The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided not to push for parliamentary polls this year and let the government complete its term expnding in March 2013, hoping the delay will help the main opposition party gain significant electoral ground outside its Punjab stronghold.
“We have dropped the plan for seeking fresh elections in 2012 … this was our ambition until recently but not now,” a top PML-N leader told The Express Tribune on Wednesday, indicating a major shift in the opposition party’s strategy to approach the next polls.
Officially, a spokesperson for the party did not offer any direct comment for this change of heart.
On the other hand, PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan was not so willing to admit this change in strategy. “We still want [parliamentary elections] this year,” he said.
He did add immediately, however: “It doesn’t seem to be happening because of incomplete electoral lists and other operational problems.”
Several party officials confirmed to The Express Tribune that the decision of letting things roll ahead the way they are till March next year was the culmination of an intense in-house consultation with a circle of top party leaders.
PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, they added, wasn’t feeling confident enough at the stage to let his party make any hasty decisions while the margin for error was shrinking with each passing day.
“He (Nawaz), in fact both the Sharifs are shaky. They don’t seem to be ready to tackle such a huge challenge,” said a party insider, referring to elections.
Their worries, according to associates, emanated from the results of the last general elections in 2008 when the PML-N was restricted to central Punjab and failed to make any significant headway outside it.
“We don’t want to repeat that … at the moment it looks imminent,” said a leader, highlighting the lack of preparation of the party in provinces other than Punjab.
Besides legitimate worries, the decision is backed by other motives.
Nawaz and company, party insiders explained, had concluded that a delay in elections would not only give the PML-N ample time to seek electoral alliances with individuals and groups in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa but also hurt the current Pakistan Peoples Party regime.
“The longer the current rulers are in power, the more the chances that they will lose credibility,” said a party leader.
There is also one more challenge Nawaz and associates think will fizzle out with time: Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“The current wave of popularity Imran is riding on will not last for a year,” said the PML-N official, “The ill-timed hype created by Khan will exhaust his supporters to our advantage.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.