Former Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif has regained power at the Centre after an interregnum lasting 14 years. But his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) remains a Punjab-centric party bereft of the country-wide presence boasted at its prime by the since decimated Pakistan People’s Party.
The parochial nature of the mandate was rubbed in by the Muttahida Quami Movement’s Altaf Hussain. He congratulated Sharif for having realized the PML-N’s 20-year-old “jaag Punjabi jaag” call to awaken the Punjabi electorate.
The slogan ironically was coined by Sharif’s then close aide, Hussain Haqqani who later shifted allegiance to the PPP.
He quit as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US some months ago for his role in drafting a memo seeking Washington’s intervention to contain the Army’s influence in Pakistan’s power setup. That happened in the aftermath of the US marine’s Abbotabad raid to take out Osama Bin Laden.
Elections were simultaneously held to the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. The outcome in there brings out the fractured nature of the verdict despite the PML’s comfortable numbers in the federal assembly.
Sharif”s party will have a government of its own in its citadel of Punjab that fork-lifted it to power in Islamabad. But that’s about it. Its equity is limited or negligible in Sindh, KP and Balochistan where the PPP, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Baloch nationalists are dominant entities respectively.
The KP’s importance in Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy is a no-brainer. That has led some analysts to predict a PML-N attempt to keep the PTI out of power there through a post-poll pact with the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman who branded Imran Khan a kafir (infidel) for having married a Jew (Jamaima Khan) in the acrimonious poll campaign.
Not just that. Imran might also find elusive the Leader of the Opposition tag as the skipper of the party projected as the second largest in Parliament. A likely PPP-MQM power sharing arrangement in Sindh can help Asif Zardari’s party increase its numbers in the national assembly by about a dozen legislators of Altaf Hussain’s outfit that has retained its hold over urban Sindh.
“The PPP votes are from rural Sindh. It makes political sense for them to get on board the MQM that has a strong presence in Karachi and Hyderabad,” said veteran Pakistani commentator Afzal Khan.
Another seasoned journalist, Anjum Rashid felt Sharif would be better off respecting the PTI’s mandate to lead the next government in KP.
“That’ll make Imran a stakeholder in restoring calm in the terror torn western frontier,” he said.
It’s a trifle early therefore to forecast the ruling dispensation in KP where the Frontier Gandhi’s Awami National Party stands routed out of power.