Build-up to elections

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Muhammad Usman

Current political atmosphere of country is electric with optimism and pessimism. The forces of change take sanguine view of elections, ushering in a new era, diametrically opposite of what country has witnessed so far. The forces of status quo; ruling elite call them an exercise, being robbed by aliens to thwart true democracy and civilian supremacy. This contrast is itself a refreshing change if seen in backdrop of our historical past and life of Imran Khan who is leading the change unrelentingly. Truly he has acted a matador to their charging bulls of different kinds. His methodology has seen change but not the philosophy. It remains undiminished. The salvos of pre poll rigging are being fired, loaded with accusations of political engineering, selective squeezing, media curbs and perception building slanted towards Imran Khan thus, creating conducive environments for him. Middle class becomes vanguard in a society clamoring for change. With this, change becomes just a matter of time because it could act even at its own to drive collective good. Imran Khan has this advantage. During last five years in particular, this class has been seen proactively involved to collar the mighty in land; election tribunals, protest rallies, public gatherings and accountability process etc. Resultantly, space for ulterior ends of ruling elite for power/influence had to reduce. In real sense, it has paved the way for level playing field. They are crying hoarse because they have always considered a divine right to have tilted environments in their favor. Its absence has perplexed them.
Instead of sober reflection, they have chosen stubbornness as always the case in their case. The canons are being readied. The cartridges of new kinds are being prepared to level accusations of on polling day rigging too. The employment of military inside polling stations along with magisterial powers and responsibility to communicate election results has become an anathema. One veteran politician has gone even to extent of alleging that ballot boxes would be stuffed to get required number of seats to Imran Khan. Some are also apprehensive of election symbol Jeep to counterbalance Imran Khan. Both apprehensions look absurd when seen in appropriate contexts. Nation trusts military in conduct of national events of critical importance. Elections 1970 and 1993, held under their oversight, are considered most free, fair and transparent elections. One needs to show restrain before casting aspersions on a national institution which has undertook extra gigantic responsibilities beyond its designation to afford time to fledgling democracy to get mature. There are barely half dozen NA candidates who could win on election symbol Jeep. Mere this sounds laughable.
A perception is being generated through print, electronic and social media and dubious talks, surveys and polls that at best, PTI would win around 70 NA seats in Punjab and 30 seats from other places. PML (N) is still a force to be reckoned with in Punjab despite being cornered by invisible forces to the limit. Contrary results, presumably readily give them flint and steel to fire allegations of wide spread rigging to dispute elections. Projected assessment seems to be too shaky.
In KP, position of PTI is strong. For a good political party, incumbency factor is a strength. It could enlarge/solidify its popular base by undertaking works of public welfare. PTI has done it in KP. Probably this is the reason of their greater reliance on old guards than electable. It would also have domino effect on other provinces particularly, Punjab. Revived MMA was considered a counterweight to curtail PTI onslaught in province but seems to prove only a tried lot. Similarly support of ANP, PML (N) and PPP is also restricted to few areas only. In brief, PTI is likely to achieve landslide victory in KP including FATA. In rural Sind, PPP could still cash legacy of Bhutto however, emergence of GDA, inroads by PTI and its electoral adjustment with GDA could deprive PPP a quite number of seats. PTI stands to reap the maximum from disintegration of MQM in urban Sind. Its net gain in Sind could range to a dozen number of NA seats. In Balochistan, politics still remains localized however, PTI could draw consolation in likely electoral ascendency of BAP with whom it developed a good rapport on eve of election of Senate Chairman.
In South Punjab, position of PML (N) is badly skewed and PTI is all set to secure a thumbing majority for host of overbearing reasons. In central and north Punjab; citadel of PML (N), its position also seems to be severely dented, notably with conviction of Nawaz Sharif, flopped show on his arrival, his straightway imprisonment with no fair hope of relief, inadequacies of Shabazz Sharif, dichotomy in narrative and divide within, insipid electioneering and its waning winning perception. Importance of swing vote in any election could not be overemphasized. Generally it goes with winning horse and bet is on PTI. Admittedly, PML (N) may bag a large number of votes in many constituencies but not large enough to win seats. Given above, it may not be too strange if PTI wins sufficient number of seats to form government singlehandedly. An over assessment tends to cause rude shock/disaster. Pathetic showing on arrival of Nawaz Sharif is an apt example. Conversely, it may be a deliberate ploy to prop up their declining state or create hullaballoo after elections to keep themselves relevant politically.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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