The 17th of July will be a defining day in determining stability of Pakistan in the near future. Bye elections are being held in 20 seats for the Punjab assembly today. These seats will determine whether Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML N) leader Mr Hamza Shabaz will be able to retain the chief ministership of the province given the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that he is only a stopgap chief minister till he proves his majority. The vacancies in the Punjab assembly have arisen because of disqualification of 20 Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) members who voted against the party whip for Mr Hamza Shabaz in a vote of confidence. The Supreme Court in a disputed verdict had disqualified these under Article 63 of the Constitution.
Why Punjab Bye Elections are Important?
As the most populous province in Pakistan, Punjab also holds importance for the federal government in Islamabad which is head headed by a PML N led coalition with Prime Minister Shahbaa Sharif heading the same.
In case the PML N is able win over half of the 20 seats, Hamza Shahbaz will be able to retain his Chief Ministership and stability of the federal government is also assured.
On the other hand, the PTI led by Mr Imran Khan a former Prime Minister who was deposed losing a vote of confidence in the National Assembly is fighting tooth and nail for his own as well as parties survival.
How the Campaigning is Going?
Mr. Khan is running a very vicious campaign evidence that he wants to win by all means – fair and foul.
The main campaign themes of Mr. Khan are corruption of political leaders in power, support by the United States which he accuses of working for his , military and the Supreme Court intervening on behalf of the common this parents environment, add religious conservatism. Mr. Khan has launched huge rallies across the province of Punjab which has drawn sizable crowds. However his support base may appear spacious because of lack of the because of the performance of the present federal government in Islamabad.
On the positive side for the PMLN federal stability has considerably increased particularly after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared that a staff level agreement has been reached to provide the first tranche of over 1.17 billion U.S. dollars to the government as a package for supporting financial stability. This package has come just two days before polling and should go in favor of the PMLN.
Cashing in on the same the Prime Minister shabba Sharif has quickly reduced the price of petrol by PKR 18 and the price of diesel by a whopping PKR 40.
In a recent ruling the Supreme Court has also indicated that the PTI led National Assembly deputy speaker did not give a fair ruling on the initial process for vote of confidence against then Imran Khan led PTI government.
Given Mr Imran Khan vituperations against the military as well as the Supreme Court it is evident that the backing of the Pakistan military and the influential Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) will go for the PMLN which will be a very determining factor as far as the polling goes.
To conclude today's bye elections should see the PML gaining a comfortable majority in the Punjab National Assembly and a rout for the PTI. This would imply stability if the federal government as well as resumption of official position of the chief minister by Mr Hamza Shabaz in the province of Punjab. However the PTI and Mr Imran Khan are likely to raise a shindig on the elections being biased supported by the ISI and the army and thus not free and fair.
Mr. Khan has already made very loud announcements pre bunking the bias of these organisations as well as the election Commission as if to create a fait accompli for the loss.
Thus, massive protests can be anticipated post elections but there is no gain saying that this will not hamper the PML N led coalition in Islamabad.
We will update you on the election outcomes and our predictions by the end of the day or latest by 18th July.