Bye-elections are kind of easy pickings for the ruling party. Voters in a bye-election generally side with the candidate belonging to the party in power out of their belief that he would be better placed than any other candidate to address their problems and carry out development activities in their area. Besides, there is a natural affinity between the ruling party and a strong candidate in a constituency, and a tie-up between the two makes a bye-election contest easier to win.
The PTI has, however, turned out to be an exception. Of a total of 16 bye-elections to the national and provincial assemblies so far, the Imran Khan-led party has been able to win just four. The party’s performance in the recent times is even worse: of the eight bye-elections in about last six months, it has won just one, in NA-45 Kurrum. The rest of the contests – in NA-245 Karachi, NA-75 Daska, PP-84 Khushab, PB-20 Pishin, PS-43 Sanghar, PP-51 Gujranwala, PK-63 Nowshera and PS-88 Malir, Karachi – culminated in the PTI’s defeat.
This shows that the PTI has been losing its appeal in all four provinces. Some of the defeats must serve as an eye-opener, like on the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat from Nowshera, the home town of former chief minister Pervez Khattak. The loss of the National Assembly seat from Karachi – vacated by MNA Faisal Vawda, now a Senator – is also a huge setback for the PTI, more so because the party finished as low as fifth in the race. In Daska too, the huge margin of defeat – 16,642 votes – is indeed embarrassing.
That the PTI’s mishandling of the economy – reflected in an unprecedented price hike, exorbitant raise in electricity and gas tariffs, job losses, pay-cuts, etc – has been a major factor behind people losing faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Besides, most of his promises – like those concerning 10 million jobs and 5 million houses for low-income families, police and FBR reforms, accountability for all, etc – have remained a pipe dream.
With a little over two years to go for the completion of its term, the ruling PTI must focus all its attention on providing financial relief to the common man, and at least lay the foundation for the reforms Imran Khan had pledged before coming to power.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2021.