Khurram Hussain

As the run up for Elections 2018 draws closer, political parties gear up to finalise their winning strategies. They review their power bases and plan to steal some seats from others’ strong forts.

Traditionally, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has a strong base in the central and eastern Punjab, Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh and Southern Punjab and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf is trying to make inroads throughout the country with a special focus on Punjab and KPK.

In elections 2013, PML-N swept most of the seats from South Punjab as PTI did fairly well and PPP lagged behind because of its countrywide image of corruption.

In the coming elections, it seems South Punjab will be in a position to influence the overall results of the polling, and the party winning maximum seats in the belt from Faisalabad to Khanewal and Dera Ghazi Khan to Sadiqabad, will be in a position to win the ballot in Punjab.

Presently the PML-N in its famous GT (Grand Trunk) road constituency, is facing a neck and neck contest from PTI candidates in almost all upper Punjab districts. PPP is busy in further strengthening its position in Sindh and PML-N is trying to snatch some seats from PTI in KPK.

Both PTI and PPP, have already started focussing on the South Punjab as the former has activated its senior leaders Jehangir Khan Tarin and Shah Mehmood Qureshi to manoeuvre maximum decision-makers, and the later is depending on its old power bank in Rahim Yar Khan and some influence of the former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The PML-N thinks it can further improve its position with the help of old guard Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, who has ditched Imran Khan and PTI, though its unclear what role he would be able to play following a deadly defeat at the hands of a PTI supported independent candidate in by-elections post his resignation from the assembly.

“Whoever will win the South Punjab in next elections, will secure the whole Punjab province,” estimates senior political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.

“All three major parties will put a strong fight in the region because it has a potential of a swing vote,” he said adding that the area has a large vote bank.

However, he said, the feudal lords of the area will play a key role in the victory of any party.

“The party having more and more support of the influential feudal lords, clans’ chiefs and religious leaders, will win more seats in Southern Punjab,” said Rizvi.

But Rasul Bukhsh Rais, another senior analyst and professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), says all three parties have a strong representation of the South Punjab ‘bigwigs’.

“All landlords, tribal chieftains, religious leaders, and Pirs are supporting one party or other. So it’s really hard to assess that which party has the support of a major clout,” he said.

But there is no denial to the fact that the region will determine the trend of results in the next parliamentary elections.

About Author: Khurram Hussain is Islamabad based journalist with interest in political and human angle stories.