Next general elections are still far away if held as per schedule in October, 2023 but the ‘political trio’ of our politics, Imran Khan, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, has already started political maneuvering for the possible success.
While the main focus would be on the future political scenario in Punjab, they have also started reaching to smaller parties and disgruntled elements within the parties. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with PML (Q) leader Ch Pervaiz Elahi on Wednesday along with his son Ch Monis Elahi (once disliked by Imran to an extent that he did not include him in the cabinet) was of political significance.
It took place after the PM started getting reports of political understanding between Chaudhrys and former President Asif Ali Zardari after the latter held a two hours meeting with Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Pervaiz Elahi, which was ‘one-on-one.’
In Wednesday meeting those present beside the PM, were IK’s Punjab leadership including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shafqat Mahmood. Sources said they also discussed Jenagir Khan Tareen factor. Ch Pervaiz Elahi also took the PM into confidence over his meeting with Asif Zardari and acknowledged his role in getting all the senators unopposed by withdrawing PPP candidates.
Interestingly, the purpose of the two meetings seems to be one i.e. how to block PML (N), which despite all tactics managed to keep its vote bank intact. This is the major concern in all the three camps of PTI, PPP and PML (Q).
As for the PML (N), the only thing which could damage its vote bank would be the ‘confusion’ over the party’s two narratives - one led by Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz the other by Shehbaz Sharif. There is every likelihood the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would also go for seat adjustment and not for electoral alliance. An understanding has been developed between PML (N) and JUI (F) in this regard.
Imran Khan is likely to take a solo flight and very unlikely he would go for electoral alliance either with PML (Q) or MQM (Pakistan), but would certainly go for seat adjustments with Chaudhrys of Gujarat and Janobi Punjab Mahaz.
PTI’s another weak area is Sindh and reports from Karachi suggest serious organisational problems. Although in Karachi out of 20 seats PTI won 14 NA seats and MQM (Pakistan) four and they are in coalition both are not ready to form an electoral alliance.
In rural Sindh, things are even worse for the PTI and Imran will have no other option but to depend on its ally, Grand Democratic Alliance, GDA. The PM's meeting with former Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim on Wednesday was in the same direction.
As for PPP and Asif Zardari, they are working on a plan to get maximum seats from Sindh, both rural and urban areas. Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas always remain their weak links and also some districts in rural Sindh.
But, in view of PTI and MQM weak position, Asif Zardari has worked out a plan to get a few more seats than in 2018. In Punjab, he is looking for a few in southern Punjab before going for a post-elections scenario.
With new political alignment in the offing the possible political scenario would revolve around solo flight, political adjustments and electoral alliance. The religious parties’ factor, particularly of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), could once again play a spoiler role like in 2018. It may not be easy for the federal government and PTI leadership to go harsh against them despite the recent actions against its leadership.
The TLP had emerged as the fifth largest party after PTI, PML (N), PPP and MQM (Pakistan), and the death of its leader Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi also caused a setback, but they still have the vote bank in Punjab and in Karachi.
As political situation stands today, Prime Minister Imran Khan has a fair chance to create history by becoming the first PM to complete his or her five years term unless he decided something which former prime minister late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did by holding elections a year earlier though he could have easily completed his five years, but one ‘wrong advice’ led to his fall and what happened later is history now.
Imran and PTI are looking for maximum votes in case they succeed in getting voting rights for ‘overseas Pakistanis ’. But even if they get this right how many would cast their vote is also crucial. Electronic vote machines are certainly a way forward but can it stopped ‘political engineering? Perhaps not as it has its own pre-polls and post-polls dynamics.
Both government and opposition can test their nervousness in the local bodies’ elections which are now overdue. But despite Supreme Court clear directives the ruling party looks reluctant to hold the elections this year. LB is the biggest election exercise after general elections.
In 2018, one of the reasons why PTI emerged as a strong force was its un-tested character and Imran’s image as ‘un-corruptible.’ He succeeded in attracting new voters comprising families, youth and women. To his credit, a number of young political activists went to the assemblies, which was quite unprecedented since MQM brought new cadres in 1988, mostly middle-class.
In the next elections he would be judged with performance marked with a number of alleged ‘scams’ in which his cabinet ministers had been accused. Most of the action turned out to be mere ‘eye-wash.’
Uncertain political situation prevails in Balochistan and no one knows the fate of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), National Party (NP), ANP and JUI (F) besides independent candidates. But their role would be of political significance after the elections.
As for the KP and that too after the merger of FATA into KP, Imran Khan’s PTI looked in a commanding position and could break its own record of retaining the province for the third consecutive term in the next elections.
The ‘million dollar’ question would be the possible role of the ‘establishment.’ As things stand at present ‘civil-military’ relationship is at its best at the moment despite some difference of opinion, but one has to wait and see the changing developments in Afghanistan and their impacts on Pakistan.
Pakistani politics and elections have their own dynamics where even the institutional changes before and after the polls also matter a lot whether in the Election Commission, judiciary or in the army.
Media has also emerged as a strong player in the political landscape, and in the last two elections it has been noticed that the parties not only captured advertisement space as much as possible but also ‘social media’ and individual characters as well, making jobs far more difficult and challenging for the independent journalists.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang
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