…by Asif Haroon Raja
Elections have to an extent helped in building the nation, but the process failed to build a political class of elites to lead the nation, integrate it, motivate it, and inculcate patriotism and nationalism.
This fault line could be attributed to faulty election laws, making elections the exclusive domain of the feudal lords and the elites, Baradari and hereditary system, elected leaders putting self before national interests, failure to abide by the norms of constitution and rule of law and lack of accountability.
These anomalies blocked the process of weeding out of corrupt and inept leaders and in churning out quality leaders after each elections. To make the elections fruitful, crucial reforms in the fields of education, electoral, political, civil administration, police and judicial are the need of the day.
Elections were held on July 25 amidst high political temperature and allegations of pre-poll rigging. Main contestants were the PML-N that had ruled for 5 years and the PTI which had not tasted power at the national level. The dice was loaded in favor of PTI because of the alleged judicial-Establishment backing and imprisonment of Nawaz Sharif (NS) in Panama Papers case and disqualification of their key leaders by the Supreme Court. PTI won the race on the slogan of ‘change’, while the losers wailed that worst rigging was carried out in the vote counting.
Imran Khan (IK) has worn the crown of thorns and is sitting on an intemperate bucking horse without a saddle and a bridle that has unseated many a leaders in the last 70 years. He has promised to tame the old horse and bring a change within 100 days by changing the old feudal mindset. However, after the lapse of almost half the time, hardly any change is discernible and people have started to become edgy and impatient. The opposition is exploiting each and every misstep of the government and lambasting it.
PMLN leaders have yet not reconciled with their defeat. They and other opposition parties say the new government is selected and not elected, and have demanded a parliamentary commission to carry out a probe of alleged rigging.
A post July 2018 elections survey was carried out by Gallop Pakistan. The key agenda items were national and provincial results, who voted for whom and why; vote bank of religious parties, Tehreek Labaik Pakistan (TLP) share and profile. Election Commission data was made use of by the Gallop team and survey was based on 4000 respondents in rural and urban areas.
Turnout in last elections in 2013 was:
Punjab – 52%; Sindh – 46%; KP – 41%; Baluchistan – 41%.
Comparison of turnouts
1970 – 61% ; 1977 – 61%; 1988 – 48%; 1990 – 45%; 1993 – 38%; 1997 – 34%; 2002 – 39%; 2008 – 43%; 2013 – 55%; 2018 – 52%.
Note: there was a dip in voters during the period of 1993 – 2002 because of infighting between PPP-PML-N and the people getting vary of politics and sham democracy. Jayalas had also got disillusioned when Benazir inducted old uncles into the party.
Voter turnout Trends. Punjab always had highest turnout ranging from 66% in 1970 to 57% and 55% in 2013, 2018 respectively. Sindh turnout ranged from 61% in 1977 to 46% in 2018 and as low as 26% in 1993. In KP, turnout fluctuated between 47% in 1970 and 41% in 2018, with lowest 25% in 1993. In Baluchistan (Bln), voter’s turnout was 39% in 1970 and 41% in 2018, with lowest 22% in 1997.
Seat wise the gains and losses made by contesting parties in 2018 elections are:
PTI – 32% votes, 16 million voters, 114 seats (42%). It gained 80% more seats than in 2013.
PML-N – 24% votes, 12 million voters, 64 seats (24%).
PPP – 13% votes, 7 million voters, 43 seats (16%).
Independents – 11% votes, 6 million voters, 14 seats.
MMA – 5% votes, 2.5 million voters, 12 seats.
MQM – 1% votes, 0.7% voters, 6 seats.
Others – 14% votes, 6 million voters, 17 seats.
PTI – 36% votes, 12 million voters and 63 seats.
PML-N – 35% votes, 11 million voters and 61 seats.
Individuals – 13% votes, 4 million voters and 7 seats.
PPP – 7% votes, 2 million voters and 6 seats.
PML-Q – 1% votes, 0.4% and 4 seats.
Others – 8% votes, 3 million voters and 1 seat.
PTI. It secured 37% votes, 2.7 million voters and 35 seats.
MMA – 18% votes, 1.3 million voters and 6 seats.
Individuals – 11% vote, 0.8 million voters and 4 seats.
PML-N – 12% votes, 0.9 million voters and 3 seats.
PPP – 8% votes, 0.6 million voters and 1 seat.
ANP – 10% votes, 0.7 million voters and 1 seat.
Others – 4% votes, 0.3 million voters and I seat.
(PTI gained 80% more seats and 28% more voters than in 2013; MMA lost 29% seats. MMA and PML-N lost 25% voters).
PPP – 39% votes, 4 million voters and 36 seats.
PTI – 17% votes, 2 million voters and 14 seats.
MQM – 7% votes, 0.7% voters and 6 seats.
GDA – 12% votes, 1 million voters and 2 seats.
Individuals – 6% votes, 0.6% voters and 2 seats.
MMA – 7% votes, 0.8% voters and 1 seat.
Others – 12% votes, 1 million voters and nil seat.
PTI rise in Sindh is remarkable, from 2 seats in 2013 to 14 seats. This is over 1000% rise and vote risen from 5% in 2013 to 17%. PPP gained by 3%.
BAP – 24.5% votes, 0.4 million voters. Independents – 17% votes, 0.3 million voters. MMA – 15% votes, 0.3 million voters. BNP – 7% votes, 0.1 million voters. PkMAP – 6.5% votes, 0.1 million voters. PTI – 6% votes, 0.1 million voters. Others – 24% votes, 0.4% voters.
PML-N Losses. Major loss was in Punjab where it lost 12% votes (1.5 million). Loss in West Punjab was the highest where drop was 18% followed by North Punjab 15%, Southern Punjab 10% and Central Punjab 8%. In interior Sindh it lost 6% votes, in KP 4% and Bln 2%.
PTI Growth. In Punjab 18%; in Sindh 8%; In Bln 7%; in KP 8%. Highest growth was in West Punjab – 26%.
- PTI witnessed a dramatic increase of 32% in its vote bank from 2013 elections. This is the highest jump in Pakistan’s electoral history. While PTI doubled its vote bank with an increase of 88%, PML-N vote bank declined by 25%.
- While surge of PTI vote bank is dramatic, doubling it in last five years, decline of PML-N vote bank is less dramatic (25%), but seat vote decline is 50%.
- PML-N seat loss is phenomenal. Its major loss was in Punjab, where it lost 12% votes (1.5 million), with highest decline in West Punjab (18%). Its vote bank in Punjab dropped from 80% in 2013 to 42%, a loss of 38% seats. It retained 6-8 million votes.
- PPP and PML-Q vote bank in Punjab dropped by 7 % respectively.
- In Punjab, there was a virtual tie between PTI and PML-N with a difference of less than 500,000 voters. While PTI bagged 36% votes, 12 million voters, and got 63 seats, PML-N acquired 35% votes, 11 million voters and 61 seats. Individuals which won 13% votes, 4 million votes and 7 seats together with PML-Q (4 seats) made the difference in the final outcome.
- In Sindh, PML-N had a 2% seat loss, in KP 9% loss, Baluchistan 7%. In Punjab, it got 38% less seats where major dent was caused by North Punjab where it couldn’t secure any seat due to MMA.
- In 2013, PML-N had earned 69% seats. Within its strongest bastion of Central Punjab, it lost 20% of seats.
- It is one of the highest electoral collapse for any party.
- Religious parties secured 5.1 million votes and 12 seats, with 6 in KP, five in Bln and one in Sindh.
- TLP which contested elections in 2018 for the first time secured 2.2 million votes and was most successful in Karachi securing 10% votes and next in North Punjab (0.3 million votes) and wiped out PML-N.
- TLP acted as a spoiler for PML-N. Had it not contested or had aligned with PML-N, outcome of 51 NA seats (19%) would have been different. PML-N would have won about 30% more seats. That would have given a total of 64+19=83 seats to PML-N.
- PTI, PPP and TLP gained space in Karachi due to withering of MQM.
- PML-N lost to PTI during the campaign due to judicial and media activism.
- PTI is the first party winning elections twice in succession in KP, where it rose from 39% seats in 2013 to 69% in 2018.
- Most interesting phenomenon of last elections is the “performance”, which remains a key factor in deciding the outcome. In comparison, Punjab fared much better than other provinces in governance, development and performance, while performance of Sindh was poorest. Electoral results indicated that performance factor was ignored and PTI and PPP not only retained their bastions of KP and Sindh but also improved their count, while PML-N lost its stronghold of Punjab despite the fact that on Election Day Sindh was deprecated and Shahbaz Sharif (SS) was much appreciated in Punjab than PTI in KP.
- One possible reason of PML-N loss was that it wholly concentrated in overcoming energy crisis and development works and paid little attention to socio-political issues.
- PML-N’s fulcrum is Punjab which has been ably administered by SS for the last 10 years. NS has acted as the glue and kept the party intact till his internment.
- PML-N was gradually enfeebled through sit-ins, judicial activism and smear campaign during the trial of Panama, NS disqualification on July 28, 2017, moving of references in trial courts, removing him from seat of party head, coup in Baluchistan in January 2018, keeping ruling party out of Senate elections, disqualifying key leaders on account of contempt of court, putting NS on ECL, stories of illness of Kulsoom Nawaz, and finally convicting and jailing NS and Maryam in July 2018.
- Change took place in the last five weeks before the D Day when the fort of PML-N cracked up and its legislators began to jump the ship.
- NS slogan of “respect to vote” would have fetched better results had he not bashed the Army, which has been fighting the war on terror and is giving human sacrifices. A stage came when voters in Punjab had to choose between PML-N and Army-Judiciary combine.
- Given the high standing of the Army in the eyes of the public irrespective of the political divide, the switch of PML-N 8% voters to PTI took place which has been supporting the military and judiciary.
- Release of NS, Maryam and Safdar from jail has infused new life into PML-N which was feeling demoralized under the leadership of SS. Although NS and Maryam have decided to remain on a low key, their release has heated up the political temperature in Punjab. The party will now contest the by- elections of 11 National Assembly seats and 19 Provincial Assembly on October 14, and local bodies elections in December with renewed vigor to win maximum seats.
- The opposition is also awaiting the outcome of Parliamentary Committee probe on the rigging in elections which every losing party has alleged.
- So far the new regime led by IK has not shown any signs of Naya Pakistan since his core team lacks the flare and vigor. He is too much under the influence of Jahangir Tareen, Aleem Khan, Zufi Bukhari, Naeemul Haq, Aneel Musarrat and their likes. Instead of dealing with bureaucracy firmly to depoliticize it, it is being handled softly.
- No move has been made to catch the big fish and there are no news of the big money flowing in from abroad.
- No thaw has occurred in Pak-US relations. Effort to woo India and Afghanistan was in indecent haste. A tactless tweet by the PM in reaction to abrupt cancelation of foreign ministers talks in New York by India has further vitiated the atmosphere after Gen Bipin started beating drums of war.
- Aspects that are being censured are that IK shoots before taking aim, he is taking too many U-turns, ignoring merit while selecting women for reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies. Fund raising for dam is a diversionary effort to distract the attention of the masses from real issues. Dams cannot be built with donations, making Saudi Arabia a third partner in CPEC without taking the Parliament into confidence has made the project controversial, masses have been burdened with indirect taxes, a gas bomb dropped on the poor, rise in inflation and price hike, undue exemption to non-filers, awarding key posts to personal friends including foreign nationals.
- Questions are being raised whether popularity of IK built on the slogan of ‘change’ is just a glitch, and is IK heading toward a big fall, and if so, what next?
Given the trend and the leisurely pace, there is bleak chance of any tangible results accruing after the passage of 100 days. Thereafter, pressure from opposition will surge up and demand for early elections will be raised. I reckon, IK will become more assertive after 100 days and not before.
IK will be applauded if his foreign policy manages to convert animosity of India and Afghanistan into friendship, warms up relations with Iran, removes misgivings of USA, makes visible progress in CPEC with the help of investments from KSA, UAE and others, carries out critical reforms, reduces polarization in the society, eliminates feudalism and terrorism, promotes simplicity and austerity, enhances exports and minimizes imports to reduce fiscal imbalances, reduces debt burden, builds the promised dams, imposes system of merit, reduces joblessness, provides promised cheap houses to the poor and education to their children, carries out across the board accountability to bring back the looted wealth and to eliminate corruption. Above all, he alleviates the sufferings of the poor by turning Pakistan into a welfare state. Whether he will succeed in achieving these lofty objectives and ideals is anyone’s guess.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member PESS and TJP. [email protected]