ISLAMABAD - Amid confusion over the general elections, Pakistan People’s Party supremo Asif Ali Zardari is looking for openings as rumours suggest the PPP has lost this round.
Until a few weeks ago, the PPP was flying high and expecting to make a comeback in Punjab but this optimism is drying up with the emergence of Jehangir Tareen group in Punjab and Pervez Khattak group in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw. The PPP has not lost hope but feels more challenges and hurdles. The PPP will now have to play exceptionally well to turn the tables. Zardari has done well to attract some politicians to the PPP but Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party does not seem to be just a splinter group. It is likely to have its share in the elections which may affect the PPP more than the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
Zardari’s close aides say the PPP was not out of the game yet and was determined to give a surprise. “The last few months have been fruitful for the PPP. We do not expect a walkover but we are very much in the game,” said a senior PPP leader. The Election Commission of Pakistan earlier said that it is was prepared to conduct national elections in October if the legislative assemblies are dissolved.
According to the country’s Constitution, elected assemblies serve for five years, and after their term, a caretaker setup holds elections within 60 days. This becomes 90 days if the assembly is dissolved. However, there are concerns about the election’s timing and fairness due to political turmoil and defections. Recently, the parliament amended election laws to empower the caretaker government to make important economic decisions and ensure free and transparent polls. Pakistan has been facing political turmoil since former prime minister Imran Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April of the previous year. He attempted to force snap elections by dissolving the assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, but no elections were held in these provinces. Khan faces multiple charges including corruption and terrorism, which has raised doubts about his political future. Meanwhile, his party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), has experienced defections. PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, asserted that elections would not be delayed despite calls for a new census.
“The process of electoral reforms is underway, and the Election Commission is preparing to conduct elections as scheduled, as delaying elections would not be in the country’s best interest,” he added. Zardari is not giving up and is working on seat adjustments and wooing electables to perform better in Punjab - key to forming government in the centre. The PPP can still remain a coalition partner if the PML-N outperforms and leads a government- like the incumbent setup. For Zardari the target is to win around 30 or more seats in Punjab but it will be a stiff task keeping in view the performance of the PPP in the previous two outings. Zardari feels there is “still time left” in polls and the PPP must keep its hopes alive. The openings are definitely there.