IN an unexpected development, tables have been turned in the political battlefield of Punjab as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) clinched victory in 15 out of 20 constituencies of the Provincial Assembly in the by-elections held on Sunday.
The stunning victory of the party has brightened future prospects for PTI both in Punjab and the Centre and struck a fatal blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) as it is set to lose the Government in the province after losing majority in the Assembly with serious consequences for the coalition government in Islamabad.
In reality, the PTI has just won back its seats that fell vacant due to defection and the resultant disqualification of its 20 members that joined ranks with PML-N during election for the office of the Chief Minister but going by the fact that Punjab is considered to be political stronghold of PML-N and the party faced a major defeat and that too while in power has signified the outcome of the polls.
It was widely believed that despite the challenge thrown by PTI, PML-N would secure most of the seats enabling it to retain the government in the province after crucial re-election of the leader of the house slated for July 22 as per verdict of the Supreme Court but woes of the party have compounded by the result of the by-polls untimely resignations by a PML-N MPA.
However, irrespective of the surprising victory of PTI in the by-elections, the polls and their results highlighted several positive aspects that augur well for the future of politics and democracy in the country.
It was a shocking development for PML-N but it must be given credit for accepting the defeat with open heart and going a step forward in congratulating PTI and its leader Imran Khan for their victory.
This is something unfamiliar in the political culture of the country as almost all those defeated in elections in the past started levelling allegations of rigging, raising accusing fingers towards the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Establishment.
It is important to note that PML-N was at the helm of affairs both at the federal and provincial levels but unlike what happened in Daska by-elections, PML-N Government did not interfere with the electoral processes.
The most distinct feature of the by-polls is that despite repeated and scathing attacks against the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commission, the institution performed its constitutional responsibility in a fair and perfect manner.
The CEC remained unbiased despite a barrage of allegations levelled against his person and the institution and fulfilled his responsibility as per dictates of the law and the Constitution.
It is a matter of satisfaction that no allegations of rigging or unfair means have been levelled by any party and this strengthens belief of the people in the ability of the Commission to hold free, fair and transparent general election whenever held.
It is also time that those who raised accusing fingers towards the CEC should tender an apology for their unbecoming conduct.
It is also significant to note that despite high stakes involved and the charged atmosphere, the election was generally held in a peaceful environment.
The RTS worked well and there were no allegations that the result form was not provided to the polling agents by the presiding officers as was the common complaint during 2018 general election.
The by-polls is a reminder for PML(N) leadership that things should never be taken for granted and based on analysis of what caused the big defeat the party should streamline its affairs and policies.
Political analysts believe the party paid the price of tough decisions that its leadership took in their bid to pull the country out of a messy financial and economic situation.
The steps that the Government took to put the economy back on track added to the burden of the people, who were already agitating against the record price-hike during PTI tenure.
People were expecting relief but the Government compounded their difficulties and the relief measures that the authorities at the Centre and in Punjab offered were not enough to counter the effects of unprecedented inflation.
Secondly, as per its commitment made with defecting members of PTI during power struggle in Islamabad and Punjab, PML(N) understandably allotted tickets for by-elections to the defecting members but there was resentment among workers and supporters of the party for not giving tickets to loyalists and, therefore, they did not support defectors whole-heartedly.
Now, after by-elections, PML-N is set to lose power in Punjab and there would be serious challenges to its rule at the Centre and it would be next to impossible for the party to implement its agenda before the general election.
It seems early election is the only solution to the prevailing unpredictable and unstable political environment.