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Debacle for many electables

Updated July 27, 2018

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LAHORE: Punjab rejected the influence of the ‘electables’ in the polls as almost all of the so-called winners who had abandoned their parties to jump on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) bandwagon or, in case of failing to win its ticket, had opted for contesting the election as independent candidates lost the battle, giving the hope that the political system may get rid of the turncoats provided there is a political will to do so.

The PML-N had taken the major beating in the ‘political conversions spell’ which was more visible in the southern belt of Punjab while the PPP also suffered in the central part of the province.

Some of the electables had switched their parties a few months before the election season was set in while others looked out for options when their respective parties ‘ditched’ them during the award of tickets.

Prominent among those included in the first category are Rana Nazeer (Gujranwala), Amir Sultan Cheema (Sargodha), Faisal Saleh Hayat (Jhang), Nazar Muhammad Gondal (Mandi Bahauddin), Nadeem Afzal Chan and Nadia Aziz (Sargodha), Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul (Gujrat), Firdaus Ashiq Awan (Sialkot), Raja Riaz (Faisalabad), Khusro Bakhtiar (Rahim Yar Khan), Nasrullah Dareshak (Rajanpur), Asghar Shah and Tahir Bashir Cheema (Bahawalnagar) and Jafar Leghari and Sardar Zulfikar Khosa (Dera Ghazi Khan).

Mr Khosa had alienated himself from the PML-N a couple of years ago but formally joined the PTI only towards the end of the PML-N government.

Almost all the prominent politicians who shifted loyalties lost the polls

Of them, Mr Hayat, Mr Gondal, Mr Chan, Ms Aziz, Amer Cheema and Tahir Cheema (whose daughter, Fatima, had replaced him in the election) could not make it to the finish line on July 25. The Amir Cheema family lost the seat for the first time since 1985.

The other ‘electables’ had jumped the ship when the process for nominations was nearing completion losing all hopes to win the party tickets. Many of them couldn’t or didn’t find in some cases any formal platform for their electioneering and thus have to contest as independent to remain in the electoral race. They included Chaudhry Nisar (Rawalpindi), Manzoor Wattoo, his son Khurram and daughter Robina (Okara), Sikandar Bosan (Multan), Shaukat Basra (Bahawalnagar), Iqbal Shah (Lodhran), Amjad Farooq Khosa (DGK), Punjab Assembly former deputy speaker Sher Ali Gorchani and father Pervez Gorchani, Hafeezur Rehman Dreshak and Shamona Mir Badshah Qaisrani (Rajanpur), Ayesha Nazeer Jutt (Vehari), Zafar Qureshi (Sargodha), Sultan and Qasim Hinjra and Basit Bukhari (Muzzafargarh), Rana Nazeer, Mian Tariq and Rana Bilal Ijaz (Gujranwala).

They all lost their contests (Chaudhry Nisar won from a provincial seat).

Pre-election political conversions are not a new phenomenon, particularly in south Punjab. Even stalwarts like Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi and Jehangir Tareen have been switching parties.

Saeed Hasan, a voter, regrets politicians switch parties seeing their prospects of winning the specific party’s ticket and chances of that party coming into power and not the entity’s mandate or agenda. All parties also encourage the trend of conversions by almost always embracing these ‘opportunists’ only to improve their political stakes at the cost of moral norms, he decries.

Prof Dr Amjad Magsi of the Pakistan Study Centre, Punjab University, laments that the phenomenon of change of loyalties is keeping the parties weak and subsequently damaging the democratic system for the last seven decades.

“Non-party polls of 1985 were responsible for enhancing the role of the ‘electables’ in power politics, forcing a party like the PPP to shun ideologues and embrace the turncoats. Besides ‘opportunism,’ sometimes pressure from some powerful quarters also makes the electables change their parties.”

Prof Magsi, however, says that the 2018 election has given the parties a chance to get rid of the electables as their so-called balloon of influence has burst with a bang.

Answering a question, he says the trend of changing loyalties is more evident in south Punjab because of hold of feudal lords and spiritual leaders (Pirs) who develop a nexus to keep their sway in their respective jurisdiction.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018