How PPP, an underdog, could emerge as kingmaker in Pakistan elections

Will PTI forge an alliance with PPP, and will that be an alliance of comfort for the establishment? Wait and see.

 |  2-minute read |   25-07-2018
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Once the biggest national party of Pakistan, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) cannot be ignored in the general elections. This underdog could well be the "kingmaker" if the Pakistani electorate throws up a hung Parliament.

The intense exchange of vitriol at the hustings witnessed for the 272 seats is unprecedented and unmatched. With 141 seats in Punjab, it is clear that the road to Islamabad passes through the state which traditionally has been a Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) stronghold. In 2013, Nawaz Sharif picked up 118 of his 126 seats from the Punjab.

bilawal-speech_072518043710.jpgLooking forward? Bilawal Bhutto could become an important factor post-polls. (Photo: Reuters)

But this year, things look different. The corruption scandals and the indictment of Nawaz Sharif will cost the party dearly although his return to Pakistan and courting arrest must have undone some of the damage — but may not be enough to sweep the polls.

Imran Khan, the flavour of the season, has made a major dent in the poll prospects of other parties with the way he has managed to maintain an ultra-nationalist campaign with a clear anti-India rhetoric that has helped his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), gain space within Pakistan’s military establishment.

Last election, PML (N) won 126 seats, PPP 33 and PTI, a mere 26. This time around, there will be a huge gain by the PTI, and the PML (N) will certainly not get the same number of seats. 

The other factor which will cut Sharif's votes is the propping up of extremists such as Hafiz Saeed and his supporters this election. With Hafiz Saeed himself being banned, his son Talha is standing for elections. Hafiz Saeed has put up around 260 candidates under the umbrella of Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), a registered political party, given that his own party, Milli Muslim League’s request for registration was rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan. But that did not stop the Pakistani establishment from mainstreaming terrorists.

Now, this third factor will be detrimental to PML (N) prospects in the elections.

irmran-rally_072518043736.jpgCan he bowl them out? Imran Khan has made a major dent in the poll prospects of other parties. (Photo: Reuters)

With the PML (N), the PTI and the extremists, all vying for Punjab, it is the PPP which will most likely retain the Sindh seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) might also get a certain number of seats and are going to be key to government formation.

Bilawal Bhutto, the PPP's prime ministerial candidate, who, for now, has only been focused on his campaigning, could also become an important factor in the post-poll scenario of Pakistan.

Will the PTI forge an alliance with the PPP, and will that be an alliance of comfort for the establishment? We will have to wait and see.

Also read: How rules were twisted to mainstream Hafiz Saeed's terror outfit in Pakistan politics

Writer

Geeta Mohan Geeta Mohan @geeta_mohan

The writer is the Foreign Affairs Editor at IndiaToday

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