Expecting to score big in the forthcoming general elections, the PPP-P, PML-N and the PTI are all focusing on the Southern Punjab. And they have every reason to do that, for the number of national and provincial assembly seats that any party wins from this part of the country has always been of critical import in forming the government. The PPP-P, PML-N and PTI have lined up their most formidable figures, but the PTI candidates seem to have overwhelming influence in their respective constituencies.
There are quite a few groups which might turn out to be the difference: the biradaries, religious groups, social organisations, labour unions, civil society and sectarian groups are all important. Regardless of their public stance, both the PML-N and the PTI are trying to woo each and every group to optimize their gains.
A survey of this area conducted by Pakistan Today indicates that the PML-N’s local leadership has limited influence over local politics. In the last five years of N’s rule in Punjab, this part was considered as neglected, in every sense of the word. Such was the indifference of the ‘N’ hierarchy one could not really identify who the real party leader was in this area. This lack of local leadership and the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty have badly damaged N’s political position, while the Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) has continuously targeted this region by raising the bogey of a new province, titled the Bahawalpur Janubi Punjab.
Likewise, the PTI has also been playing an active role in the politics of this area by bringing some towering political personalities to the party’s fold, namely Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen, to name a few. These personalities have not only contributed towards the growing popularity of the PTI but have also enabled it to spread its influence in the region.
The PTI generally enjoys a preference in the Southern Punjab over the PML-N. To some local groups, the PML-N is a spent force, while the PTI is being termed as ‘the new voice of a new era’, and the common man believes that the PTI will pull them out of their hopeless existence.
According to some of the better known political analysts of the area, the people of South Punjab are now well-aware of the kinds of political foul games that have been played in their midst. Analysts believe that these people will not be politically exploited or cheated easily from this point onwards and the shackles of the past seem to be giving way to a new political culture. They are themselves mature enough to check the performance of all the political parties by comparing the tall claims made by these parties, while they can closely observe the progress of those political parties that have ruled these areas in the past, analyst added. Furthermore, in view of these analysts, no party can claim of retaining a sweeping majority in this part of the country, as many new political and social trends have emerged from this region in present times and all the old practices seems to be heading towards the dustbin of oblivion; but maybe not too soon.
Both the PPP-P and the PML-N are thought to be sharing equal status here. None from among these two can lay claim to enjoying special preference in the eyes of the masses, as both parties have governed them for five long years, revealing the complete picture of their governing abilities.
As has been the fad in the country’s politics, a number of prominent personalities have left the PPP-P and the PML-N and joined the PTI after sensing the people’s mood. A source confided in this scribe that South Punjab’s latest electoral political map, that was presently getting final touches, would be totally different from that of the past.