Likely outcome of Elections 2018

  • Shaky government on the cards

Although Pakistan’s Parliament completes its term in June 2018, the fresh consensus list at best can be used provisionally. In 2017, Pakistan’s parliament had passed The Elections Act 2017. To be in line with international standards, the Act places a limit on constitution variation not to exceed 10pc. For this consensus data needs to be officially published. This is the basic requirement to conduct fresh delimitation. Since there is no such publication, the political parties passed a Constitutional Amendment allowing ECP to use the provisional results. Using this and the Election Rules 2017 duly issued by ECP delimitation process have been underway since beginning of 2018.

Putting aside this technical hurdle that has to be overcome a number of other issues too looms large on the horizon.

Political alignments are undergoing a huge shift. No party seems to have an ideological stance and with PML-N’s legislators defecting, things do not look good for the ruling party. Many ‘electables’ have already ditched PML-N. Most have joined PTI. However, their departure from PML-N ranks for greener pastures is something one often sees with fresh elections looming. Many in PML-N joined the party post 2013 elections and many were earlier members of PML-Q. PML-N had opened its door for all shades of turncoats and now is being paid back in the same coin.

Then there are the independent candidates emerging as victors who can be used to render support to a party. That the party may not be PML-N is a foregone conclusion. The decision of Supreme Court ousting Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and subsequent cases being conducted by NAB are not a good omen for the party.

Provincial, regional, religious and ethnic colours have made the canvas murky. An example was the by-elections of NA 120. Ending up third was the Labbaik Party bagging 7,180 votes, followed by Milli Muslim League with 5,822 votes. Hussain Rizvi, candidate of Labbaik Ya Rasul Allah, managed to scoop 6pc of the votes cast. He campaigned in favour of stringent blasphemy laws. His posters claimed love and admiration of Mumtaz Qadri who killed the then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Upon this act, many religious factions declared Qadri a hero. Yaqoob Sheikh winning from Milli Muslim League platform; in 2012 was titled a terrorist by US managed to capture 5pc votes. MML is the political springboard of Hafiz Saeed’s JuD. Mosques were a favourite place of promoting their candidates by these Islamic based parties. Should these parties be made to renounce terrorism and violence in all forms, denounce militancy and de-weaponise and then be allowed to enter mainstream politics?

With Khawaja Asif’s disqualification for life for holding an Iqama by High Court (IHC) comes a big blow to PML-N and will likely have a negative cascading impact on PML-N leading to more legislators jumping the ship

On face of it — it seems the Parliament will be a hung one. Punjab is stronghold of PML-N. Six MNAs and two MPAs have already left PML-N from Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawal Nagar, Faisalabad, Gujranwala to name a few with the purpose of pursuing the demarcation for South Punjab thereby creating a new province.

With Khawaja Asif’s disqualification for life for holding an Iqama by High Court (IHC) comes a big blow to PML-N and will likely have a negative cascading impact on PML-N leading to more legislators jumping the ship.

It does not seem likely that PML-N will win parliamentary majority. It also does not seem likely that he will be able to garner support of other parties to win that majority. The odds are against it.

So what will happen?

Can PTI garner enough support with the help of extreme rightists, a mix of independents and cobbling together a mix of smaller groups to form a government? Will this group on issues be on the same page or lead to more chaos? How long will it survive? A broth made by too many cooks is bound to spoil.

How different parties manage the voters on Election Day is important as is galvanising supporters to come out to vote.

PPP has reduced itself to a sub-provincial party restricted to rural Sindh. If elections of NA-120 is anything to go by, PPP has very little standing outside of their niche. A most disturbing aspect of NA 120 elections had been the demise of PPP. This was the constituency which largely came under NW-60 in 1970 won by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by 78,000 votes. His main contestant was Dr Javed Iqbal, son of Allama Iqbal. In 2017, PPP bagged only 1,404 votes. It ended up last in the race. A sad state for a party that had won the hearts and minds of people under the dynamic leadership of Bhutto.

The question is which of these weak parties manage to get the magical figure of 172 numbers and who will form the 172? Achievement of this goal is one thing, running a government successfully of a motley group of divergent thought processes thrown together is quite another.

It will be a system chaos.

End Note: “Good governance never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.”

Frank Herbert, Children of Dune


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