PML-N facing challenges in retaining popularity

Recent poll defeats spell trouble for future of party if it clings to traditional methods

Muhammad Ilyas/Rizwan Asif August 07, 2022
A rally of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Photo: Facebook/PML-N


After months of a constitutional crisis Punjab’s politics seems to have hit a snooze, as parties try to figure out their next move on the political chessboard.

While the province’s present ruling coalition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) focuses on how best to strengthen their narrative, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) seems to have run out of narratives.

Political analysts believe that the PML-N leadership needs to seriously rethink about the party’s future in Punjab if they wish to be in power again. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), believes that the PML-N’s present downfall is due to an unwillingness in using modern methods of campaigning.

 “The party and its allies have failed to use social media as effectively as their competitors and have confined themselves to methods of the past.” Mehboob further said that the PML-N should be worried that the PTI has managed to increase its vote bank and compel it to show up on voting day. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader, Aslam Gul, also believes that the campaigning fell short. “The PTI made good use of social media to strengthen their narrative. Perhaps joint campaigns and rallies would have served our purpose better,” he said. However, Gul opined that the PML-N also suffered because tickets were given to candidates that did not belong to their party. Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) and PML-N leader, Malik Ahmed Khan, agrees that the only reason for the recent defeat was poor candidate selection but said that nothing was wrong with the campaigning.

“Our workers did not accept the people who we gave tickets to. It is their displeasure which cost us the byelections,” he said. Khan was also of the view that it was not the PTI’s narrative but the effects of the inflation which had cost them significantly. “The PML-N is still the largest party in the country and will surely rebound,” the PML-N leader predicted. On the other hand, PTI’s central leader, Shafqat Mehmood, does not share Khan’s optimism of a PML-N resurgence.

“The polls have proved that the PTI is the most popular party and has successfully broken PML-N’s hold over Punjab,” Mehmood remarked. He said that the PTI was a futuristic party which relied on modern techniques of increasing its support base rather than sticking to the tried and tested. “We are a party for the youth and give importance to their needs. The others are just clinging to their outdated traditional politics and it is highly unlikely they will come to power again,” Mehmood said. However, Mehboob, PILDAT’s President does not agree.

“The PML-N can find some solace in the fact that now the onus of delivery in the province is on the PTI,” he said matter-of-factly. Mehboob was of the view that overconfidence has not served any political party well in the past. “The ultimate test is the general election. So the PTI will have to perform or risk suffering defeat,” Mehboob told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2022.


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