Out of the three major political forces in the country, two have started their election campaigns for the next elections. Both Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan People’s Party over the past few days conducted a number of gatherings in the turf of rivals. With Pakistan People’s Party Co Chairman Asif Ali Zardari vying for support in Punjab and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looking to strengthen his party in the province of Sindh. The third major political force i.e. the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for now seems to waiting for the outcome of the Panama Papers case and will decide the future course of action depending upon the nature of the verdict.
Pakistan People’s Party has on various occasions questioned the credibility of the 2013 elections. Just a few days ago the PPP Co Chairman Asif Ali Zardari reiterated the rigging allegations and said that the returning officers (ROs) had ‘managed’ the previous polls. ‘Last time were in fetters and shackles,’ he said while referring to threats from Taliban militants which didn’t allow the PPP to campaign freely.
‘This time, however, we are free, we are in the electoral race,’ Zardari said while addressing his party workers in Lahore. ‘We will not agree to the posting of ROs for the upcoming elections,’ he added. ‘The PPP will consult all political parties in order to make sure the elections are transparent.’
Reminding workers of the party’s lost glory; Zardari said Lahore used to come to a grinding halt whenever Benazir Bhutto, the slain PPP chairperson, visited the city. ‘We’ll make it happen again,’ he vowed. ‘Looking at the passion and vigour of our workers, I can see that we are ready for another term,’ said Zardari whose party had ruled the country between 2008 and 2013 but faced a drubbing in Punjab at the hands of PMLN.
In response to Zardari’s claim of winning Punjab in the next general elections, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif fired a broadside and asked the PPP to ‘first clean the Karachi roads that have turned into heaps of garbage’ (a reference to the garbage stricken streets of the metropolis that has become an embarrassing situation for the Sindh government). The Punjab Chief Minister has once again recycled his promises from the 2013 election campaign during which he had claimed to end load-shedding in the province in 6 months; a claim which was labeled as an ‘emotional’ statement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif later on. This time the claim is to end load-shedding before the elections begin next year.
On the other hand Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has labeled the recent exchange of statements between PMLN and PPP ‘match fixing’ & ‘noora kushti’.
The flurry of activity by both parties is also seen as a ploy to build up momentum ahead of the Panama leaks verdict. The verdict is believed to be now close and all eyes are towards the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The general public and the political parties are anxious to see what the Apex Court’s judgment is. If Panama hadn’t happen the election campaign would have been based on performance of all three political parties in their respective provinces but now it seems that a lot hinges on the verdict in the Panama Papers case.
Panama verdict will have major impact on the political campaign for next general elections.