What is happening in Punjab is not surprising. Many electables leaves the ruling party to join the others. It is part of the political culture that electables change parties in big number before every election. The same practice is being repeated before the next general elections. In the last general elections, PML-N was the favorite party of the electables as they joined it in big numbers.
This time, the situation is different as electables are leaving the PML-N and joining the other parties. PML-N is at the receiving end this time and PTI is the major beneficiary. But the announcement of the South Punjab Province Front by six MNAs and two MPAs of PML-N is not just a blow to PML-N but also a major setback for PTI. The PTI was hoping that most of the electables will join it but this new front will be a major point of attraction for the electables of South Punjab.
The slogan of South Punjab province is an election stunt and rhetoric to exploit the sentiments of ordinary people to make political gains. This slogan was used in the last elections. But after the election, no party moved any resolution or bill in Punjab assembly, Senate or National Assembly to demand the south Punjab province. Now same people who remained silent on this issue for nearly five years wants to become the champions of this cause. This issue is being used as the political slogan to win some constituencies.
Even these eight lawmakers kept their lips tightly locked in the national and provincial assembly. They never raised their voice for the cause of South Punjab province in the last five years. This fact alone raised many questions and eyebrows. Why they remained silent for five years and why now they become champions of this cause.
Historically, the feudal families and traditional pro-establishment politicians never supported the idea of Seraiki province. There was a popular demand for Bahawalpur province. Even Bahawalpur Soba Mahaz won most of the seats in 1970 general elections from the areas of former Bahawalpur State. But since then this demand went down and lost support.
The Seraiki nationalist movement mainly consisted of middle-class intellectuals and political activists. The pro-establishment politicians were used to oppose this idea. It was a fiction and distant dream for them. But in last few years, the feudal families had started to support the idea of south Punjab province. Now they become the champions of the cause of the new province and toiling masses.
The matter of fact is that these feudal, big landholders, sardars, and tribal chiefs are not the solution to the problem faced by the masses in south Punjab. Instead, they are part of the problem. The existence of feudalism is a major problem. The large land holdings in the few hands create the conditions for repression, exploitation, and poverty. The big landlords want to keep the status-quo. They use their economic, political and social position to dominate their areas and constituencies.
Will the simple administrative division of Punjab and creation of South Punjab province change the economic, social and political conditions of the masses? The answer is simple no. it will give more leverage to the powerful and influential families. It will become easier for them to become chief minister and ministers in this new province.
They showed any interest to solve the problems of the poor peasants, workers, and masses. Instead, they always protected their own interests. They are now using this slogan of province and rights of South Punjab to hide their political maneuver to safeguard their own interests. They have created this group to better negotiate their position in the next government.
They have every right to decide their political future. But it should not be done in the name of people and noble cause. This is not the first time that they change the political loyalty. Some of them even do not need a party ticket to win the election. Every politicians and citizen of Pakistan is free to choose its ideology and political line of action. Nobody can force others to accept the certain ideas. It is the right of every politician to decide his or her position. One has the right to choose or form his or her party.
Pro-establishment politicians have the right to side with the establishment. The anti-establishment politicians must have the same right. They both should be given fair and equal playfield and opportunities. The pro-establishment politicians should not be given an undue advantage. That is the problem. The problem is not having pro-establishment position and ideas but to use this position to gain undue favor and unfair advantage. It is against the spirit of democracy.
One thing is clear that the formation of this front and slogan of South Punjab is part of political engineering that is taking place in the country. First, a new party was formed in Baluchistan. PSP is emerging as the main player in Karachi because MQM-Pakistan is in complete disarray. Nobody has the right to criticise such developments if it is a natural result of a process. But what is happening is not the natural result of political development and process. This situation is the result of the behind the scenes maneuvers and engineering.
Now, this front has been created in Punjab. It is not something that is taking place naturally or spontaneously. PML-N is the target of this new political engineering and maneuvering. The main purpose of this engineering is to clip the wings of the PML-N. But both PPP and PTI will also be affected as the result of these political maneuverings. PTI will realize sooner or later that what is exactly happening.
The mainstream political parties will be sidelined during the election. New regional players will emerge to manipulate the election scene.
By Khalid Bhatti