Tracing PPP’s decline to PML-N’s ascent

November 19, 2023

The PPP is currently engaged in a struggle for political dominance in Balochistan against the PML-N

Tracing PPP’s decline to PML-N’s ascent


he political landscape of Balochistan has been a battleground for various political entities over the last few months. The Pakistan Peoples Party has been a significant player. The PPP, since its inception, has been a prominent force in Balochistan’s politics. In 1973, the party’s decision to topple the National Awami Party government marked a significant turn in Balochistan’s democratic politics.

The PPP contributed to Balochistan’s welfare through legislative measures like the 7th National Finance Commission award and the 18th Amendment. These initiatives are seen as steps towards addressing the unique needs and aspirations of Balochistan.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Quetta. —PML-N/X
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Quetta. —PML-N/X

Recently, the Pakistan Muslim League, under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, has made notable gains in Balochistan. During Sharif’s visit to Quetta this week, around 30 key political players, including three former members of the National Assembly, 14 former members of the Provincial Assembly and two senators, switched their loyalties to join the PML-N. This move signifies a substantial shift in the political landscape of Balochistan, hinting at the diminishing influence of the PPP in the province.

Among those who have joined the PML-N are Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hassani and Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa, who had both joined the PPP in January. Their decision to switch parties is particularly significant, as it not only underscores the growing appeal of the PML-N in Balochistan but also raises questions about the PPP’s declining influence and its ability to retain key members. This trend of ‘electables’ moving towards the PML-N suggests a weakness in the PPP appeal.

In January this year, the PPP seemed to be on an upward trajectory in Balochistan. Several former lawmakers, including some former ministers and senators from the province, had joined its ranks, indicating a consolidation of its political strength. This influx of prominent political figures was a boost for the PPP, reinforcing its status as a major player in the province. The party appeared to be fortifying its base and was considered poised to become a dominant force in the province’s politics once again.

However, the situation has changed since then. The momentum has shifted, with the PML-N emerging as the preferred choice for many influential politicians in Balochistan. This shift has placed the PPP in a precarious position, as it watches its erstwhile dominance being challenged and, in many cases, overtaken by the PML-N. The party, which had been the primary choice for many politicians, now finds itself lagging behind not only the PML-N but also other parties like the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl and the Balochistan Awami Party. This shift in political allegiance has led to increasing concerns within the PPP about its future role and influence in the politics of Balochistan.

In response to these developments, the PPP is actively seeking to reassert its presence and relevance in Balochistan. In a move calculated to rejuvenate its political standing in the province, the party is organising its 56th Foundation Day meeting in Quetta on November 30. This event marks the first time the PPP is hosting this significant gathering in the province, a decision that reflects the party’s recognition of the urgent need to reconnect with its base in Balochistan. The choice of Quetta as the venue for the Foundation Day meeting is a strategic one, aimed at sending a strong message of commitment and focus on the region.

Amidst the shifting political scenarios, the PPP’s approach and priorities in Balochistan have come under scrutiny. Critics argue that the party’s primary focus in the province has been on gaining power, specifically targeting National Assembly and Senate seats to increase its parliamentary strength. This suggests a strategy centred more on augmenting the party’s influence at the federal level rather than addressing the unique and pressing issues faced by the people of Balochistan. This perception indicates a disconnect between the party’s goals and the needs of the province it seeks to represent.

Many people worry that the success of the PPP in securing more seats and power in Balochistan might not result in tangible benefits for the people of Balochistan. PPP’s ambitions are more aligned with expanding its political clout than with tackling the major challenges facing Balochistan, such as economic development, infrastructure, education and healthcare needs. As a result, even if the PPP were to gain a significant number of seats in the region, this might not lead to substantial improvements in the lives of the local population.

The key words to describe the PPP’s current situation in Balochistan are challenge and introspection. The party is currently engaged in a struggle for political dominance in Balochistan against the emerging strength of the PML-N. While the PML-N appears to have the upper hand at the moment, the dynamic nature of politics in the region means that the PPP cannot be discounted. However, the similarity in approach between the two parties, primarily their focus on power rather than problem-solving, raises questions about the future of Balochistan’s politics and its impact on the welfare of its people. To remain relevant and effective, the PPP needs to reassess its strategies and priorities.

The author, based in Islamabad, is a contributing writer for Nikkei Asia. His X handle: @iAdnanAamir

Tracing PPP’s decline to PML-N’s ascent