Xinhua Analysis: Pakistan’s former ruling party faces challenges ahead of elections

Source: Xinhua   2018-07-04 21:06:25
By Muhammad Tahir

ISLAMABAD, July 4 (Xinhua) — Senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are confident of emerging victorious in the July 25 parliamentary elections, despite what they describe of as some “challenges.”

Such challenges include the trial of Nawaz Sharif and her daughter, Maryam Nawaz, who is considered his political heir.

On the political front, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or Justice Movement of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan also poses serious political challenge to the PML-N in the upcoming elections, especially in the weighty eastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

PTI led a coalition in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province during the 2013-2018 period.

The PML-N enters the election race at a time when Nawaz Sharif faces corruption charges in an accountability court along with Maryam Nawaz.

He is currently in London to look after his ailing wife, who is suffering from cancer and is under treatment there.

His absence from Pakistan has badly affected the PML-N campaign, according to political observers here.

On last Thursday, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by the Supreme Court last year over corruption charges, claimed his PML-N candidates were being “harassed” and demanded that the caretaker prime minister and the chief election commissioner take notice of the development.

In June, the top court disqualified former PML-N cabinet minister Daniyal Aziz from parliament over his remarks against the judiciary. Daniyal was a candidate for the National Assembly seat from his constituency in Punjab, the stronghold of the PML-N.

Last week, another PML-N candidate for the lower house of parliament Qamar-ul-Islam, from Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, was arrested over corruption charges.

The anti-corruption body defends its action and insists the PML-N leader was wanted in a corruption case related to a clean drinking water project in Punjab province.

Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the arrest of the PML-N candidate and said such action would “raise doubts of the election transparency.”

In April, eight PML-N lawmakers, including six members of the National Assembly and two members of the Punjab Assembly, parted ways with the party, which was a major blow to the PML-N at a time when the parties were involved in political maneuvering for the elections.

Two PML-N former ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Talal Chaudhry currently face contempt of court proceedings and their verdicts will most probably be announced before the elections, sources with knowledge of the matter here said.

Political analysts are of the view that some parties are seemingly dissatisfied with the pre-polls environment and want the caretaker government and the election body to ensure “a level playing field.”

Nazeer Mohmand, a senior political and security affairs expert, argued there is sense of uncertainty among the two major political parties, the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former President Asif Ali Zardari, with the parties expressing some complaints about difficulties.

“I think the PML-N and the PPP are facing difficulties in their election campaigns. People in some areas even humiliated candidates and leaders of these parties. People have the right to ask leaders about their problems but it is dangerous if such a trend is encouraged,” Mohmand told Xinhua on Tuesday.

The Election Commission’s spokesperson Altaf Ahmad said that the commission will ensure transparent and impartial elections and all parties are free to campaign for candidates.

He said the commission is satisfied with the election activities and there are no major problems in the country. He added that troops will be deployed by the hundreds of thousands to maintain peace during the elections.

On June 29, in a serious setback for the PML-N, seven of the party’s ticket-holders from Punjab announced that they would be contesting as independent candidates. Two National Assembly candidates were among those who deserted the party.

Mian Asif (aka Wisi Baba), a senior journalist and column writer, said there are some political concerns for the PML-N as it considers the elections to be problematic and is somewhat vexed over the parting of ways with its former members.

“The PML-N is unsure of how to deal with the situation. More than 10 candidates returned their PML-N tickets and the party is concerned that some more candidates could also return their tickets during the campaign,” Asif told Xinhua.

Asif, however, said the PML-N leaders are satisfied that the situation is not dire, as they think voters will still stand by their party.

He said political parties are making efforts towards seat adjustments in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.


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