Pakistani elections’ transfer window

  • Another political drama

As football seasons around the globe are drawing to their ends, a new kind of transfer window has opened in Pakistan: that of exchanging politicians between political parties. And with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s claim of landing the political equivalent of Cristiano Ronaldo – okay, maybe Gareth Bale would be more accurate if the man in question is a certain Nisar – the news of Javed Hashmi going the other way has struck most like lightning. Whether it has set your world on fire or alight, depends upon your political affiliations.

If Nisar is the political equivalent of Gareth Bale, then Hashmi perhaps is Michael Owen: breaking his “home club’s” (Liverpool/PML-N) hearts in old age by asking for a move to the bitter rivals (Manchester United/PTI). However, unlike Owen, Hashmi seems to have rediscovered his loyalties and has decided to return to his former party. And, unfortunately for PTI, the horse they just lost is not half as irrelevant as an ageing Michael Owen.

Although Multan’s NA-149 is considered to be Hashmi’s stronghold given the spiritual relevance he holds in the area, however, his influence extends much, much farther. He has a history of contesting and winning elections in constituencies in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and the federal capital Islamabad. NA-48, the constituency from which Hashmi won in 2013, and the constituency which PTI’s Asad Umar currently holds, lies in the very heart of Islamabad. He is an ace up any party’s sleeve; one that can be used in various key constituencies – which is why coaxing him back into the party smack in the middle of the election season, is a power-stroke for PML-N; especially because he can prove to be very useful against two of PTI’s heavyweights: Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar.

Unluckily for Hashmi and PML-N, Umar’s profile would have been useless anywhere in Pakistan except for educated, diplomatic, and posh, Islamabad

Hashmi shares constituencies with both, with the former in Multan and with the latter in Islamabad. Qureshi and Hashmi have enough in common to be bitter rivals: their strong agricultural background (both are two of the three biggest feudal lords of Multan, with the third being Yousuf Raza Gillani), their “saintly” status in their hometown (another trait shared by Gilani) and their neighbouring constituencies, NA-149 for Hashmi and NA-150 for Qureshi. It is hard to pick a winner should both choose to contest from the same constituency in Multan (something Hashmi challenged Qureshi to, back in 2014), as they both have strong political, social, and economic backgrounds, and their “head-to-head” is balanced at 1-1 – while Hashmi beat Qureshi in 1997, the former had the last laugh, beating his rival in their hometown of Multan in 2013. This is probably why Hashmi is smarting a little to this day, which is why he challenged Qureshi to the seat in NA-150 (Qureshi’s stronghold) and which is why it should be fun to see them lock horns in the upcoming elections. Despite them not considering each other as rivals (they’re as adverse to each other as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, only a little more civilised – perhaps) the prospect of their contest is one that calls for fresh popcorn and chilled soda.

Umar, on the other hand, is new to the political scene. Hailing from an army family, Asad Umar has a business education and has worked for several multinational companies, including HSBC, Exxon, and Engro, and, hence, is a salaried man. He has no background in politics, except that his brother, Zubair Umar, is the current governor of Sindh and a member of PML-N. Both Asad and Zubair are newbies in the political scene, and have no disciples – unlike the three from Multan – to ensure their lasting success in the business. Nevertheless, they have both managed to secure their niche in politics through their own hard work alone. There’s only one thing that one-ups Asad from his elder brother: the Sitara-I-Imtiaz which he received from the PPP government in 2009, for his services to the public sector.

However, no amount of education, technical prowess, finesse, and refinement can counter simpleton’s Hashmi’s popularity – or can it?

Unluckily for Hashmi and PML-N, Umar’s profile would have been useless anywhere in Pakistan except for educated, diplomatic, and posh, Islamabad, where Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf has gathered many followers. However, hailing from the ruling party could never hurt, and that’s one thing that gives Hashmi an assured advantage. Plus, if he can beat Sheikh Rasheed in Rawalpindi’s NA-55, he can pretty much beat anyone anywhere.

A lifeline for the fledgling PML-N? Definitely. Hashmi’s move has added a little more spice to the upcoming elections, and we wait – armed with our cans of soda and buckets of popcorn – for the 15th of July to arrive and unravel another political drama before our eyes.