Lost opportunity?: PML-N takes a back seat in by-polls

Lack of activism allows other parties to fill in the vacuum and claim a larger vote bank.

Abdur Rauf August 22, 2013
The PML-N also seemed confused about who it was supporting. PHOTO: AFP


The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) failed to make a mark in the by-polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) where other parties campaigned vociferously for their chosen candidates.

While other parties took a clear stance and formed alliances to secure national and provincial assembly seats up for grabs in Thursday’s by-polls, PML-N did not publicly state who it was supporting on seats where its own candidates were not contesting.

The seats for which re-election took place were NA-1 Peshawar, NA-13 Swabi, NA-5 Nowshera, NA-27 Lakki Marwat, PK-23 Mardan, PK-27 Mardan, PK-42 Hangu and PK-70 Bannu. By-polls are generally considered an opportunity for parties to recoup and inspire workers towards unity.

A political analyst claimed the PML-N did not perform well in K-P in the May 11 elections, which is why they did not expect much success in the by-polls. The party remained short of a clear strategy, he added.

Though PML-N Provincial General Secretary Rahmat Salam Khattak said his party would support JUI-F candidates in the by-polls, election campaigning remained either minimal or non-existent. This enabled other parties to fill the vacuum in several constituencies and claim a larger vote bank.

The PML-N also seemed confused about who it was supporting. In PK-27 Mardan, independent candidate Jamshed Khan and his rival JUI-F’s Zakaullah both claimed PML-N’s support.

PML-N Central Vice President Amir Muqam had earlier assured Jamshed of his party’s support during a visit to his house to offer condolences over his brother Imran Mohmand’s killing. But elsewhere, the party also announced support for the JUI-F.

Similarly, in Bannu, PML-N leader Malik Nasir Khan was backing his nephew Malik Adnan Khan who was contesting on a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ticket against JUI-F’s Azam Khan Durrani.

Moreover, the party refrained from attending any political gathering including JUI-F’s public meetings in the run-up to the by-polls. This gave party workers the impression they could vote for any candidate they wished for.

“During the May 11 elections, the PML-N secured 950,000 votes in K-P; more than what the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) obtained in 2002 and the Awami National Party (ANP) in 2008,” Rahmat Khattak said a few days ago. However, PML-N remained a distant party this time despite a considerable vote bank.

“We voted for PTI candidate Gul Bacha in NA-1 Peshawar,” said PML-N Workers Committee Chairman Abdullah Khan. “Before the by-elections, we had a meeting with party workers and a majority decided to vote for the PTI candidate.”

He said the party’s central leadership did not seek an explanation, even though PTI is an opposition party in the federal government headed by PML-N.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2013.


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