The Deputy Speaker of Sindh Assembly, Shehla Raza, was recently invited to a local news channel, whereby she was drilled with political questions. She was asked what she thought about former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ouster, what she made of the case of Ishaq Dar, what her thoughts were on the Ayesha Gulalai saga, so on and so forth. None of these questions were remotely relevant to the Pakistan People’s Party – the party which she belongs to – or Sindh – the province that she is a provincial representative of.
One must wonder why after such a dismal performance up north only recently, the TV show host did not pose a single question to the esteemed MPA about her party’s declining popularity in the country’s most populous province. The recent widely reported by-election in which PML-N’s Kulsoom Nawaz succeeded in gathering 61,745 votes and PTI’s Yasmin Rashid stood second with 47,099 votes, PPP’s Faisal Mir could manage to win only 1,414. Even right-wing newcomers Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Milli Muslim League secured more votes than the political heavy weight – 7,130 and 5,822, respectively.
The most abysmal side of the affairs, for Bhutto’s brainchild, is that this does not come in the very least as a surprise. In fact, the outcome was very much expected, given the lack of interest shown by the party in the much-hyped follow-up to the election. Rather, we should say, the gradual decline in Pakistan People’s Party’s performance in the most heavily populated province of the country over the past decade or so, has always been an indicator of the previous Sunday’s results.
What cause have we to be surprised, or to complain, when the party under consideration holds a meagre 8 out of a total of 371 seats in the provincial assembly of Punjab? And when the party under consideration has only 4 members in the National Assembly who hail from Punjab? This is a huge step downward from the previous election, in which Pakistan People’s Party managed to secure as many as 106 seats in Punjab Assembly, second only to PML-N’s 172.
Furthermore, the party’s horrendous performance is not only restricted to Punjab, either: it holds only 6 out of 124 seats in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2 out of 33 in the assembly of Gilgit Baltistan, 5 out of 49 in the assembly of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and a grand total of zero seats in the provincial assembly of Balochistan. Of its 47 MNAs, none hail from Khyber Pakhtukhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, or Balochistan.
Perhaps Pakistan People’s Party should scratch the “Pakistan” from its name and replace it with “Sindh”, as it holds a clear majority – 96 out of 168 seats – in the southern-most province of the country, and its lion’s share – 43 out of 47 – MNAs hail from the province. However, let us remind Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that elections in Pakistan are not restricted to a single province, nor can parties win the Federal Government through a single province alone.
Is PPP still a national party – as it continues to unabashedly peddle itself – or does it want its existence to be reduced to a single province, and be relegated to the ranks of regional parties such as KP’s Awami National Party, Urban Sindh’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or Balochistan’s National Party?
With elections coming up in less than a year, it is high time that Pakistan People’s Party pulled its socks up and get back to serious business. Things have changed greatly since 2008, they must be reminded. No longer is PML-N PPP’s only strong opposition. On the contrary, there are many other parties who have displayed much better performance than PPP in recent years. Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, for instance, has soared through the ranks very rapidly, and various right-wing parties have cropped up in recent times, that would give – and have given – PPP a run for their money across the country.
As a matter of fact, it would not be too wrong to observe that even though PTI seems to be the PML-N’s archenemy, it has dealt much more damage to PPP than Nawaz’s party in recent years, especially in the Punjab. Take the composition of Punjab Assembly, for example. From 2008 to 2013, things did not change substantially for PML-N over there as it formed the government and had its own Chief Minister in 2008 as well as in 2013. It only went from holding the simple majority in the province to holding the clear majority. However, for PPP, matters changed drastically for the worse, as they dropped more than 100 votes in the province, as well as an important MNA in the shape of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, leading the party’s base in the south of Punjab to weaken substantially. And things would continue to deteriorate drastically if the party would reduce its focus to Sindh and continue to ignore the other provinces.
Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, you should now worry less about keeping Bhutto alive, and more about keeping PPP alive – lest the domino effect take it to a grave in Bhutto’s neighbourhood very soon.