There’s an election around the corner, we’ve finally been told. But one wouldn’t be able to tell, if one were to take to the streets, or browse through the TV news channels, or newspapers, or even the social media profiles of individual politicians.
To the uninitiated, it would almost appear as if the Election Commission’s many half starts have lulled the parties into an ain’t-happening mode. But, despite Pakistan’s youth bulge, there are many for whom the ‘24 polls aren’t quite the first rodeo. These cynics suspect something quite sinister: that the parties have done a cost-benefit analysis of the whole thing, and have slotted it as an exercise in futility. The powers that be will decide where the chips fall.
The most irritating thing about the cynics, the world over, is that more often than not, they’re right.
If one were to take a glance, the PTI, for obvious reasons, is least visible in the run up to the polls, despite being on a high of popularity. It’s between the courts and prison for this particular party, mood-on-the-street notwithstanding. And in the constituencies where party vote doesn’t cross that of the individual candidate’s, well, those candidates in question have been whisked away to the two new parties on the block.
The League is back to being what the PTI was in 2018, but this time the gloves are nigh completely off. Beset by the woes of the economy (the bad press for which is borne by Ishaq Dar’s party more than the Kakar administration, what to speak of Dr Shamshad herself) the party is facing some resistance on the campaign trail, even in its strongholds. The party might have gotten together a massive rally in Lahore, but that isn’t to be categorised as part of an election campaign trail. It was a welcome rally, which is a switch that can be flicked only once.
The party that actually can have an electioneering campaign, is the PPP, in Fortress Sindh, which has stuck by the party. Only the ill-informed reader thinking in the most reductive manner would think the electorate there is voting for the party because of some sort of feudal pressure in what is Pakistan’s most urbanised province. The voter there certainly is responding to whatever mix of development and political posturing that the party is offering. But without the costs of having to run the economy as well.
However, even that mix of freedom (which the PTI does not have) and absence of bad economic press (that the League does not have) hasn’t quite translated into a strong spirited election campaign. They were about to, but a spanner has been thrown in the works by a rumoured rift between the father-and-son duo that run the party, one that manifested itself in a recent interview on a news channel.
In short, barring the outright farcical elections that in-office military dictators have carried out, these are set to be the least election-y elections this country has ever seen. On second thought, perhaps even the 2002 polls had more gumption, yielding the then out-of-favour PPP the largest percentage of the popular vote.