Agha Naseem Abbas, an old loyalist of Pakistan People’s Party is happily campaigning for NA-93, district Khushab. He is one of the few workers who have been awarded tickets by the party for general elections 2018.
Abbas’ selection has given a face to PPP in Khushab where influential and electable figures are reluctant to accept PPP ticket, assuming the party is nowhere in the electoral race.
Interested in contesting elections, with the help of some good friends, he never thought he would be nominated for a National Assembly seat against the family of Nawab of Kalabagh. A labourer by profession, he is well known in the local party circles as a diehard worker for the past many years. A graduate, who owns a motorbike, does wall-chalking to earn a living.
His nomination is welcomed by party workers but is considered only a move to save face of the party in times of crisis where electables are not attracted to the PPP.
“We are their last choice. Electability and money is the prime criterion,” says Tahir Malik, a PPP worker based in Islamabad, adding, “This gulf between the rich and the poor is now also felt within parties where poor workers have no importance other than chanting slogans and making party gatherings attractive. We are obliged only when there is no other choice.”
Similarly, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) has awarded tickets to a former councilor and old party worker in the upcoming general elections. Yasir Gujjar from Sheikhupura is considered an ordinary worker and has been given ticket for being a loyal to the local leaders included in parliamentary board to ward tickets.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has denied tickets to many old workers, preferring local influential politicians and turncoats to them. “Some tickets have also been given to workers and professionals. We have to go after electables because we want to win elections,” says Fawad Chaudhry, a senior PTI leader.
Though mainstream political parties have not prepared any data showing the number of workers and professionals (other than politicians and electables) who have been given tickets for the upcoming general elections but they oblige ordinary workers where they have no other option.
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“Unfortunately, political workers and honest and qualified people have become irrelevant in Pakistani politics and this is by design,” says Wajahat Masood, writer and political analyst. “Vested interests have dominated parties, ignoring ideology and democratic norms.” He thinks this bad practice, unluckily, will continue in muddied political water.