Cantt polls: ‘Results not a good measure of popularity’

Political parties introspect in the wake of the polls

Aroosa Shaukat April 30, 2015


With the dust settling following the recent elections in cantonment areas, political parties have begun bracing for the upcoming local bodies’ polls by formulating strategies after factoring in lessons learnt in the wake of the cantt elections.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz swept the polls, which were held after the passage of nearly two decades, in the Lahore and Walton Cantonments. Although the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf emerged as the second-largest party in the elections, it only managed to secure five out of the 20 seats up for grabs in the city.

Rejecting rumours of any dissent in party ranks, PTI Lahore information secretary Farrukh Javed told The Express Tribune the party was united. Javed said candidates had been nominated in a transparent manner.

He said winning five seats constituted a victory for the PTI as it was up against the ruling party. “The PML-N possesses influence, their ministers were all over the place and the party had government resources at its disposal,” Javed said. He also observed that the PML-N had emerged victorious in select wards by a slim margin. Javed opined that the outcome could also be attributed to poor voter turnout.

The party’s district tier will be coming together in a month’s time to devise a strategy for the upcoming LG elections after the core committee of the PTI finished mulling over the outcome of the cantt elections.

“There’s controlled democracy in cantonments and the outcome of the recent elections cannot be used to gauge the popularity of political parties among the people,” PAT central president Raheeq Abbasi said.  Although the party failed to secure a single seat in Walton Cantt, he confidently predicted that the outcome of the local government elections would be markedly different. Abbasi said announcing a series of development projects ahead of the polls amounted to “pre-poll rigging.” He said the government had focussed its attention on urban areas and neglected the underprivileged. “People from rural areas have a different opinion of the PML-N.  This will become evident in the upcoming elections,” he said.

The PPP also held a post-election meeting in Lahore on Tuesday. The absence of the party’s top brass from the campaign was brought up on the occasion. PPP Punjab information secretary Faisal Mir said the party had learnt the importance of effective coordination in the wake of the elections. He said the elections were not a litmus test of the party’s strength.   “The PPP is a party of the destitute.  Our voters do not dwell in cantonments,” Mir said. “The elections were fought on the basis of resources and not ideology…the ruling party clearly has the upper hand on this account,” he said. Mir said development and funding pledges had played a chief role in the elections. He said even the PTI had failed to mobilise its voters in such an atmosphere.

PML-N Lahore president Pervaiz Malik said the party was determined to secure a resounding victory in the upcoming elections. He said its campaign in the recent elections would pale in comparison to the one being planned for the LG elections. Malik said the outcome of the recent elections was in line with that of the 2013 general elections. “One cannot dismiss our victory by claiming that the outcome is not representative of the PML-N’s popularity,” he said.

Malik rejected allegations that the PML-N had tried to influence the results of the election by announcing development projects right before the polls.

He said this was a routine matter. “Political parties need to respect the sanctity of the ballot. People vote for them to govern...not to stage sit-ins,” Malik said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2015. 


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