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The chessboard model

PPP is cautiously weighing its options for staging a comeback in the upcoming general elections

The chessboard model

Ahead of the general elections scheduled for this year, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is aiming to form government in the Centre and a couple of provinces, too. If it does, it would be a surprise victory.

The party leadership, with its calculated moves, has managed to put its weight behind the chairman Senate with 57 votes, defeating the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate, allegedly with the help of “hidden hands”.

Many electables from Sindh have joined PPP in the past few months. Besides, toppling of PML-N government in Balochistan and a smart political move in the recently held Senate elections are some prominent party victories, indicating strategies to win the upcoming general elections or at least be in a position to form a coalition government.

The PPP has also expressed serious concerns on the new delimitations, claiming they have affected party’s electoral college. “We were definitely weak in Punjab in the general elections 2013. But we still believe that PPP has deep roots in Punjab,” says Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP Punjab President and a senior leader. “We believe PPP has its foundation in Punjab but we could not address the electoral college well. This time we will come with a revived determination and good strategy.”

He says PPP is about to announce its manifesto for the next general elections and the chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, would be visiting districts and holding conventions in different areas of Punjab in the coming weeks.

Read also: The mechanics of elections

However, he says it is too early to say how many seats they will win, whether they will form alliances or do seat adjustments. “Many decisions will be taken when the elections are announced.”

Kaira claims “PML-N has been exposed, its leader disqualified, and the public is also coming to know the problems with PTI and its leader Imran Khan.”

He says the party has expressed its concerns before the parliamentary group on the issue of delimitations. “We have also directed our district leaders to prepare detailed reports regarding our concerns and send them to the ECP and party leadership.”

In the last few months, a big number of electables from Sindh joined the PPP, bidding farewell to other mainstream parties, including PML-N, PTI, PML-F and MQM. Most recently, PML –N provincial lawmaker, Humayun Khan, in Sindh formally joined the PPP. He had been in contact with the PPP leadership for the last several months.

It seems apparent the PPP will grab most seats in Sindh in the next general elections. It also aims for a few seats in KP and Balochistan.

Earlier, in December, the chairperson announced the party will not forge alliances with any political group in the next general elections. He vowed to pitch the PPP candidates in every constituency. The party, according to some insiders, has aimed to establish itself firmly against the ruling party in Punjab. Party’s Co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, has said they would form government at the federal and provincial levels.

In 2013 general elections, PPP got 42 seats in the National Assembly, 86 seats in Sindh Assembly, seven in Punjab Assembly, four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It got no seat in Balochistan. It was literally wiped out from Punjab and got most National Assembly seats from its stronghold Sindh.

Only a year ago or so, Asif Ali Zardari had said the PPP was not eyeing the 2018 general elections but the next. However, in recent months, the party sounds more optimistic.

It seems apparent the PPP will grab most seats in Sindh in the next general elections. It also aims for a few seats in KP and Balochistan. It had successfully managed to destabilise PML-N government in Balochistan and won a Senate seat from KP. It also aims to get a reasonable number of NA seats, some say around 20, in Punjab province, with the help of alliances or through seat adjustments, particularly in South Punjab.

The claims appear contrary to reality; the PPP candidates in Punjab by-polls on average bagged less than five percent votes in the last couple of years. Even smaller parties and new religious parties got more votes than PPP.

Senior journalist and political analyst, M Ziauddin, thinks PPP claims are merely drawing room discussions and nothing else. “If we look at the ground reality, PPP will hardly win even one seat in Punjab. However, it can surprise us with the help of the establishment that seemingly wants to knock out Nawaz Sharif by any means. PPP has lost public support.”

He says Zardari might have joined hands with the establishment against the Sharifs. “It seems the politics of 1990s is back.”

“I don’t think the PPP would be in a good position in the next general elections,” says Murtaza Solangi, a political analyst. He says the party might win some more seats in Sindh but it will hardly win any in Punjab and KP from where they have been routed. “In Sindh, they are better organised and can win a few more seats, including one in Karachi. But if we see the performance of the party in by-polls it is pathetic.”

“I don’t believe the PPP would be able to work with the ‘establishment’ in this situation where rigging is not possible at a big level in the presence of the judiciary, media and public,” concludes Solangi.

Waqar Gillani

waqar gillani
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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