As in a previous piece, I have advocated the politicization of floods as political rivalry always brings something good for the public. Now, I hear some ‘apolitical’ segments are calling for the postponement of the by-elections scheduled for different dates across the country. I would suggest that the process must go on.
A by-election should be taken as a normal activity – as normal as going to school for children. My intense interest is a by-election battle for NA-157, Multan, being fought between Ali Musa Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Mehar Bano Qureshi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The two Makhdoom families of Multan have taken the fight to the press as well as in the constituency. The blame game being fought between the two sides in the press is interesting.
A few days ago, the Gilani family published a half-page advertisement in which Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s son Zain Qureshi is seen standing under the umbrella, held by a bystander, most probably a servant. The picture also shows that Ali Musa Gilani, on the other side, is seen sitting on the ground among the people. Now, it was the Qureshi family to strike back. The next day, the Qureshi’s responded with a half-page ad in local newspapers of Multan, outlining the number of accusations against the Gilani family. The long list of accusations included former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, father of Ali Musa Gilani, being caught red-handed ‘stealing the Turkish first lady’s necklace for flood victims, and his alleged involvement in corruption scandal and horse-trading. Politics and blame games go side by side, and the press thrives on dirty games (unfortunately). I am happy that the by-election has now brought hard cash for the hard-pressed, cash-strapped press in the form of ads.
Polling for the by-poll will be held on September 11, which means right after three days, we will be waiting for results. Some people say the warring parties are not worried about the flood victims and that the money spent on ads should have gone to the flood victims. They do not stop here; they calculate the estimated money to be spent on polling, electioneering, and so on. I came across some social media posts which degraded Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani for making a trip to the flood-hit areas of Dera Ghazi Khan with ’empty hands’.
“What was the good of going to flood victims without any relief goods,” questions a social media activist. An army of social media activists came down hard on Shah Mehmood Qureshi for his “taking an oath not to visit any flooded area”. Sigh!
People will never be happy. If Yusuf Raza Gilani goes to a flooded area, that is bad politics and if Shah Mehmood does not undertake a similar trip, he is condemned. I am not good at making predictions on results. What will the people get from the result of this seat NA 157 if Mehar Bano Qureshi or Ali Musa Gilani wins? Well, the by-election has put at stake the political fortune of both the Qureshi’s and Gilani’s.
Mehar bano Qureshi has an edge over Ali Musa Gilani and that is her mobilization of women. The Qureshi family made a strategy that Mehar Bano Qureshi will hit the women voters and Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Zain Qureshi will mobilize the men. Social media posts suggest that Mehar Bano Qureshi has got an overwhelming response from women. If she gets the women’s vote on the polling day, she will have an edge on Ali Musa Gilani, because the women’s vote in this constituency is more than 150,000. The other thing is Imran Khan’s planned rally in the constituency.
Ali Musa Gilani has the support of the PML-N besides other PDM parties. He has been strongly connected to voters since the last elections. Let us wait till September 11.