The electoral machine is churning inexorably. Nomination papers have been submitted a large number of which have been accepted and others rejected by the Election Commission. Scrutiny of the documents submitted by electoral hopefuls has been undertaken with laser-like focus following which the election tribunals have started their work.All efforts are being made to ensure fair and transparent polls. Neutral caretaker set-ups are in place both at the centre and in the provinces The Election Commission of Pakistan last week approved a massive administrative reshuffle in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan in what has been described as a move to ensure transparent elections next month.
An important sidelight of the political brouhaha across Pakistan has been the revolt by the rank and file of various parties against the award of tickets by the party leadership. Although the problem is common to all major parties, it is more acute in the case of PTI which, ignoring its old leaders and workers, awarded party tickets for 173 NA seats and 390 PA seats to the so-called electables, especially those who joined the party in the last couple of months. The policy to favour newcomers has drawn a howl of protest from diehard PTI loyalists.Although the PTI chairman promised to personally look into the matter to redress workers' grievances against unjust allocation of tickets, the original award list stands largely unchanged. As a result, a number of neglected PTI candidates have decided to contest the forthcoming general elections in their personal capacity as independent candidates. Similarly, some disgruntled candidates are also considering the option to join other political parties.
PML-N is in dire straits. With just a month away from the 2018 general election, the party has been hit hard by a rising wave of defections, with well-known names in the party jumping ship to join the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.What started as a trickle following the Supreme Court's verdict against Nawaz Sharif last year became a flood early this year when a group of the party's sitting members of the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly joined hands to form the Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz to press for greater rights and the creation of a new province for the people of southern Punjab. Ever since PML-N has been disintegrating like a house of cards. PPP too is not in a very happy position. Increasingly, opportunists and disgruntled elements inPPP have been joining PTI in the hope of improving their politicalprospects.
As things stand, PTI seems to be employing all possible tools of realpolitik to win the electoral battle against PML-Nin order to achieve its political goals. Considering that the loss of PML-N is PTI's gain, Imran Khan is relying is playing the zero-sum game with gusto. At the latest count, more than 45 electables both from PML-N and PPP have joined PTI.As noted by many analysts, PTI has deviated from its original ideals and is pursuing its political goal throughcontradictoryand conflicting means. Its main slogan is for political change but is now resorting to the same very tools which sustain the status quo. Over time, PTI has changed course,swerving from political idealism to political pragmatism.
As of today, PML-N is a shadow of its former self and PTI is all set to emerge as the single largest party in the next elections. In all probability, the next government at the centre will be a coalition one in which the leading partner will be PTI. Who will join it will depend upon the relative electoral strength of various parties. A possible combination suggested by some political analysts includes MQM, PPP, PML-Q, members from FATA and, of course, independents. But the final line-up will be determined by the outcome of the next elections.