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VIEWPOINT
VIEWPOINTPTI's Bid Fails; PPP, PML-N Maintain Their Hold On Electorate
by TARIQ BUTT

Two major political parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) – maintained their hold over the electoral politics as was evident from the February 25 by-elections for ten seats of the national and provincial assemblies. Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which stayed away from the by-polls as per its policy, however, failed to persuade voters from going to polling stations especially in Multan where its top leaders including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi were accused of making concerted efforts to the effect.
The PPP clinched four and the PML-N three national and provincial seats while the remaining seats were Prime Ministerbagged by independent candidates and a nominee of the Awami National Party (ANP). By and large, the contest was held in a peaceful atmosphere and there were no massive complaints of intervention by the official provincial machinery. It was a positive development. The newly elected federal and provincial lawmakers will not have a long tenure to serve as they would hold their positions just for one year if the present assemblies complete their five-year term. But given the willingness of even the PPP, there are clear signals that the next general elections would be announced any time after unfolding and approval of the next federal budget in the National Assembly in coming May. Additionally, after the election to half of the Senate is over on March 2, the government would feel comfortable and would no more hesitate to going for fresh polls. The PPP's old dream to secure majority in the Upper House of Parliament has come true. Despite the forceful and unending public campaign by the PTI and other opponents of the PML-N and PPP that the two major political entities have become thoroughly discredited because of their "mis-governance and misrule" in different positions over the past four years, their representatives were finally chosen by the electorate. It demonstrated that they continued to enjoy public support. Had the PTI become exceedingly attractive and popular among the masses, more than the PPP and PML-N, the polling stations would have been deserted in the by-polls. However, on the contrary the participation of voters was normal and not very dismal. Generally, the turnout is low in all by-elections. Despite PTI's public inroads that it started making after the October 30, 2011 public meeting in Lahore, the PPP and PML-N continue to persist with their respective popularity that has not been greatly dented by the PTI, which, however, thinks otherwise and believes that its tsunami will sweep them away.
A pathetic side of the by-election was the informal agreement between the ANP and Jamiat Ulemae Islam (JUI) not to allow women voters in Mardan to cast their votes. The JUI's policy towards females and their right to vote is well known. Therefore, there was nothing surprising as far as its attitude was concerned in Mardan. But what was shocking was the ANP's willingness to stop women from approaching the polling stations. It claims to be a liberal political party. Its agreement with the JUI in Mardan exposed its hypocritical attitude. Interestingly, while the JUI is not ready to allow the right of vote to women but when it comes to having females in the national and provincial assemblies on special seats, it gets them inducted without any reluctance.
The by-elections threw up new politicians, who would carry the legacy of their fathers. This reinforced the Shah Mehmood Qureshidynastic politics in South Asia where the tradition is well entrenched. Ali Musa Gilani, son of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, landed in the National Assembly with a bang with the Gilanis' archrival in Multan Shah Mehmood Qureshi having joined the PTI after noisily quitting the PPP. Another son of the premier, Abdul Qadir, is already member of the Punjab Assembly while his daughter Fizza has also been softly inducted in politics under the full official patronage. The prime minister's brother, Mujtaba, is also an MP. Now, the third son and wife of Gilani are left without an elected office. It is quite possible that they too would get something in the next general elections. In almost all by-elections held in and around Multan since Gilani came to power, the Prime Minister's effort has been to field his blood relatives to get them in the assemblies.
Gilani faces massive corruption allegations and has often been accused of financial hanky-panky in mega scandals. Fizza has no such blemish on her brief career. However, Abdul Qadir shadily figured in the Haj corruption scandal. The allegation was that he got a bulletproof jeep from one of the accused persons in this scam. He once also appeared before the investigators of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to clear himself from the charge. Former religious affairs minister Allama Hamid Saeed Kazmi and former director general, Haj, Saudi Arabia, Rao Shakeel, are in jail facing trial in the Haj scandal. Ali Musa has just jumped in the political field. He has no black spot on his career. It will be seen how he conducts himself in politics in future.
His victory is very important from another aspect. He has returned from a constituency that Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been winning most of the time. Once, it was bagged by Javed Hashmi. This is the seat Qureshi and Hashmi have always been contesting as main political rivals against each other. But since both are now with the PTI, it is not clear who would fight for it in the next parliamentary elections. However, now apart from them Ali Musa has become a major force to be reckoned with in this constituency. A Gilani has won this seat for the first time. In future, he will again be the PPP candidate against Qureshi or Hashmi.
Another new face on the political horizon is Husnain, son of the former firebrand Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, who was elected to the Sindh Assembly from Badin. The seat was vacated by Dr Mirza in protest against the policies of President Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP towards the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). He wanted them to break the alliance with Altaf Hussain. For months, he ran a powerful campaign to force them into severing every kind of ties with the MQM. However, the president remained unmoved and undeterred and kept strengthening his coalition with Altaf Hussain instead of being influenced by Dr Mirza's harangue. No doubt, through his consistent verbal attacks the former Sindh home minister did make a great impact on the Karachi situation, which saw tremendous improvement particularly when he was speaking too aggressively. In his fit of anger, he had even announced that he would cut off his relations with his son if he got the PPP ticket.
However, Dr Mirza maintained total silence over the past few months with the by-election in Badin approaching fast. He quietly and successfully campaigned for Husnain that resulted in the young boy's victory. It is yet to be seen how Husnain will perform in the political field. His father has undoubtedly made a mark and created stir while serving in different positions. He has proved that he also believes in dynastic politics. His spouse, National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, too worked hard for her son but remained in a low profile as usual.


 
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