PTI is desperately looking for electables from ruling PML-N. PTI finally realised that big public meetings, street protests and corruption narrative is not enough to defeat PML-N in Punjab. Imran khan campaigned against corruption and corrupt politicians for more than two decades. But now he has forced to accept the tainted politicians in his party. PTI still needs to have more electables especially from Punjab which has traditionally been a stronghold of the PML-N and right wing forces since the last three decades.
PTI knows that it can’t form government in the centre without wining good number of seats from Punjab. It needs minimum 70 to 80 national assembly seats Punjab to form government in Islamabad. This is an uphill task. PTI only manage to win half dozen seats from Punjab in 2013 elections. Imran Khan was very popular at the time but his popularity did not translate into votes automatically.
PTI is still facing problem in the rural constituencies. It lacks organisational structure and sort of popularity it enjoys in the cities. PTI failed to concentrate on each rural constituency to strengthen its position as political party. In fact, it ignores the rural voters and concentrated heavily on its urban support.
It is still not in the position to turn tables on PML-N. Even though it won more than 50 electables from PPP, PML-N and PML-Q in last few months but it still are lagging behind PML-N. The induction of electables in big numbers have disillusioned and disappointed the hardcore ideological workers and activists of the party. These activists were hoping to achieve change and Naya Pakistan under the popular and charismatic leadership of Imran khan after winning the next elections. But PTI’s increased reliance on electables and compromises shattered these hopes.
PTI still needs 40 to 50 more electables to win 70 to 80 national assembly seats from Punjab. PTI is relying on the powers that be to get the required numbers of electables. PTI is still not in the position to defeat PML-N in Punjab without the help of the establishment. If PML-N remained intact till the polling day then it will again become the largest party in Punjab.
So PTI need both the electables and practical help from powers that be to defeat PML-N. But the emergence of forces like South Punjab Soba Mahaz is not a good sign for PTI. It means PTI will not be able to win enough seats from South Punjab to become largest party in the parliament. PTI was also hoping to get some seats from Baluchistan and Karachi but the emergence of Baluchistan Awami Party in Baluchistan and PSP in Karachi shattered these hopes.
Same process can take place in South Punjab. It was generally believed that PML-N’ s loss will be PTI’s gain. But the situation has changed. PML-N lost its parliamentary party in Baluchistan but PTI failed to benefit from this loss. PTI might face the similar situation in Punjab where electables leaving PML-N might join Soba Mahaz or contest as independents.
PTI is aspiring to form the next government in the centre; and to achieve this end, it is facing the herculean task of getting at least 80 seats from Punjab, a province which has been deciding the fate of political parties since long.
In the present National Assembly, the PTI has only six members from Punjab elected on the general seats. The rest come from the KP (18 seats), Sindh and the capital city of Islamabad one each.
PTI’s six MNAs from five Punjab districts include: Ghulam Sarwar Khan (Rawalpindi), Imran Khan (Rawalpindi), Amjad Ali Khan (Mianwali), Shafqat Mehmood (Lahore) and Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Multan). It has no representation in the National Assembly from rest of the 31 districts. Asad Umer was elected from Islamabad in 2013. Recently, the PTI has held political rallies at Pakpattan, Khanewal, Mianwali, Rahimyar Khan, Kot Addu (Muzaffargarh) and Attock districts. These are the districts mainly held by the ruling PML-N, but of late, the PTI has also made inroads by winning over the loyalties of some electables.
In order to form the next government in the centre, the PTI has to get at least 80 seats from Punjab in the coming elections while also improving its existing tally especially in the KP where it is in the government since 2013. Interestingly, while the PPP is planning to restrict the ruling PML-N to 90 seats in Punjab which seems to be a realistic approach, the PTI, on the other hand, is eying over as much number of seats from this province.
PTI, which has been cobbled together taking politicians from different political parties, is mainly banking on the likely split in the PML-N in the wake of SC verdict on Panama leaks. It is looking towards establishment to intervene to cause split in PML-N.
In the last three years, the PTI has been able to win the support of over three dozen electables from Punjab who have been MNAs from various Punjab districts from 2002 to 2008. But still it lacks the required number to emerge as the majority party in the next elections.
PTI might be forced to form an alliance or make seat-adjustments with independents and the South Punjab Soba Mahaz. PTI was planning to field candidates on all the national seats from Punjab and the federal capital but this plan might change in fast changing political situation. PTI is hoping that PML-N will fall like a wall of sand or a house of cards before the general elections. This will paved the way for PTI to get the required majority.
It is still a distant dream to get majority in Punjab. PML-N is in difficult situation but has not collapsed as house of cards. If PML-N succeeded to hold on the party then it will be difficult for PTI to win the majority. The heavy reliance on electables can backfire and damage the PTI in the largest province. The situation will become clear in next few weeks. Let’s wait and see how things turned out to be. PTI is still away from causing upset to defeat PML-N.
By Khalid Bhatti