ISLAMABAD: An inner circle of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) is contemplating a fourpronged strategy for general elections scheduled for 2013.
The idea is to give the party enough time for executing what appears to be a ‘complex’ electioneering plan. The arrangements under discussion include ‘reconciliation’ with heavyweights who quit the party after the 1999 military coup, an ‘understanding’ with religious groups and ‘promising’ key positions to leaders from South Punjab in the future political setup in the province.
According to some top party officials, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has directed his close associates to look into the prospects of creating alliances with other groups with a sharp focus on elections. Unlike after the 2008 polls, they added, the PML-N would not make any seat adjustment with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) anywhere in the country. Both groups are partners in what has been a fragile ruling coalition in the Punjab province where members from each side often trade allegations.
Though general elections are still three years away, Sharif wants the party to get ready for the “challenge” ahead of time. This, however, does not mean that the party would seek midterm polls, said at least two of the party’s leaders. “We respect the mandate of the current rulers and would like the parliament to complete its tenure,” one of them told The Express Tribune. The focus of the plan, they said, would be at looking at how the party could lead its way into parts of the country other than central Punjab, an area to which it was restricted in the last elections. The main target for the party would be to grab South Punjab or the Seraiki region from the PPP, a traditional stronghold of the party.
In order to do this, the PML-N might nominate a leader from the area as the future chief minister of Punjab, said a party official. It was only between 1990 and 1993 that the chief minister’s slot was given to someone outside the Sharif family. There have always been resentments within the PML-N for ignoring the least developed belt of the province despite the area being rich in the production of cotton, a crop that contributes significantly to Pakistan’s economy. “That is what our new plan will be addressing,” said one PML-N official. He, however, did not mention who is being considered for the chief minister’s slot.
The PML-N leadership has of late been ignoring Javed Hashmi, a party leader from southern Punjab’s district of Multan. Another aspect of the strategy, the officials said, would be to bring back to the party those top leaders who changed their loyalties after the coup in 1999. But, they added, a selective approach is likely to be adopted for receiving back members from Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q). Officials, however, said it would be premature to speculate on whether the PML-Q top leadership, the Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat, might also be considered for the “reconciliation” plan.
“Nothing is final in politics … but it looks unlikely,” one of the leaders commented when asked about the possibility. Moreover, the PML-N would seek a seat adjustment with religio-political groups such as Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). This, the official said, is imperative for the party to gain representation in Khyber- Pukhtunkhwa and Balochistan where the rightwing vote bank always decides the fate of the elections to an extent. He added that the party leadership is aware of the fact that no religious group in the future might be able to form government at the centre and in provinces single handedly and would need support from regional and nationalist outfits.
And the strategy, a close associate of Sharif said, is being designed keeping in mind this “very important” demographic change in Pakistan’s politics. Roadmap Officials said that the implementation of this plan is likely to start immediately after the elections within the party scheduled for September this year. “It is a very heavy task. We want substantial time to execute it. That’s why we want to go ahead with it as early as possible,” one official said.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 15th, 2010.
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