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A pre-election review of Pakistani politics

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D Asghar
The idiot box is a buzz on the recent political developments, especially when it comes to the activities of the co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The gentleman who recently returned from a self-imposed exile has made some noise in the Punjab, which happens to be the home turf of the incumbents. The visible and much-discussed mantra is that the politics of reconciliation has been buried for good and the PPP is out there to win the heartland and de-seat the incumbents from their throne. No matter how hard the PPP tries, it will be quite impossible for it to gain ground in the most populous province. The incumbents have been ruling in the Punjab since the 80’s, minus the time of Saudi exile. With that track record and time, there has been an ideological shift, which the incumbents have very vigorously cultivated, in all these years. Predominantly rural and conservative, the electorate resonates with the incumbents because of their humongous stake and brand recognition in the most precious province, in terms of seats. The chief minister has created a perception of his “hands-on management”, “immediate notices”, and the “chief servant” of the province. The PPP, with its rather stale ideology, is no longer in vogue when it comes to this province. The young chairman of the PPP has unsuccessfully tried to reignite the passion of his late grandfather. The times of Mr Bhutto and his aura are nothing but history now. There is no military dictator like General Ayyub Khan, and no matter how rebellious our young chairman may tend to act in his speeches, these are not the same people who once resonated with his late grandfather. The very clichéd and utopian slogan of “Food, Clothing and Shelter” has lost its meaning and significance. Come to think of it, the very idealists of the idealists will not pay heed to such meaningless sloganeering.Sindh, where the PPP has enjoyed the provincial government for almost nine years, is not any exemplary model of any sorts at all. With not so stellar credentials to boast about, all those emotional appeals will not matter. As they say, even victimhood has an expiration date, and the PPP is way past that date.With what has been seen so far, there is nothing new or worthy that PPP must advance except a few tales of their past and a few jabs at the incumbents and their follies. The two major contenders for premiership have been at odds with one another, at every level. The former Cricket legend has been very critical of the prime minister and wants the apex court to render a historic judgement, disqualifying the premier in the overly blabbered Panama case. There is a precedence when it comes to disqualification of a sitting prime minister, but that was for different reasons and under entirely different circumstances. Though far-fetched, if it happens in the Panama case, it will be quite a stretch to disqualify a PM on such accusations and rather flimsy evidence. It is expected that the judgement will offer a “take away” for both parties so both may claim some sort of victory in front of their respective followers, voters and supporters.From a purely tactical viewpoint, the ruling party must be quite delighted with the presence and apparent advances of the PPP in their stronghold. In the heart of hearts, even the PPP knows that it has a nuisance value and the most it will do is divide the vote of both rivals. If it is successful, the chances are that it may hurt the PTI more than the PML-N. Hence, in the end, even if there is a fall back of the Panama verdict, the odds are still in favour of the incumbents. If the PPP’s presence weakens the lead of the PTI, the beneficiaries will be the seasoned players of this game.
The former skipper may be in for yet another rude but brutal surprise. His entire game and strategy hinges on the possibility of a disqualified PM and a tainted PML-N. If the verdict does not come as expected, the net loser will be the former Captain and his Movement for Justice.

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