Finally, sanity prevailed as both the PTI and South Punjab Soba Mahaz decided to merge together to contest the elections from PTI platform. This merger was necessary to defeat both PML-N and PPP candidates in South Punjab. Both sides made wise decision to avert the split of votes. Anything could have happened in a four way contest in a close election. This merger will strengthen the position of PTI in South Punjab.
When PML-N defectors announced to form JPSM to launch the movement for South Punjab province, this move surprised many. It was widely expected that the electables from south Punjab will quit PML-N to join PTI. But the decision to form JPSM raised many eyebrows. PTI leadership was not happy with that development. PTI leader Jahangir Tareen engaged in the behind the scenes efforts to convince the JPSM leaders to merge with PTI.
PTI knew that how important it is to get at least 25 to 30 National Assembly and 50 to 60 provincial assembly seats from this South Punjab to fancy any chances to form governments in Islamabad and Lahore respectively. The possible split of the votes between PTI and JPSM could have spoiled their chances to win maximum number of seats.
It was widely expected that both the PTI and JPSM will be forced to form an alliance to stop the march of PML-N. It was clear from the beginning that JPSM will be part of the next coalition government headed by PTI. But both sides realised that this strategy might not work and they decided to join hands before the elections to field best possible candidates.
It has now materialised well before the elections with the sole objective that the votes of the PTI and Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) do not split, creating better opportunities for the contestants of the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to win. The fusion indicated that neither the PTI nor the JPSM was sure to win in this territory had they contested separately.
Such development was expected because the both PTI and JPSM are facing the same opponent the PML-N. The main purpose to form JPSM was to weaken the PML-N and PTI was already working on this agenda. It is a wise decision under the present circumstances. The collaboration fits well in the larger political picture in which the PML-N is in dire straits and cornered. It has been extensively debated and predicted by discerning and informed people that the next government will be a coalition of heterogeneous elements including the independents as the elections are going to produce a hung parliament.
However, it is a hard fact that neither any member of the JPSM raised or pressed the demand for setting up of a new province in south Punjab during the last five years when they had been federal or provincial lawmakers nor did the PTI ever even slightly talked about having the new federating unit. None of them even moved a non-binding resolution in the federal or Punjab assembly throughout this period.
In view of this scenario, it was clear from the very moment the JPSM appeared on the horizon that it was an electoral entity, eying the general elections, having nothing to do with establishing another province out of Punjab. Raising slogans like this to make electoral gains has always been on the agenda of different political parties and groups on the eve of the polls.
While the PTI has never been a champion of the cause of south Punjab as a new province, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been emphasising this demand since long although it too did not do anything concrete and credible while in government. By taking the JPSM in its fold, the PTI has left the PPP behind.
By Khalid Bhatti