By Raja G Mujtaba
Elections are only four days away as I write these lines. Things have changed, what was looking impossible all of a sudden looks within reach. Moods of the people have changed; they are breaking away from the old traditions, looking for new hope and a new era in Pakistan.
The events changed from 30th October PTI rally at Lahore; that was the time PTI was taken as a serious contender for power. Then the 25th Dec rally at Karachi confirmed the proceedings of 30th October. In between there had been numerous rallies at smaller places those also took huge turnouts.
For quite some time it appeared that PML-N and PPP would remain the main contenders and Imran Khan will be a spoiler of votes that would benefit PPP with whom people are fed up. PTI graph curve went through many highs and lows, sometimes flashing hope and at times some dismal climate of riding a crest.
Imran Khan, most of the times attacked Sharif brothers and PML-N but rarely did he train his guns on PPP. Critiques started to asses that he is paving the way PPP comeback. As the time closed in, moods of the people changed, support for PTI became more pronounced and visible. KPK emerged the fortress where the Pashtuns openly sided with Imran Khan making it clear that the next government of KPK would be formed by PTI.
Khyber Pakhtun Khawa has 35 seats for the national assembly of which about 20 will come to PTI, the remaining 15 seats would be shared by other parties of which the religious parties would take the most. ANP, for its dubious past and love for secularism and India will cost her heavily. In any case it never was more than 4 seat party but for the foolish acts and short sightedness of Nawaz Sharif ANP was able to form a government in KPK.
Punjab, where the major battle would be fought would decide the future course of Pakistan. PTI has a strong hold on urban youth and the female voters. Imran’s looks and charm is holding him good. But in the rural areas it would be a different ball game, where PML-N is likely to emerge as the leader. Although media has played a major role in creating the awareness but still the old traditions are still quite strong to dismantle the feudal hold.
PTI is not likely to win any seat from Balochistan or Sindh whereas PML-N would bag seats from all the provinces. This could prove to be a handicap for PTI for not getting enough seats to form the government but if it has to sit in the opposition, it would be a real opposition unlike the PML-N friendly opposition.
Once a much talked about party, PPP does not seem to have any reckoning what so ever. Asif Ali Zardari, who has proved to be a much shrewd politician, outsmarting all his rivals at will seems to be failing the major test at the ballot box. It looks as if he has reconciled to the fact that PPP is not going to make it; his son Bilawal who is too young to step into the shoes of his mother seems not much interested in politics. He is not even present in the country, he is just paying lip service to election campaign through his pre-recorded video speeches that has failed to generate any impact on the voters.
For now, Asif Ali Zardari’s only interest would be to ensure his second tenure in the presidency for which he is willing to cooperate with both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. If he gets his second term with either of the two main contenders, he would be only a titular head and no more. This would provide him both immunity from all the cases that are pending against him and a time to fade out from the minds of the people, hence he would have consolidated his all financial gains that he has made over the years.
Nawaz Sharif’s outbursts against the army from time to time is not being taken well by the people at large and more so by the ex-servicemen and die hard lovers of Pakistan Army of which Punjab is the stronghold. During the last AJK elections, he made similar anti-army remarks that overnight turned the tables against him and his party lost badly. Now what he has said about Kargil, Mumbai blasts and also his utterance of allowing Indian presence on Gwadar Port would further erode his position, the advantage of which go to PTI alone and none other party in Punjab.
Jamate Islami failed to form any alliance or seat adjustments will not matter much in the Punjab, however it may bag a seat in the federal capital by defeating Javed Hashmi and the PPP candidate there.
In Karachi, MQM for the first time is feeling a tight situation there. The formation of alliance against MQM of which JI is a major partner there has been allocated 10 seats there. JI can bag a few seats from there provided army exercises strict control at all the polling booths where no arms or cell phones be allowed within the polling area. MQM strategy is that it warns its voters to snap the ballot paper after stamping it and produce it as a proof to the sector commanders, failing to do so can cost them their lives. If the cell phones and arms are banned throughout Pakistan, the results could be much different all over.
Although the elections are only 4 days away but the uncertainty still prevails. Candidates fear that elections may be called off even at the last moment due to some untoward happening therefore the spending by the candidates on the previous levels is not visible. Only the parties are campaigning both through print and electronic media.
What appears that the CEC and the judiciary have not been able to hold to their ground and all those candidates who were screened out have all been allowed to contest baring a very few. This has not augured well with the CEC and the Judiciary; people have further lost their faith and trust in these important state organs.
One thing is very clear, that it would be a hung parliament that would only allow a coalition government no matter who forms it. Asif Zardari would toy with all the likely contenders of power to get his second lease in office.
Sometimes the analysis can go wrong on how the wind blows on the day of polling, if there is a huge youth turnout which is expected then PTI may also form the government in the Punjab.