Punjab — the stairway to political Nirvana

Let’s not beat around the bush: It’s a battle ground

The return of Sharif’s to Pakistan not only took the local politics, but also Punjab by a storm
which at the time hosted support for other political entities like PPP (post demise of
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto) and the Imran Khan led PTI.

Let’s get down to brass tacks

Parliament in Pakistan comprises 342 seats out of which 60 are reserved for women, and
10 for religious minorities. The rest are directly elected, and are allocated among provinces
based upon their population. So when it comes to General Elections in Pakistan, the battle
between political entities is relentless when it comes to making their mark, and presence
felt in each of the provinces in order to secure majority seats in the parliament. The land
of five rivers we call Punjab, however, holds the most significant position of all the provinces.

Greatest in population among all four provinces, the battle for Punjab is critical, and a
must win for any political party to take maximum seats in the parliament.

For most political parties, although their strongholds are relatively easy to win over since
they are the point of origination for their political thought, however, Punjab being the
Political Alpha, they are encouraged to move out of their comfort zones, and establish a
position of political strength by promoting their political thought, motives, and ambitions
among the targeted Punjab population. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari recently declared Punjab
to be the central hub of all of PPP’s political activities and campaigns for the next general
elections. Imran Khan, although he formed a provincial government in KPK post general
elections 2013, has also remained politically active in Punjab which accounts for the
significance of gaining political support in the latter to form a government in the center.

Contrary to many political parties struggling to make their grounds in Punjab, and attem-
pting to overcome their alienation, here the advantage lies with certain Punjab based
political parties since they apparently have easier access to the local public, enjoy a
greater margin of public acceptability, and can relate to the people via sharing of a
common language, cultural norms, and values. To point out a few: the PMLs — whether
“N”or “Q” – have been known to enjoy their share of Punjab till date.

With the next general elections round the corner, political parties seem all charged up to
take the road to Islamabad via Punjab, and this stairway to political heaven is expected
to remain crowded as we march up to the general elections 2018.

Winner takes all

A review of our political and general elections history tells us that which so ever political
party wins over Punjab goes to form the government in the center. In all the three tenures
of PML-N, for instance, the party swept Punjab with overwhelming majority, and went on
to form not just provincial, but federal governments as well. Same is the case with PPP
tenures of governance.

The battle for Punjab is not only restricted to formation of central government, but also
offers the dominant political entity with the opportunity to form government at provincial
level as well, gaining access to financial and legislative autonomy in provincial matters.

The prevailing political party, above all, has the rightful influence over 101.4 million lives,
spread over both rural and urban geographies, which is more than an opportunity for the
former to establish a longing impression of good governance, service to the public, and
to win the hearts and minds of the latter.

This King Maker has, however, remained deprived of the King’s service.

Taking back the bastion?

Punjab, for PML-N, has always remained a bastion of their political thought and identity.
The Sharifs, whenever they gain power through elections, have exhibited great political
strength across Punjab, and have capitalised on their political fame in the province. There
have been, none the less, several ups and downs to this political fame and strength.

The political support for PML-N witnessed a considerable decline in Punjab during exile
of the Sharifs while Musharraf was in power, and the vacuum was filled in by the PML-Q
led by Chaudhry brothers, although it diminished too with the departure of Musharraf

The return of Sharif’s to Pakistan not only took the local politics, but also Punjab by a
storm which at the time hosted support for other political entities like PPP (post demise
of Benazir Bhutto) and the Imran Khan led PTI.

During the PPP led government, PML-N was able to form a provincial government, and
pull back its once lost public favoritism through several developmental initiatives aimed
at improving the infrastructure, and service to the public, which ultimately led to a clean
sweep in the general elections of 2013 enabling the Sharif’s to take charge of the center.

The popularity graph of PML-N in Punjab, at present, makes it a bastion for the Sharifs
while moving in to upcoming general elections.

So the stage is all set…

The weather in the country is heating up, so is the political one. With the next general
elections due to be held next year in 2018, the stage is all set for political campaigning
and reach out to the masses by political parties. The Panama papers verdict, the ongoing
operation Radd ul Fasaad, and the census in the meantime can prove to be significant
game changers for all stakeholders, particularly for the PML-N led central government.

Amid fair elections held, intense competition could be witnessed, and the battle for Punjab
could be more intense than ever. Besides PML-N, PPP and PTI can also impact the political
scenario in Punjab, and emerge as potential power corridors.

Punjab is ready to play its part in hosting the political outreach to public, and certainly
will prove to be a deciding factor in the fate of political parties, and the future politics of

All eyes are now set on the ones who will take Punjab, and be on the road to Islamabad.

Hussaan Tariq
The writer is an HR professional. He can be contacted at hussaantariq@gmail.com

Source:Pakistan Today https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/04/02/punjab-the-stairway-to-political-nirvana/

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