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Punjab caught between elite power and street muscle

The by-polls in 20 constituencies of Punjab showing extreme polarisation and raising questions regarding institutions will decide the future of the people of the province. Analysts have termed these polls make or break, with some drawing similiarities with 1971’s crucial elections that separated the two parts of united Pakistan.

The notification of the reserve seats and loss of the ruling party’s two members has complicated the situation further.

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Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s tsunami of public rallies instigating the youth to stand up against those who have changed the government on ‘foreign dictation’ may lead the country into a Sri Lanka-like mayhem if allegations of rigging surfaced. The impassive ruling elite must pay heed to the sensitivity of the situation.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his party-led coalition government needs a strategy to stem the rising public wrath from reaching the boiling point or point of no return.

Successive ruling parties and the traditional political culture of family politics in Pakistan are similar to Sri Lanka’s state of affairs. There a democratic dynasty had been established that made the country suffer first and then surrendered to the angry masses who decided not to be silent spectators. Pakistani politics with leading political parties have nothing but a parochial dynasty like that of Sri Lanka. This is the rich time to strategise how we can avoid it. The youth of the country want the ruling elite to shun its mindset of behaving like kings and considering the commoners as slaves.

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After the so-called regime change as the PTI chief has repeatedly alleged, the game of thrones has become risky and threatening. A constant tug of war between the elite power and street power is there for all to see, and the former is not ready to see what is written on the wall.

If PTI won, it would be a historic tilt in the power politics of the country. The ruling party will have to be limited to a small radius of the federal capital. If it loses, there will be many questions — including the manipulation of the process by use of administrative and police machinery. The ECP Punjab admitting in the Lahore High Court that declaring 4 million people dead was an error has further added fuel to the fire. It all also exacerbated the prevailing political uncertainty. A video showing buying of votes by a ruling party member needs instant action by the courts and ECP.

The likely impact of the results of the by-polls will be alarming. Because both sides have weighed so much in the election campaign that it would be hard to digest the results easily.

There is news of rigging in different constituencies where by-polls are around the corner. The political and election strategies of the ruling party, as the opposition alleges, have shown that all the public resources are being utilised to catch and snatch the people’s votes.

However, the big wigs of the ruling political party have denied such reports, calling them rumours. Ali Asghar, a political activist of the PML-N, said that a sizeable majority of people love former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that his party would clean sweep in all constituencies.

On the other hand, several PTI leaders — including Ch Fawad Hussain, Asad Umar, Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Andleeb Abbas, and Senator Ijaz Ch — have alleged that both the administration and police have been using tactics to mould their supporters. They were of the view that besides violating the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct, development works were underway in the constituencies observing supplementary elections. The chief secretary and IGP gave a wrong impression by acting in the Punjab Assembly — something that never happened in the political history of Pakistan. They should now neutralise themselves. The bureaucracy should be loyal to the state; rather than toeing the whims of the powers that be.

When MinuteMirror surveyed different areas and talked to the people who have rich experience in observing elections, they were of the view that everything was possible. One officer posted in Mian Channu tehsil of district Khanewal said that the then deputy commissioner ordered the administrative machinery to make the election defeat of late Ghulam Haider Wyne a success which was duly complied. He added that some of his colleagues posted in field had been facing the same scenario.

This shows that electioneering had been a game of political engineering since the country came into being in 1947.

Commenting on the imposition of Article 6 (the high treason) on PTI chief Imran Khan, former federal minister Zartaj Gul tweeted: “Disaster awaits all those who aim to bar the great man from politics through Article 6. Imran Khan will play havoc with those fools. He’s fearless, he’s determined, and he is very capable!”

When others interfere, things go out of control. Let the Pakistani people utilise their minds to decide on the country’s future and the fate of their leaders. It is high time to show political wisdom and ignore personal affiliations because the Pakistani economy and politics are in danger today.

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