The start of 2015 was a time for reflection for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The ruling party assessing the financial and political losses caused by the 126-day-long sit-in by the Pakistan Thereek-e-Insaf (PTI) in front of the parliament. The PTI ended its sit-in after the December 16 massacre in Peshawar. It then appeared that the PML-N was struggling to keep things under control.
By the end of the year, the PML-N appears more comfortable with the political situation. Analysts say it is a rare moment in the country’s history; all three tiers of a democratic government (federal, provincial and local government) are in place.
Politically speaking, it was a good year for the PML-N. The party swept local government and Cantonment Board elections. It also won four out of five National Assembly seats in the by-polls this year.
In the NA-137 by-election in Nankana Sahib, PML-N’s candidate Shazra Mansab won comfortably by polling 77,890 votes. His opponent Ijaz Shah got 39,363 votes.
In NA-108 Mandi Bahauddin, PML-N’s candidate Mumtaz Ahmad Tarar defeated the candidate fielded by the PTI by over 28,000 votes. Tarar took 70,638 votes. His opponent, Muhammad Tariq, obtained 42,029 votes.
Riazul Haq, an independent candidate, won the NA-144 Okara by-polls and later joined the PML-N.
The by-election in NA-122 Lahore was arguably the most anticipated event of the year. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N defeated Abdul Aleem Khan of the PTI in a close contest. Sadiq was once again elected speaker of the National Assembly.
The PML-N also won four out of six Provincial Assembly seats where by-election was held. Mumtaz Quraish won the by-election in PP-24 DG Khan, Mahmoodul Hasan in PP-196 Multan and Chaudhary Akhtar in PP-100 Gujranwala. In PP-16 Attock, Jehangir Khanzada, son of slain home minister Shuja Khanzada, secured victory in the by-poll. The PML-N candidates were defeated by the PTI’s Nasir Cheema in PP-97 Gujranwala and Shoaib Siddiqi in PP-147 Lahore.
PML-N central leader Hamza Shehbaz said the party had shown that it wanted to resolve people’s problems. He said those who did staged sit-ins had wasted time and resources. He said by 2017, the PML-N government will have overcome the load shedding crisis.
All’s well for democracy in Pakistan
Analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said while all three tiers of democracy were formally place in Pakistan, the country was being governed in a very personalised manner.
“The question is that is National Assembly being strengthened as an institution? Does the prime minister or the chief minister go to the assembly? Are decisions made inside the assembly or outside? We have seen that the prime minister rarely goes to the parliament and same is the case with the Punjab chief minister.”
He said it remained to be seen how things would change with the elected local governments. “Democracy has definitely strengthened in 2015. However institutions need to be strengthened and we hope this happens in the future,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2015.