Lodhran by-election: An eye-opener!

TWO important developments that took place on Monday clearly manifested wind of change in overall murky political atmosphere of the country. Firstly, PML-N convincingly won the National Assembly seat that got vacated after Supreme Court disqualified PTI’s stalwart Jehangir Khan Tareen. Secondly, a three-member Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar, rejected a petition filed by Sheikh Rashid Ahmad seeking disqualification of incumbent Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on charges of wrong-doing in the LNG deal.
According to all predictions, the outcome of Lodhran bye-election was to be in favour of PTI as the constituency was considered to be party’s stronghold and Jehangir Khan Tareen’s son was just completing a formality to regain the seat vacated by his father. However, the real outcome of elections has come as a big surprise and the margin with which PML-N candidate Pir Iqbal Shah defeated his closest rival – Ali Tareen of PTI is mind boggling for all. A lead of 27609 votes in the bye-election ahead of general Election 2018 means much, both for PML-N and PTI, as this shows in which direction the wind has started blowing. The result apparently shows that impact of the Supreme Court verdict in Panama Papers case is eroding and instead it has ramifications and implications for even powerful parties like PTI, not to speak of PPP that already stands routed in Punjab and its performance in the latest bye-election was even worse than Tehrik-i-Labbaik. This is despite venomous propaganda being unleashed by anti-PML-N forces that South Punjab remained neglected during its tenure but voters have sent a loud and clear message that they are not influenced by such propaganda because ground realities are quite the opposite.
PML-N government allocated huge funds for development of the region and initiated/completed more projects than the abysmal performance of PPP when it had a Prime Minister from Multan. Lodhran election has also highlighted the fact that people of Pakistan cannot be be-fooled by mere slogans and instead they would make their decision at the ballot box on the basis of performance. That is what we have been emphasising in these columns during the last four and a half years that all political parties that are in power at the Centre and in provinces should compete in service to the people. However, some parties based their politics only on leg-pulling of others and went to extreme sorts to destabilise the present government. They also tried to use fake cases to dislodge their political opponents and the latest example is that of the petition against Prime Minister Abbasi. No one except Sheikh Rashid would believe that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi could indulge in corruption and would make a decision on considerations other than the national interests. We give full marks to the Supreme Court decision for turning down his petition with remarks that the judiciary would not like to interfere in political and governance affairs. There is a point in remarks made by the Chief Justice that cases like that of Riko Dek and Pakistan Steel dented image of Pakistan and, therefore, the court would not entertain such petitions in future. Politicians ought to fight their wars on political turf but sensing that they have no future in the ballot, some politicians are banking their hopes on other factors. Anyhow, this is time for PTI and PPP to review their approach seriously and firm up their electoral strategies as per expectations and mood of the masses.
The collective failure of anti-PML-N forces to stage an impressive show at Mall Road in Lahore should have been enough to open their eyes and in fact, Dr Tahirul Qadri understood the real change and did not insist on confrontation. However, it is strange that instead of presenting their own models of development and prosperity, other political parties are even criticising development projects successfully carried out by the incumbent government. Lodhran victory of PML-N is also a tribute to the hard work and vision of Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who has put Punjab on fast paced socio-economic development.

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