The PTI faced a debacle in bye-election held to fill the seat vacated by its MNA Faisal Vawda. The PTI candidate managed to secure a lowly fifth position with the PPP nominee winning the election and the PML(N) ticket holder following closely as a runner-up. What should worry the mainstream parties is that the banned TLP’s candidate secured the third position. The TLP has already won three seats in the Sindh Assembly. Unless the mainstream parties improve their capacity to deliver and mend their reputation, they will continue to cede turf to parties belonging to the extreme right as has happened in India and several countries in South America.
Shahbaz Sharif has assumed the leadership of the PML(N) after getting bail. There is a likelihood of Vice President Maryam Nawaz taking the back seat for the time being and the party following a more moderate line under its President. The signs of a change in line had already started to appear with Ms Nawaz staging an about-turn by maintaining that her party would prefer the PTI government to complete its tenure so that Prime Minister Imran Khan has no excuse for his failure to perform. PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who virtually hounded the PPP and ANP out of the opposition alliance by sending them show cause notices, has now agreed to accept Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani as opposition leader in the Senate if the PPP rejoins the PDM. The Alliance chief has also dropped the idea of resignations from the assemblies. The PPP claims to be the founder of the opposition alliance and while resigning from the alliance offices, it maintained that it was still a part of the PDM. The PML(N) is bitter over the PPP first getting the Senate office and then NA-249, both promised to the PML(N), but is likely to welcome the PPP to the PDM while continuing to nurse its grievances. The old rivals are likely to continue to cooperate despite the lurking mistrust.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman has promised to launch a full-fledged mass contact campaign after Eid. With the pandemic still on the rampage, the National Assembly is likely to remain the real battlefield, particularly during the forthcoming budget session.