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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Why PML-N is terrified of elections

PDM (the thirteen-party alliance) tabled a no-confidence motion against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf government just about a year back and removed them from power. Some bad economic decisions forced their hand & the inflation skyrocketed. PTI gained popularity & PDM became unpopular.

A dog bite can lead to rabies whose symptoms include hydrophobia or fear of the water. I have no idea what can lead to election phobia which seems to be affecting PDM in general and PMLN in particular nowadays. Look at all the democratic countries especially the mother of all democracies the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Both effectively have a two-party rule, Labor and Conservative for the UK and Democratic and Republican for the USA. In both countries first one party comes into power, remains in power for one term, sometimes two terms and more and then the other party comes into power.

This is exactly the scenario playing out over a long period (75-plus years). Sometimes the turnover is affected by switching off just 10 % of votes and sometimes one party gets a substantial lead over the other party. The most interesting thing is small or large the vote difference dissipates over a period & power changes hands. None of the party panics when out of power and formulates a strategy to gain back power via voters the next time. They identify the causes, rationale & different factors leading to their defeat & work harder to convince the voter to choose them and inevitably this happens, and they succeed. This cyclic sequence of events is so predictable that the party in opposition is called the party waiting to get power & it is generally recognized that the opposition will eventually gain power and it’s only a matter of time.

Read more: PML-N workers attack tent serving biryani at Maryam Nawaz’s Kasur jalsa

The scenario in Pakistan looks totally different

PDM (the thirteen-party alliance) tabled a no-confidence motion against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf government just about a year back and removed them from power. Some bad economic decisions forced their hand & the inflation skyrocketed. PTI gained popularity & PDM became unpopular. So much so that the gulf became quite evident & the bye-elections victories & all surveys indicated that PTI has gone way ahead. There is no way that PDM can bridge the popularity gap and thus it is inevitable that PDM will lose the election whenever it is held.

However, the absolute panic and terror with which PDM is viewing the scenario & their willingness to move heaven and earth & not care for any norms, law, or constitution to bail out of holding elections is quite strange. They are going after the Chief Justice of Pakistan, they are taking any pretext even scandalizing Pakistan or showing defiance to Supreme Court orders to somehow escape from the election. The best democratic way to counter Imran Khan and PTI’s popularity is to let them win the election, form government, and make mistakes and the mistakes plus the incumbency factor will make it much easier for PDM to defeat PTI in the 2028 election. So why is this panic & the unseemly haste with which they are trying to escape from holding the election? A deeper look brings out the reason for the undemocratic behaviors of the PDM government & their wish to get out of holding the election by any means.

There are four major reasons that are making it a nightmare for PMLN to allow PDM into going for the election which will almost definitely bring defeat for them. Firstly, the specter of Imran Khan getting a two-thirds majority is haunting them. This election looks to be a difficult one to churn out a hung parliament. Two third the majority will allow Imran Khan and PTI to make amendments in the law. PMLN & the establishment is certain that the questionable NAB amendments which allowed most of their cases to be taken back will be scrutinized and might be reset again. That presents a very uncomfortable period of all the cases reopening.

The EVM machine usage and the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis will become law and that will shut the election doors on both Pakistan Muslim League N and Pakistan People Party forever. Near to 100 % followers in the Western country Imran Khan enjoys the extra advantage of an extremely high turnout expected from there. Even this one point explains their terror. Secondly, Pakistan Muslim League N has always been a conglomerate of power hunting politicians without any ideological base. The absence of any ideological base makes them a poor candidate to be out of power for long. Power is the glue that holds the party together. The 80s and 90s roller coaster ride can be quoted as proof that PMLN can survive in the opposition.

Read more: PTI & PML-N react to Zalmay Khalilzad’s tweets on Imran Khan

But that’s not valid as the fight with PPP was a fixed fight, it was “all sound and fury signifying nothing” They did not hurt each other really it was all lip service. Thirdly they have completely run out of narratives. They tried everything against Imran Khan. Cases, women card, ethnic card, corruption card, religious card, and traitor card, finally went as far as to use the assassination card but unfortunately for them, even that did not work. PMLN tried the victim narrative, for voter narrative, against the establishment narrative, for establishment narrative but somehow contradicted every stance & panicking tried fascist methods on PTI and now is branded as an unpopular fascist party.

The performance also deserted them and made the task more difficult nay impossible for them. Fourthly and probably the deal clincher for PMLN is the fact that they have not lost popularity they have lost voters. There was one general election in Pakistan where the Pakistan People’s Party had won just a handful of seats but bounced back the next election. There is a glaring difference. Even in that election PPP showed votes in every constituency but lost due to the higher vote count of PML-N. Now due to various reasons including political positioning against an ethnic party of Sindh, half-cooked Bilawal Zardari into the election fray and alliance with PMLN has wiped out all PPP voters from most of Punjab. Out of South Punjab it’s difficult to find any voters for PPP.

PPP in Punjab did not lose popularity, they lost voters. The same thing is happening with PMLN now. PMLN & PPP were the “raisen de etre” for each other. The alliance not only defanged both but also disillusioned core voters. The total biasedness & blatant disregard of law displayed by the so called caretaker government is also harming PMLN. People of Punjab are putting the blame in the PMLN basket. The caretaker government is a group of people who are not politicians, they will do their worst and go back to where they came from but PMLN will be left holding the bag. PMLN is going to pay for all the acts committed by the caretaker government. The apprehension is that these voters are not coming back. That will be the death knell for PMLN.

Read more: PML-N worker confronts Maryam Nawaz at press conference

Is there a way out for PMLN from this impasse?

There always are options for political parties. They must follow the law. Hold elections even knowing that PTI will come back to power. Then a massive course correction. Let new blood in PMLN. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Safdar have outlived their shelf life. The old crop of Sharifs will not work; they are too tainted. Junaid Safdar might be an option. He does not have any corruption record & despite carrying the Sharif family burden might be able to remove the stigma. Change the outlook of the party to sync with the modern age. The project of 1985 is dead & some power-sharing outside the Sharif family is a must.

Muslim League in any form always had some grassroots connection and if reorganized at that level they might revive. The extreme option to assassinate Imran Khan will destroy the PMLN in Pakistan. The judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto kept him alive for almost 50 years and only a herculean effort by Zardari put him to rest. A Shaheed Imran Khan will be the last nail in the coffin of PML-N because all Pakistanis will blame PML-N and their supporters for the killing. They should avoid that at all costs, but politicians are not known to learn anything from history. The democratic way of election and look at the next term is the best way but that will entail Sharif’s sharing some power and if history is indicative of their mindset, then PML-N will never do that.


The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.