Race is set for new political romances, bedfellows, greener pastures

By MAK Lodhi

LAHORE: More surprises are in the winds than on the ground as the elected and ‘electable’ representatives of people, prospective and potential candidates make for greener pastures in Election 2013, giving a lurch to the coalition ship, which has already been perforated at more than one point.

Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman, the JUI-F leader of all weathers, has made a fine move by calling at the palatial residences of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif at Raiwind Road, Lahore (renamed Jatti-Umra after their ancestral small house in East Punjab).

The PML-N, which happens to be the second biggest political party by its strength and numbers, has at long last come out of reclusive political isolation and launched an ‘open-door’ policy. Several elected representatives from the ruling party have already joined it.

[box] More surprises are in the winds than on the ground as the elected and ‘electable’ representatives of people, prospective and potential candidates make for greener pastures in Election 2013, giving a lurch to the coalition ship, which has already been perforated at more than one point. – See more at: [/box]

The to and fro traffic from southern Punjab continues. The MQM, long playing ‘hide and seek’ has also tested waters and obtained some green signals from the House of the Sharifs. Maulana Fazl is the most recent one to call on the Sharifs to invite PML-N for a peace initiative (APC) on Taliban. The rulers of Punjab have also warmed up to Jamaat-e-Islami lately.

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The PML-N’s realisation of widening its horizon has landed its leaders in places far and wide, especially Sindh where it has been trying to dent the PPP’s traditional vote bank.

Sharif brothers’ meeting with Pir of Pagara, leader of the PML-F, Mumtaz Bhutto and other Sindhi nationalists is meaningful and significant. The Sharifs have been wooing the Sindhi nationalists, especially the PPP’s disgruntled elements since long.

The anti-Zardari factor can be an important strategy. Having been fed up with the PPP’s feudal style of politics, Sindhis like Nawaz Sharif in the same way a large number of Punjabis liked the Bhuttos. It has however yet to be translated into political reality and the time is just ripe for them to try him as a quid pro quo leader against Bhuttos of Sindh.

In Balochistan too, the PML-N leaders enjoy a comparatively warm relationship with the rebel leaders who have long been on a tangent. But the PML-N’s main support from Balochistan can come by pulling the rug from underneath the PML-Q, which is going to lose much in restive province.

In Punjab, the PML-N is facing a rather difficult situation. The PPP has launched a counter offensive. The wily Wattoo of Wasaiwalla (Okara) and shrewd Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat have been making inroads into PML-N in Gujrat-Jhelum and Okara-Sahiwal belts. President Asif Ali Zardari has already appointed Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood as governor of the Punjab as a politically effective pawn-player.

He has already made ripples in southern Punjab. Backed by a powerful and moneyed real estate tycoon, Zardari has launched his headquarters in Lahore.

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As a matter of fact the PML-N leaders should have orchestrated a grand alliance of the Opposition parties much earlier. Thinking democratically, the party had the ability to dismantle and oust the PPP-led coalition at the centre.

But there had been some big impediments. One of the major hurdles was PML-Q and Sharif brothers were never ready to take Chaudhry brothers on board.

The Sharifs didn’t want to share with anyone their rule in Punjab. They made PPP ministers in Punjab toothless tigers already and the ministers enjoyed only perks of the power before they were eased out.

Despite their efforts, the new brand of leaders like Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri are likely to eat into the PML-N vote bank. In all likelihood, Qadri’s PAT will contest elections once it is able to reassess the ground situation i.e. the caretaker set-up.

If Dr Qadri finds it neutral he will plunge, lock, stock and barrel. There’s also a possibility that a new alliance comprising MQM, PTI and PAT (Tahirul Qadri) props up.

They are all open-end options yet. But if such a development takes place, the PPP vote bank will be hit most adversely. It could be catastrophic for the PPP, which will now go to polls without the sympathy vote of Benazir Bhutto.

That could make the difference. The pro-Bhutto or anti-Zardari factor in the PPP loyalists may further damage the party strength in Punjab and Sindh.

It all depends on who plays what cards. How actively and openly the PML-N embraces the PPP’s disillusioned elements and remnants. How it counters new faces going to be fielded by PTI or PAT or both.

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How much the PPP works in Punjab? What type of candidates Imran Khan, and for that matter Dr Qadri, field? If they are allied and bring forward a new breed of educated people from the constituencies, they could up to some tricks. Separately, the new players will nullify each other.

An election is either about strategy or the massive support. Zardari is a strategist par excellence. But no strategy can work without public backing.

Having the dirty linen of many a local leader washed in public it all depends on the brand of new local leaders. People are sick and tired of old faces. That’s why old players like MNA Riaz Fatyana from Toba Tek Singh are going to find new pastures.

If media has made any impact, Election 2013 will bring in a new harvest, by and large. The real ‘Dungle’ (bout) will however be in Punjab. The PML-N is going in with one-plus, an innovative Metro Bus Transport System launched in Lahore just on time. The PPP has nothing in hand to show. The coming clouds are casting their shadows already. Al Nino phenomenon in weather will also make an impact on politics.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-VwqiBkYxH7U/AAAAAAAAAAI/AAAAAAAAADM/AJ7YU-nA2Z0/s250-c/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]MAK Lodhi is an accomplished writer with decades of experience behind him. His analysis are accurate with his own independent views. [/author_info] [/author]