It may appear too premature to talk about a post electoral scenario in Pakistan when the debate over holding of elections and dates for say the Punjab Assembly elections have yet to be decided. The May 14 marker set by the Supreme Court is now past us and may well be forgotten as a chastened Chief Justice Atta Bandial is unlikely to take any decision in haste on polls in the near future especially after the Election Commission of Pakistan has questioned authority of the SC over polls dates.
However, term of the National Assembly ends on August 16 and thus polls will have to be held by mid October unless another political crisis emerges. For the October polls the line up of the political parties appears to have changed dramatically particularly in the bellwether province of Punjab. Elections will be held simultaneously for the regional as well as the national assembly.
Mr Imran Khan's Tehreek a Insaaf [PTI] has been effectively marginalised after the May 9 riots including attacks on key military installations.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi was released from the Adiala jail on June 06 on orders of the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) after almost a month in what he claims solitary confinement. Imran Khan has nomintate Qureshi to lead the party in case of his disqualification by a court.
The statement comes as the PTI chief has been facing a slew of cases ranging from corruption to terrorism since being ousted from power in April last year.
The military has threatened Mr. Khan to be tried under the Amy act which apart from other cases will certainly lead to his disqualification from politics and may even put him in jail even though he may get some relief from the Supreme Court later.
Timing of the release of the PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi indicates that this is an attempt by the military to allow the PTI to float the party without Mr Imran Khan commonly known as the Minus One formula, that is PTI Minus Mr Imran Khan.
Thus, it was not surprising that Qureshi said he will meet PTI chief and seek guidance. “I have spent a month in solitary confinement and got time to reflect and think about a lot of things … Tomorrow I will meet Imran Khan, present to him my political analysis and seek guidance,” he stated as per the Dawn News. PTI leaders Asad Umar and Asad Qaiser are expected to remain loyal to Mr Imran Khan and may form a part of the rump of the Party led by Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Beyond the split of the PTI how the political groupings emerge remains to be seen.
New players as the Jahangir Khan Tareen - JKT faction and acquisition of the PTI dissidents by other parties may dictate the evolving situation. Tareen is reported to have held a meeting with former PTI leader Aleem Khan at his residence in the provincial capital, according to a Dawn report on May 29 to revive the new Party which was also attended by former minister Ishaq Khakwani, PM’s aide Aown Chaudhry, Saeed Akbar Niwani, and Shoaib Siddiqui
In fact, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah predicted three splinter groups will emerge in the future and that will no longer be a threat to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab. “On Jahangir Tareen’s issue N-League should remain calm as our vote bank is not going anywhere,” Sanaullah said.
In Punjab, Rana Sanaullah claimed that after the May 9 rioting, the PML N will have an advantage. “The PTI will get divided into two or three parts. One part will go into the PPP, second to Jahangir Tareen and third will remain in the PTI,” predicted the interior minister. “If the PTI chairman is disqualified then Shah Mahmood Qureshi would run the party,” Sanaullah also said.
The voters may thus have multiple choices in Punjab - two traditional parties, PML-N and PPP, the latter has attracted some defectors from south Punjab, the rump PTI and the JKT faction apart from other parties as the PML Q.
It will not be a PTI versus PML N contest which the latter was most concerned and due to which it has moved the corridors of power in Pakistan not to hold the polls before Mr Khan and his party are marginalised.
Yet a factional coalition is expected to emerge where whether the PML N has an advantage or the PPP with the evergreen Asif Ali Zardari manipulating way to the top with the likes of JKT remains to be seen?