Wednesday November 30, 2022

War of electables

July 14, 2022

Voters in 20 constituencies in Punjab will elect their representatives in the July 17 by-elections. The real contest is among ‘electables’ in most constituencies as both the PML-N and the PTI have awarded tickets to several independent candidates in most constituencies.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan is holding election rallies, and Maryam Nawaz is leading the PML-N’s campaigns. Both leaders are trying to mobilize their voters in big numbers.

These by-polls are crucial for the two rival parties. The PML-N needs at least nine out of the 20 seats to complete the magic figure of 186 to retain the position of CM Punjab, and the PTI needs 13 more seats to elect Pervaiz Elahi as CM Punjab. The PML-N has the support of 177 MPAs, and Ch Pervaiz Elahi has the support of 173 MPAs.

It is a do-or-die situation for the two parties. Not only is the all-important political position of CM Punjab at stake, but this will also be a real test of popularity for both parties. The results of these by-polls will not only decide the fate of CM Punjab Hamza Shehbaz but also determine which party is more popular in Punjab.

Four out of 20 constituencies are urban, and four are semi-urban and rural and 12 are rural constituencies. The real contest is in the four urban constituencies of Lahore. The PML-N is a dominating political force in the city, but it is facing a tough challenge from the resilient PTI; these four seats were won by the PTI in the 2018 general elections.

In the 12 rural constituencies, the electables matter a lot. Political dynamics are different in rural or semi-rural constituencies – just a handful of influential families enjoy big political clout there. It is not surprising at all that the two parties are relying on political heavyweights to win these constituencies.

We all know that the PML-N is a traditional dynastic party which relies on political heavyweights in rural areas, which is why it was not surprising when the party chose electables for election tickets. This shows that the PML-N is promoting dynastic politics in Pakistan.

The PTI claims to be different from the PML-N as it has, over the years, built the narrative that it opposes dynastic politics and wants to discourage this trend. But there is a huge gap between the PTI’s rhetoric and action. The party claims that it opposes dynastic politics and is not controlled by a single family like the PML-N. But still, it is strengthening dynastic politics at a constituency level and, like its rival, is relying on electables to win rural constituencies.

PTI candidates for the by-polls clearly show that the party has given tickets to either members of influential families or close relatives of PTI lawmakers. For instance, in PP-83 Khushab, the PTI has awarded the ticket to the younger brother of sitting PTI MNA Umar Aslam Awan. In the Muzaffargarh constituencies of PP-272 and PP- 273, members from the Jatoi family, which is one of the most influential families in Muzaffargarh, are contesting the upcoming elections.

In the Multan constituency of PP-217, the PTI has awarded a ticket to Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s son Zain Qureshi who is a sitting MNA. In PP-224 Lodhran, former PML-N MNA Syed Iqbal Shah’s son Amir Iqbal Shah is contesting on a PTI ticket. In PP-97 Faisalabad, the party has awarded the ticket to the son of former Punjab Assembly speaker Afzal Sahi who contested the 2018 general election from the same constituency on a PTI ticket but lost narrowly against independent candidate Ajmal Cheema.

The PTI has awarded tickets to Mian Usman Akram who is the son-in-law of senior PTI leader Mian Mehmood ul Rashid and the son of former IJI MNA Mian Usman, in PP-158 Lahore, and to Shabbir Gujjar, the younger brother of former ticket holder Khalid Gujjar, in PP-167 Lahore. In PP-170, the party ticket has been given to Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar who is the nephew of PTI MNA Malik Karamat Khokhar and was elected MNA on a PPP ticket in 2002.

In PP-288 DG Khan, the PTI has awarded its ticket to Saif Khosa who is the son of former Punjab governor Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa.

The interesting fact is that the PML-N had lost all these 20 seats in the 2018 general elections. Ten out of the 20 seats were won by independent candidates who joined the PTI after winning the elections. The PTI candidates who won the remaining 10 seats later turned against the party and formed the Tareen group. So the PTI will have to defend its 10 seats and independents who are now contesting on PML-N tickets will defend their 10 seats. A close contest is expected for at least 14 seats.

According to my assessment, the PML-N is leading in 15 constituencies while the PTI is leading in the remaining five. The PML-N has a clear advantage in eight constituencies while it faces a neck-to-neck fight, and leads narrowly, in seven constituencies. In some constituencies, the PML-N stands divided, and rebels are causing serious problems to its candidates. The PTI has a chance to win at least four more seats if it successfully mobilizes young voters in big numbers.

The PML-N is leading in PP-7 Rawalpindi, PP- 83 Khushab, PP-90 Bhakkar, PP-125 Jhang, PP-140 Sheikhupura, PP-158 Lahore, PP-167 Lahore, PP- 168 Lahore, PP-202 Sahiwal, PP- 217 Multan, PP-228 Lodhran, PP- 237 Bahawalnagar, PP- 272 Muzaffargarh, PP-273 Muzaffargarh and PP-288 DG Khan.

The PTI is leading in PP-97 Faisalabad, PP-127 Jhang, PP-170 Lahore, PP-224 Lodhran, PP-282 Layyah.

The PPP and the other PDM parties are supporting PML-N candidates in all 20 constituencies. The PTI is supported by the PML-Q and some smaller parties.

The writer is a freelance journalist.


    Very articulate and precisely described. commented 5 months ago

    Very well written

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