While the treasury and the opposition go through the motions during the budget session, many MPAs’ thoughts have turned to the upcoming elections.
If all goes well and if the pundits are to be believed, the elections could be held in November. For that to happen, two things have to happen – a caretaker administration has to be set up by July and the voters list has to be finalised. The Election Commission has already indicated that the list, after the inclusion of more than 30 million fresh votes, will be ready by then. If there is to be a caretaker administration in place next month, this would be the last assembly session under this government.
The Malik Riaz Vs Supreme Court saga has the potential to upset the politicians’ calculations. A candid chit-chat with a treasury MPA at the Punjab Assembly cafeteria revealed the extent to which the provincial government fears the scandal could affect its hopes. According to this MPA from a political family in Bahawalpur, the latest events on the national political scene will hurt the PML-Nawaz.
Riaz’s astounding claims at a press conference were not directed at the PML-N, nor of seeming benefit to any political party. But the fallout would affect the PML-N, in this MPA’s thinking, since the party is seen to have been the most vociferous supporter of the chief justice before and after his restoration.
Out of this hazy situation, one thing is slowly getting established: Malik Riaz is on a first name basis with President Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. (We shall omit the judiciary and chief justice from this discourse). The nature of Malik Riaz’s relations with the Sharif brothers and President Zardari needs clarification.
In the popular perception, the PPP has already been tarred with the corruption brush and any statements about Riaz’s largesse to the benefit of PPP leaders will merely add to that perception. Not many in the PPP are shedding tears about Malik Riaz and the chief justice.
But the PML-N has invested much in promoting the image of the party as clean and upright – at least in this century – and such suggestions of corruption could have serious implications. The party, being constantly needled by the PTI in Punjab, may have to rework its election calculations. On top of that, the incumbency factor will go against the provincial government. In this backdrop, many in the PML-N may be keeping one eye on the lookout for better options.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.
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