Battleground Punjab | Pakistan Today

Battleground Punjab

Election edition — winner takes it all

The PTI leader said the release of PPP members Dr Asim and Sharjeel Memon, despite corruption charges, indicates that the government turned a blind eye to hide its own corruption

Pakistan’s leading political parties are gearing up for the upcoming election battle by directing all forces on winning Punjab.

The party that claims the ground in the strongest province gets to form the next government.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been boasting of a successful comeback by launching an early election campaign to develop a strong foothold in Punjab and Sindh, although elections are a year away.

On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has diverted its attention towards Sindh.

PML-N intends to gather the support of voters who were left disappointed after PPP’s dismal performance during its reign in Sindh.

However, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan alleged that PPP and PML-N have settled for a covert deal by exchanging favours.

The PTI leader said the release of PPP members Dr Asim and Sharjeel Memon, despite corruption charges, indicates that the government turned a blind eye to hide its own corruption.

“Rumours of a deal between PPP and PML-N to form a coalition government are baseless and illogical,” said Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, PPP Central Punjab Information Secretary.

The three leading parties have adopted the tactic of inciting a verbal war against each other since it is difficult to make a comparison based on performance.

PTI and PPP have reiterated allegations of rigging in the 2013 elections and claimed it as the reason behind their failure.

Corruption allegations are the focal points against PML-N and PPP but PTI has been criticised for raising this issue to support its election campaign.

PTI and PML-N are battling it out in the Panama case while PPP is preparing its own strategies to conquer the province.

“PPP is looking for a diplomatic settlement with PML-N,” said Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, PTI member and leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly.

“Authorities concerned should not have cleared those involved in corruption cases”.

PPP’s Chief Asif Ali Zardari has announced to make all possible efforts to win the elections with the support of co-chairman Bilawal and the electables.

However, the party’s electoral strategy to regain space in Punjab is so far unsuccessful despite the efforts of senior party leaders.

“PPP’s election formula was to rely on its real strength in Punjab that used to be the vote bank acting as an insurance,” said Analyst Sohail Warraich. “But the vote bank has now eroded and now it depends on electable candidates.”

With a barely existing constituency, PPP does not look credible for a comeback despite its loud campaigning efforts.

The focus shifts on PTI and PML-N as the main candidates in the battle with a strong influence on the majority of the population.

“PTI has developed a strong foothold in the urban and rural areas of the provinces,” said Sohail Warraich.

“PML-N, on the other hand, has support from the business community”.

PTI’s main objective has been to ensure accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over corruption allegations in the Panama case.

A year after the revelations in Panama Leaks, PTI is persistent that the PM is disqualified for concealing his wealth as offshore assets and deceiving the nation.

The Panama case is soon reaching a conclusion as the Supreme Court has to announce the final verdict on the prime minister’s accountability case.

“PML-N’s early campaigning is a strategy to take the public’s minds off the Panama case,” said Ayaz Amir, senior journalist and former MNA.

“The prime minister’s attempts to deliver speeches on development and progress are only a distraction”.

The overall prospects in Punjab will only be clear after the judgment on Panama case which is expected to affect the outcome of the election.

“Disqualification of PM Nawaz Sharif will lead into the evaporation of PML-N as an incumbent party,” said Amir.

With elections coming up, all parties are on a mission to persuade disgruntled members and evaluate possible electables.

“PTI is waiting for the Panama case verdict to launch its electoral strategy, meanwhile, the party is assessing the entry of new candidates,” said Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed.

PML-N, however, continues to refute the allegations and claims that the Sharif family has not been involved in corruption.

“The disqualification of PM Nawaz is out of the question, hence the disappearance of PML-N is impossible,” said Pervaiz Malik, PML-N Lahore president.

“PML-N strategy for election campaigning will be in reaction to the Panama case,” said Malik. “We have plans but have not worked out a strategy yet.”

All parties are now involved in throwing accusations and allegations, however, the nation is concerned with their performance on socio-economic development.

With PML-N stretching out towards Sindh and PPP creeping in Punjab, the PTI leader described the fight as ‘Noora Kushti’.

The political tension in the country will only escalate after the revelation of the Panama case verdict.