People in Pakistan will go to the ballot box for a national election on Wednesday July 25. Image: iStock
People in Pakistan will go to the ballot box for a national election on Wednesday July 25. Image: iStock

A recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit has predicted a win for the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in the general elections. According to the survey, the PML-N will form a government in the province of Punjab and Shahbaz Sharif could become the next prime minister of Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif would continue to enjoy influence over the party if it wins in the general elections, according to the survey. Earlier, a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan predicted the same results and showed that Nawaz Sharif was the most popular leader in the country.

While predictions of an electoral win for the PML-N made by national and international institutions is good news for the party and its supporters, the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the Islamabad High Court’s decision regarding Khawaja Asif’s disqualification is also a morale booster for the party as his electoral presence could secure a certain win in Sialkot division seats. The impulsive nature of Imran Khan and his hasty decisions-based politics is not good enough to outsmart a shrewd politician like Sharif and his PML-N. It seems the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) makes decisions merely on the basis of social media research, and the recent incidents where it has taken U-turns is evidence of this.

With all the blunders and U-turns it is making, the PTI’s reputation as an immature political party will likely remain intact

With all the blunders and U-turns it is making, the PTI’s reputation as an immature political party will likely remain intact. First, it nominated Nasir Khosa for the post of caretaker chief minister for Punjab, but then suddenly withdrew it. Orya Maqbool Jan‘s name was presented, but it was withdrawn as well after a backlash from within the ranks of the party, as he is considered a hardline conservative with a soft spot for the Taliban.

With all the electable candidates being included in the PTI by the “invisible forces,” all Imran Khan had to do was focus his attention on central and northern Punjab. He needed to invent a new narrative and run an aggressive campaign, public gatherings in which he should have been highlighting the weak points of PML-N governance in Punjab to grab the voters and electable candidates from the central and northern Punjab. But, Khan preferred to stay in the comfort of TV studios and his residence in Banni Gala doing press conferences in which he pushed his old narrative about Sharif and the PML-N being corrupt.

The more Khan criticises Sharif and accuses him of corruption, the more sympathy the PML-N and Sharif elicit from the voters in Punjab. Khan’s baseless accusations have planted seeds of doubt in Punjabi voters’ minds, convincing them that Sharif was ousted by the establishment only to favor him. The performance of PML-N development projects in Punjab will convince voters to elect it again, while Khan has no significant development projects under his belt to elicit public support.

The aggressive narrative pushed by Sharif and his daughter Maryam has also drawn previously unsympathetic middle-class youths to the PML-N. The undue influence wielded by the invisible forces in marginalizing the PML-N, and Khan’s use of abusive language against Sharif and all those who do not agree with the PTI ideology has actually benefitted the PML-N.

It seems that the PTI is depending heavily on the invisible forces to win the election, but they are just daydreaming, as the establishment has already lent maximum support and therefore have nothing left to give. Everything from the legal system to the big media houses have been pittted against the PML-N, while Sharif was cut from politics in a weak and controversial decision. Big political names and electable candidates were included in PTI, but it still lags behind the PML-N in electoral politics. While Khan is in love with his media appearances, the other PTI leaders and its supporters are not focusing on constituency politics and the need to go out and convince people to vote for them. Instead, all energy and time is wasted on electronic and social media, in degrading and accusing their opponents. One wonders how many decades it will take for PTI to understand that elections are never won with the help of electronic and social media. You need to work tirelessly into the constituencies to make it happen. The credit gained from winning the 1992 cricket World Cup and building a cancer hospital is not good enough to grab votes in the year 2018.

The PML-N, on the other hand, has already done its homework in each and every constituency of Punjab. Hamza Shahbaz, his close aide Chaudry Tanvir Nisar Gujjar and other team members have already arranged electoral alliances in the constituencies. Meanwhile, PTI has been only busy in a ceremonial campaign, which has little effect on realities on the ground. International magazines, institutions, and agencies reporting that PML-N will win the election convincingly is a point of concern for the invisible forces, even after putting curbs on the media, buying prime-time slots for PTI promotion and using the legal system against the PML-N, the PTI still is not even in a position to give the PML-N a run for their money.

It seems the invisible forces have wasted all the resources and time on the wrong horse, as Imran Khan is not ready to learn the art of politics, or get out of his celebrity mindset. The PTI might hardly win 40 to 45 national assembly seats in the upcoming elections and that for sure is not enough to make Imran Khan or anyone else from the party prime minister. It’s the same with the other new blue-eyed pro-establishment Pakistan People Party, which seems unlikely to win more than 55 to 60 seats. Meanwhile, the PML-N has a stronghold in central and northern Punjab along with the Hazara Belt and seems to be in a position to win a simple majority both in Punjab and the center. Another electoral defeat appears to loom for the PTI and other pro-establishment forces at the hands of PML-N. So, does that mean we’ll see the PTI on the road again after the elections with the same accusation of rigging?

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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