Political maneuvering is intensifying as politicians in Pakistan make strategic moves in anticipation of upcoming elections. The landscape is witnessing a rearrangement of alliances, with politicians switching sides and new groupings emerging. The National Assembly and the assemblies in Sindh and Balochistan are approaching the end of their tenure in August, potentially leading to elections in October if no unconventional events occur.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) faces challenges as some influential figures have departed, posing difficulties in fielding new candidates and raising doubts about the party’s prospects for success. Interestingly, individuals like Jehangir Tareen, who had previously distanced themselves from politics, have reappeared. Former special assistant to the prime minister, Firdaus Ashiq Awan, who had been inactive within the party, recently announced her departure from the PTI, although she had already been estranged from the party for some time. Her meeting with Jehangir Tareen suggests the formation of a new alliance.
Amidst the political shakeup, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) appears to be benefiting. The party has successfully attracted approximately 24 former lawmakers and ticket holders from Punjab, primarily from the PTI. These politicians declared their decision after meeting with the PPP’s co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari. Considering the party’s previous decline in Punjab, this is a significant achievement. In the 2018 elections, the PPP only secured six seats in the National Assembly. Most of the new PPP members are from south Punjab, with a notable concentration from Muzaffargarh district, as well as from Rahim Yar Khan, Okara, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, and Mianwali districts.
The PPP had previously enjoyed substantial support in south Punjab, particularly in Muzaffargarh, even when its popularity waned in other regions. Prominent figures such as Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Farooq Leghari, Faisal Saleh Hayat, and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi had won seats under the PPP’s banner before leaving the party.
Simultaneously, former PTI leaders have become active and are rallying support for a “minus-Imran” formula. Fawad Chaudhry, former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, and Mehmood Baqi Moulvi are among those involved. Fawad Chaudhry attempted to persuade Shah Mehmood Qureshi to abandon Imran Khan during a meeting at Adiala jail, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Fawad also claimed to have met with several other PTI members, including Asad Umar, Asad Qaiser, Farrukh Habib, Shahzad Wasim, Ali Zaidi, Hammad Azhar, and Pervez Khattak. Asad Qaiser denied the meeting, while Farrukh Habib tweeted, “No politics without Imran Khan!”
Given this landscape, it is evident that a hung parliament with no clear majority for any party is likely. In such circumstances, the role of the kingmaker party becomes increasingly crucial.