Po­lit­i­cal cam­paign­ing

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

With the 2018 gen­eral elec­tions only weeks away, the sea­son of ral­lies and pub­lic meet­ings has be­gun in full swing. From Karachi to Punjab to KP, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have be­come hy­per­ac­tive. Last week, while the PPP reached out to the peo­ple of Karachi, PTI chief Im­ran Khan put up a mas­sive po­lit­i­cal show in La­hore. Mut­tahida Ma­jlis-e-Amal held a jalsa in Mar­dan, fol­lowed closely by PML-N's power show in Sahi­wal. A week of mega ral­lies in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try by ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties has vir­tu­ally kicked off the 2018 elec­tion cam­paign.

Not sur­pris­ingly, PML-N is play­ing the vic­tim card and has adopted the slo­gan of 'giv­ing re­spect to the vote' as its main cam­paign theme. Both Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are re­peat­ing this mantra be­fore crowds of sup­port­ers in one city after an­other. Both fa­ther and daugh­ter have crafted an ag­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal style which they think will ap­peal to the com­mon run of vot­ers in Punjab. But the ex-PM is ap­pear­ing more and more like a drown­ing man try­ing to catch at a straw. For, in the back­ground lurk the cor­rup­tion cases in the ac­count­abil­ity court which are fast near­ing com­ple­tion. Need­less to say, an ad­verse ver­dict will come as a big shock to PML-N and rad­i­cally al­ter the coun­try's po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

The re­cent dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Khawaja Asif has dealt an­other se­ri­ous blow to the PML-N and in­ten­si­fied the process of de­fec­tion and de­mor­al­i­sa­tion within its ranks. Nawaz Sharif is des­per­ately fight­ing back, but it is doubt­ful how many se­nior party lead­ers would stand by him when it comes to the crunch. With each pass­ing day, the cracks in the party are widen­ing. The de­ser­tion of some half a dozen PML-N law­mak­ers from south Punjab is seen by an­a­lysts as only the be­gin­ning of a process of fur­ther frag­men­ta­tion of the party.

PTI's power show in La­hore last week was a grand suc­cess. In the course of his two-hour marathon speech, Im­ran Khan an­nounced a com­pre­hen­sive 11-point char­ter of re­form that his party will im­ple­ment after com­ing to power. He coined a new slo­gan of 'One Pak­istan' in place of the old one of ' Naya Pak­istan', sig­ni­fy­ing the party's in­creased em­pha­sis on in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment as a step to­wards a wel­fare state based on the prin­ci­ples of Is­lam, to use Im­ran's own words. Re­flect­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of the youth, PTI's 11-point char­ter fo­cuses on the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man cap­i­tal such as ed­u­ca­tion, health and en­vi­ron­ment in con­trast to the PML-N's ob­ses­sion with mo­tor­ways and other grand con­struc­tion projects. Im­ran Khan also talked about cre­at­ing jobs by en­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment and im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment for busi­ness and boost­ing tourism. Since the road to Islamabad runs through Punjab, PTI is now con­cen­trat­ing all its en­ergy on this province and mak­ing steady gains.

The other ma­jor party in the elec­toral field is PPP which was vir­tu­ally wiped out in Punjab in the 2013 elec­tions. No doubt, PPP's power base in Sindh has re­mained in­tact, but, with its poor gov­er­nance record and rep­u­ta­tion for cor­rup­tion, it has lost its ap­peal to the elec­torate in Punjab. How­ever, the party which has now re­or­ga­nized it­self hopes to pick up some seats in the province, es­pe­cially in south Punjab. In the opin­ion of some an­a­lysts, in the case of a hung par­lia­ment, PPP can emerge as a power bro­ker. The wily Asif Zar­dari can spring a sur­prise at any time as he re­cently did in Balochis­tan and in the course of Se­nate chair­man's elec­tions. All told, the com­ing polls are likely to throw up a com­pletely new po­lit­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion as op­posed to the pre­vi­ous one dom­i­nated mainly by PML-N and PPP.

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