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ISLAMABAD: Rising political clamour accompanied by legal moves to hold the next elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly, as stipulated in the Constitution, may force an earlier election than envisaged by powerful stakeholders, well-informed political sources informed Business Recorder.

Sources in the establishment, however, disagreed and stated that elections will not be held till the popularity of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has abated to levels that are manageable, highly placed sources in the power corridors stated.

When asked to define manageable they stated “numbers that would ensure that the PTI does not return to power and destroy the country further. This necessitates first sorting out the economy and only then holding the polls.”

General elections: Ministers pledge support to ECP

The decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to notify the census results on 5 August 2023 and the resultant four months required to complete the delimitation exercise by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) may be put on the backburner if the supreme court under the incumbent chief justice or his successor rule that elections must be held within the time specified in the constitution.

There is however no change in the preferred individual who will head the elected government, sources added; when asked who that individual was the source merely shrugged and said a “tried” and “trustworthy” individual.

Sources less discreet in their comments told Business Recorder that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif is the ‘blue-eyed’ candidate for the premiership as and when polls are held.

“Neither PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif nor his daughter Maryam Nawaz will be on the driving seat of the next coalition government; Shehbaz Sharif has won the trust of the establishment during the last 16 months as the prime minister,” the source maintained.

In July 2023 former President and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari expressed his certainty that the next prime minister of the country would be his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and reports began circulating that the next finance minister would be Murad Ali Shah who had been directed to contest a national assembly seat in the next elections.

This certainty was reportedly rooted in the establishment’s satisfaction at Bilawal Bhutto’s successful re-engagement with the West, particularly the US, and together with his team member Sherry Rehman of working very effectively with former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif in sensitising the international community to generate assistance for the flood victims, the sources added.

Zardari, complacent about his hold over Sindh, knew he needed significant support in other provinces to form the government in the Centre. He moved to Lahore mid-July to seek support from the South of Punjab electables, who have traditionally changed loyalties from one administration to the next one that is in favour with the power corridors.

The electables in south of Punjab initially agreed to support the PPP but expressed reticence subsequent to the creation of Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) led by Jahangir Tareen; and the selection of Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, a [former] member of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), as the caretaker Prime Minister dashed Zardari’s hopes of forming a coalition with BAP. Both IPP and BAP would be looking for directives from the establishment.

Zardari is currently focused on a possible seat adjustment with PML-N in Punjab however this appears difficult as the seats on which he seeks adjustment are the constituency of PML-N long term loyalists.

The next cabinet, sources added, may comprise many of the same faces that were part of Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet though Ishaq Dar is unlikely to get the portfolio of finance as he is regarded to be the man who jettisoned the Extended Fund Facility programme with the IMF.

Sources added that the next government would also have to be a coalition and if the PPP and PML-N form a coalition then Zardari will insist on Murad Ali Shah as the finance minister, a move that may be supported by the establishment.

The PTI, which secured 180 seats out of 371 from Punjab and 95 out of 145 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018 general elections with the purported support of previous establishment led by General Qamar Javed Bajwa (retd) and Lt Gen Faiz Hameed (retd), is still enjoying grass root support in both the provinces.

Sources maintained that it is premature to say as to whether Jahangir Tareen’s IPP or Pervez Khattak’s PTI-Parliamentarians will be in a position to dent the PTI’s grassroots popularity even if electables are forced to join the newly launched parties.

While concerns are being raised over denial of a level playing field to PTI in the next general elections, through pre-poll rigging, yet during polls the rigging is limited, at best, to 15 to 20 percent of the results. Post poll rigging would ensure a coalition infinitely easy to control by powerful stakeholders.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Fazeel Siddiqui (Overseas Pakistani) Aug 26, 2023 04:11pm
When asked to define manageable they stated “numbers that would ensure that the PTI does not return to power and destroy the country further. Since independence military establishment is deciding the rules and ruling directly or indirectly. A country acquired on name of Islamic ideology is being run in Fascist way ridiculing basic Islamic right of the people to choose their leadership. Curse us rightly upon Pakistan, it's citizens who support this order and handlers of failed 76 years of Pakistan. India is now a better Islamic country.
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Arbab Aug 26, 2023 09:36pm
Upright and fearless journalism. Thank you Business recorder.
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Arbab Aug 26, 2023 09:38pm
@Fazeel Siddiqui (Overseas Pakistani), agreed, Pakistan will never come out of problems with undemocratic regimes.
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