It is rather unfair that amidst the hoopla of PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz beating PTI’s Yasmin Rashid – as if it was a two-horse race – the real winners of the NA-120 by-poll are being criminally (sorry) neglected. With all the hue and cry over ‘mujhay kyun nikaala’ and ‘tumhay issliye nikaala’ it was ‘mujhay kab nikaala’ that should’ve been the tagline of the high stakes battle that Sunday’s contest was.
The PML-N might argue that the challenges posed against them were immense: the establishment as the archenemy, the judiciary as the facilitator, ostensibly unsubstantiated allegations, the sudden reshuffling of government – including the PM and his cabinet – and illness to their candidate… the list is never ending. And so, the ruling party would argue that the 14,646 votes as the win margin for their candidate over the runner-up, is unprecedented, given the level of scrutiny and antagonistic.
The Milli Muslim League might disagree. It doesn’t get more antagonistic than the party that had so openly and loudly contested the election not even being recognised by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Can any other party bag the third position in a by-poll for which it was ineligible?
Secondly, while the PML-N continues to rhetorically argue in defence of their own leader, lets spare a thought for the MML whose leader has been under house arrest since January this year. This leader, if we may add, is registered as a wanted terrorist by the United Nations – whose charter Pakistan is a signatory to, which is one of the umpteen reasons why he might’ve been arrested. This leader also has a $10 million bounty slashed on his head by the US, a country still officially Pakistan’s ally in War on Terror, and still officially one of its heaviest funders.
Then there is the constant nitpicking over MML’s parent, and grandparent, organisations and their involvement with militant jihad – an idea espoused by Pakistani mainstream curricula, let alone the madrassas. It is in this atmosphere for hatred, with no tangible love in sight, that MML’s Yaqoob Sheikh – again, without the prestigious party symbol next to his name on the ballot – bagged 5,822 votes.
To put things into perspective, four weeks after becoming a party, MML won four time as many votes as the PPP that had a four-decade affiliation with NA-120, including its founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto becoming an MNA from the constituency when it was NA-96. It is evident who is alive and who isn’t in Punjab, as we speak. Now, further factor in the minor detail that the MML mightn’t even have had time to plan their contesting the by-poll and – as its hurried patching up suggests – was perhaps an afterthought of the powers that be.
As a puppet of another mastermind, with its head under house arrest, facing political bigwigs as daunting as Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s ghost, the MML’s third position is not only the biggest success story from NA-120, but is actually a rags to riches story that might top Aladdin in the folklore in the years to come.
Now ‘afterthought’ and ‘puppet’ are perhaps ill-chosen words, for they might convey reluctance on the part of the MML vis-à- vis the role that was assigned to them. Let’s clarify this. Just like their parent, and grandparent, organisations, they might have been commissioned, or outsourced – although that’s debatable, for many would argue it’s an in-house job depending on how you audit the organisation – but the job was taken wholeheartedly. Even so, let’s further make this clear that the job at hand was 2018 – 2017 was merely a practice match. It is in this warm-up that MML has toppled all but two of the parties in a constituency where it was actually making a guest appearance. With time and money (of course) spent, MML would expand from its strongholds and complete the task assigned – that could range from keeping a certain party on its toes, to downright dethroning it.
The best thing about the entire campaign of the MML, the party that finished third in Sunday’s poll without actually contesting – a fact worth constantly reiterating – was perhaps their election symbol, which, again, unfortunately could not grace the ballot of the historic election that symbolised overcoming adversity. The energy saver aptly describes the MML. Unlike its parent, and grandparent, organisations it took less energy to put it together, allow it to function, defend it from criticism and indeed give it the political space needed to perform the given task.
Here’s to the energy saver resolving Pakistan’s power crisis. Good job, MML – more power to you.