There was hardly any upset in the by-elections. According to unofficial results, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has won six National Assembly (NA) seats from Karachi to Khyber and two Punjab Assembly seats. The PTI chairman, Imran Khan, who was the candidate for the seven seats, kept his seats in Mardan, Charsadda, Korangi-Karachi, Peshawar, Nankana Sahib, and Faisalabad. At first, some of these seats were well-contested, but at the end of the day, results were counted, and the results show that the PTI has not lost its popularity after being thrown out of power in April last. The Pakistan People’s Party led in Malir-Karachi and Multan. Moreover, Imran Khan’s party won two Punjab Assembly constituencies of Khanewal and Bahawalnagar, whereas the Pakistan Muslim League-N led in Sheikhupura. In the last three months, the countries witnessed considerable political activity when National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf notified that 11 MNAs of the PTI had resigned and were deseated in an abrupt move. The move has now backfired as the PTI has emerged victorious, and perhaps a government-in-waiting party whenever elections are held in the country.
The overall polling situation and earlier electioneering show that the whole process remained peaceful in most of the constituencies while violence erupted at a few isolated places. The by-elections leave gains, considerable gains, one must say, for the Pakistan People’s Party. The party grabbed two seats, which it had lost in the 2018 elections to the PTI – one in Multan and another in Karachi. The PTI must revisit its decision to award a ticket to the daughter of former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, for the Multan by-election. Mehrbano Qureshi as the PTI candidate was opposed by the local PTI activists, who called Ms Qureshi as PTI candidate another manifesto of ‘family politics’ or ‘mauroosi siasat’. The PPP candidate, Ali Musa Gilani, won the seat because of his consistent connections with the constituents, and he was rewarded for his pro-public politics. Karachi presents bleak scenes for the MQM, whereas the PPP has emerged victorious in the Malir seat, a traditional PPP seat. The by-elections leave a bitter taste for the PML-N in Punjab, and the Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Though the PML-N succeeded in retaining the Sheikhupura seat with a thin margin, one thing is evidently clear: the party has lost its stronghold in central Punjab. Its candidates in Faisalabad and Nankana Sahib badly failed to weather the popularity wave of Imran Khan. Similarly, the ANP and JUI-F in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have failed to counter the PTI narratives despite the party’s incumbency factor. By all means, the recent project of by-elections for eight NA seats was a bad and flop project, whoever conceived it. The government must enter into talks with Imran Khan for the next elections-which may be held in 2022 or 2023.