its workers and some observers by claiming that they had gained more as compared to the general elections but nevertheless it was good to see they accepted the results, something which is significant in the country’s politics.

However, one thing is certain that PTI’s biggest problem lies within the party and they could face similar kinds of problems in NA-249, Karachi, where in 2018 PTI’s Faisal Vawada defeated PML(N) President Shahbaz Sharif with a close margin of nearly 700 votes. Retaining its seat there would not be easy.

Unlike in 2018, when Prime Minister Imran Khan sacked party’s 20 MPAs, he knows he can’t take similar position against those party MNAs who voted for Yusuf Raza Gilani or against those who attended Tareen's dinner as it could result in the fall of Federal and Punjab governments.

What will be PM’s next move? Can he ask FIA and Shahzad Akbar to go slow and try to patch up with Tareen or adopt an aggressive approach?

The difficulty for Imran Khan would be how to regain the confidence after two shocks - NA-75 defeat and a good number of PTI MPs’ support to Tareen. Another difficulty for the PM and Punjab government would be holding of local bodies elections as per the directive of the Supreme Court, which has also restored all the defunct local bodies in Punjab.

PTI government needs to take some drastic measures to regain the confidence after back-to-back defeats, but Imran-Tareen patch-up means surrendering before the powerful alleged sugar mafia.

With the national budget around the corner and reports suggesting massive hike in power tariff and other necessary commodities, all is not well within PTI.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst at Geo, The News and Jang

Twitter:@MazharAbbasGEO