By-elections: PML-N looks like the party to beat!

Published: December 5, 2012

There is no doubt that the 2013 elections are going to be the most fiercely contested elections in our history. But with just 120 days to go, PML-N looks like the party to beat. PHOTO: REUTERS

By-elections are often ignored as nothing more than parties reclaiming a seat they had lost to some unfortunate incident or disqualification. In the last five years multiple by-elections have taken place and in most cases they have produced nothing exciting or out of the ordinary.

However, yesterday’s by-election on nine seats across Pakistan was anything but ordinary. With nine seats up for grabs, including two National Assembly (NA) seats and six Provincial Assembly seats in Punjab, and one Provincial Assembly seat in Sindh, the by-election mattered given that they were held barely 120 days or so before the general elections.

Out of the nine seats, PML-N won seven while PPP won the Sindh Assembly seat and PML-Q won a Punjab Assembly seat.

Based on yesterday’s results there are three key lessons to be learnt:

The alliance between PPP and PML-Q is backfiring

At the time this alliance took place, many observers said that this was President Zardari’s master stroke. He had managed to finally form a united opposition in Punjab that could take on PML-N potently. This notion now stands proven completely wrong. Instead, the alliance has actually hurt both the PPP and PML-Q league in Punjab.

Specifically for PPP, things have gone from bad to worse.

First their workers had to deal with an unnatural alliance with PML-Q. Then they had to deal with the ultimate heart break of having a person, who openly targeted the PPP for many years, being made PPP’s Punjab president.

Manzoor Wattoo took over the Punjab operations even though the Chaudhrys had serious reservations about him. President Zardari thought that placing Wattoo in Punjab would create hurdles for the PML-N and would keep the PML-Q in check, wrongly assuming that the PPP in Punjab was still as loyal to him as it was to his late wife, Benazir Bhutto.

Wattoo’s presence has actually hurt the PPP in Punjab where a lot of loyalists have chosen to not play along anymore. The PML-Q league is rethinking its alliance with the PPP after losing, on an average, 3,000 to 4,000 votes out of their 2008 vote bank in most constituencies. The whole point of the alliance was that joint candidates would gain votes not lose them and this is exactly what has many PML-Q members re-evaluating the pros and cons of the PPP alliance.

PTI’s popularity is tanking

Although Imran Khan and his supporters keep saying that they are going to sweep the elections, it now looks highly unlikely. Nearly all opinion polls have Imran Khan losing support fast over the last ten months. Even the youth fan club is losing its members with the same intensity as they came together back in November last year.

Yesterday’s NA-162 Sahiwal by-poll was another blow, in the series of recent blows that have broken the fan club’s momentum. Rai Nawaz’s family had been associated with the PML-N for over 20 years and had never lost this seat. But after defecting to the fan club, Rai Nawaz went up against PML-N’s Zahid Iqbal and lost the seat by a margin of 10,000 votes!

That is devastating given that Rai Nawaz, at the time of his defection, was hailed as a major ‘wicket’ by PTI supporters. Add to this the defection of the Hoti family in Mardan and it’s easy to see that the PTI has had a rough week.

This is worrisome for many people who had joined the fan club and are now secretly holding talks with the PML-N and PPP to move back.

At least two senior PTI leaders who had defected from PML-N are trying to negotiate their way back but are being refused entry back into the party. Similarly, a senior leader from south Punjab is holding back channel talks with the PPP and PML-F for a possible move close to the elections.

The tsunami is not coming; neither is a hurricane or a typhoon. At best, given this current status, a light breeze might come and that too will hardly be one to stir a few leaves.

PML-N finally has the momentum

To win seven out of eight seats, that too barely 120 days away from a general election, is a major win for the PML-N.

To start with, this proves that after five years of governance in Punjab, PML-N is as popular as ever. Based on analysis of the results, PML-N gained 25,000 new votes in Gujrat, where their candidate took over 100,000 votes in the NA-107 by-election.

In NA-162 Sahiwal, their candidate took 5000 new votes. Similarly in PP-92 Gujranwala and PP-226 Sahiwal, their candidates took 10,000 and 25,000 new votes compared to the 2008 results respectively.

This matters because these were the first elections to be held on the new voter lists and the results indicate a clear strengthening of the PML-N as it has picked up two seats as a result of the by-elections.

This also disproves the theory that many analysts have that PML-N’s approach to development in Punjab is wrong.

The fact is, right now PML-N finally has the momentum going into the last 120 days before the elections. They have strengthened themselves significantly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and if yesterday’s results are any indication, they have Punjab locked in. The disintegration of the PPP-PML-Q alliance is only helping the PML-N while PTI falls apart due to infighting and near future defections.

There is no doubt that the 2013 elections are going to be the most fiercely contested elections in our history.

But with just 120 days to go, PML-N looks like the party to beat.

Read more by Adnan here or follow him on Twitter @adnanrasool 


Adnan Khalid Rasool

Currently the Deputy Executive Director Center for Enterprise, Trade and Development, Adnan is also a political analyst working mainly on electoral politics and political campaign management. He tweets at @adnanrasool

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • sheharyar

    Pathetic analysis broRecommend

  • SS

    PMLN all the way. Recommend

  • tajjee

    Well Sorry say to ‘in 2007, q league won all by elections, and met a disasterous end in general elections’. The writer’s demeaning attitude towards PTI is highly condemnable. I am not fan of Imran Khan but I am a supporter of PTI from remotest part of Pakistan; The Hunza Valley.Recommend

  • Adnan Butt

    A heart breaking analysis for anti PML-N peeps..Recommend

  • Youth

    good analysis….but i would add 1 thing…..Rai Nawaz lost by only 10,000 votes,,,,,,this is victory of PTI……in this election YOUTH didnt casted their vote ..but in general election WE,,,YOUTH would come and vote……..than results would be differentRecommend

  • Talhah

    Realistic analysis I would say :)Recommend

  • Hamza Baloch

    This blog is based on the same logic, which PPP supporter used for Multan by-election, where they claim that PPP won against against pmln + PTI + JI.

    These election happened almost 120 days after the Multan by-election, but we see totally opposite result from those.

    In By-election, 90% seats goes to the ruling party of that province, because state machinery is used in those. Yousaf Reaz gilani used that for Multan election, Pmln did this for these election.

    Wait for independent in-term government, than see the result.Recommend

  • Raja

    There is no doubt PML-N, will win next elections with a thumping margin. Imran Khan can only play blame game he is expert in it, nothing else. I would love SMQ deserting him, JH no value sorry.Recommend

  • HudaS

    Good analysis, but nothing can be said for sure…. Pakistan Elections, like Pakistan Cricket Team can be quite unpredictable…Recommend

  • PML-N

    PTI candidate was supported by PML Q as well as PPP.Recommend

  • fahad butt

    correction: Rai family lost election in 1993 on both NA and PA seat when rai ahmed nawaz and rai hasan nawaz lost to shahnaz jaaved and munir azhar respectively.
    rai family got the same ammount of votes in 2008 general elections on pml-q ticket, this means these 65000 votes are their own votes and pti could not add votes to his ballet box.
    *when by elections were announced, rai hasan was considered to be favourite to win as rai family is considered the oldest and the strongest poliytical family of chichawatni but zahid iqbal gained momentum with every new day and managed to win in the end. pml-n took special interest in this seat and hamza shahbaz participated in election campaign.

    i wonder where are the “YOUTH” votes?

  • Tahir

    Well you choose just few factors and ignored many others. Elections were held in Punjab and PMLN being a Governing party had everything in their favor. You ignored this and then you ignored pre-poll rigging and rigging in the election.
    Express news report on rigging in Chichawatni:
    How on earth can any blogger who tries to pose himself as analyst ignore these factors? And moreover PTI did not participate in the election officially and no PTI leader went to hold any jalsa in the area.
    I feel you wanted to write a biased and you analyzed the election on just few factors ignoring many others and if you have included them in your analysis then conclusion would have been otherwiseRecommend

  • King Khas

    Keen to know who are those two members, want to go back to PML-N but got rejected call from N. Javed Hashmi?

    From Last night result it seems very obvious that era of Zardari dirty politics is coming towards it’s destiny. This sinking ship will all their alliance to the level, where there will be no survival. Wise politicians & opportunistic will tend towards PML-N to get Ticket for next general election.

    I am expecting big guns from Q, PTI & possibly PPP will be joining PML-N soon after 15 Dec.

    There were some shout of 39 setting PML-Q MNAs/MPAs is joining PML-N after 15 Dec. first they will resign from seats & then joining PML NRecommend

  • omair shahid

    Well PML-N looks like a party to beat but i will second tajje comments that q league won all by elections, and met a disasterous end in general elections but let see what happens Recommend

  • Arif

    PML N Rocks and Inshallah they will sweep the 2013 elections,,, Performance of SS in punjab is in front of every one,, he had will and vision to deliver,, INSHALLAH as news came SS will be minister of water and power and will take Pakistan out from darkness of load shading. Recommend

  • Sami

    Winning a by-Election with no real competition, contested with full admistrative backing, on the tax payers dime is more like getting a free toy with your happy meal ..!!Recommend

  • Abbassi

    A very realistic analysis. Recommend

  • Natasha

    Not a PMLN fan but those who believe PTI’s going to ‘sweep’ the next general elections need a reality check.

    Imran Khan fan.


  • Akhtar

    You can say that PML-N can sweep the elections if victory margin on every seat is over 50,000 votes. Let us suppose PTI will fail miserably in the elections, but still they can divide the votes enough for PPP candidates to go through all the way to assemblies.

    You have missed the most vital point of vote spilt once PTI is there. Anyway, good article for PML-N pankhas. Recommend

  • Mountie

    For tajje. in 2007 those elections were held under an army chief dictator. These elections are being held under democracy with an elected president whose own party is having a tough time winning seats. As much as you support PTI, its okay to accept facts once in a while. Just food for thought, nothing else :)Recommend

  • Ali

    Its true PMLN is gaining momentum and PTI ship is about to sink. PMLQ and PPP alliance is also not working as per their hopes.Recommend

  • Saad

    Big blow to tabdeeli chanters :) Fresh voter lists and youth factor seems to be favoring PMLN. It seems to have gone from strength to strength. IA PMLN will carry on the momentum and form Federal govt post 2013 general elections!Recommend

  • Ammar

    good article..but partially agree on the analysis tht N league is still very popular and very difficult to beat..
    but declaring N league the next victorious in the next election is a too early call.Pti ka kia hoga pata nhi..
    we should also know that the seats got vacant were belonging to which partyRecommend

  • Faraz

    Surely a realistic and brave analysis. We find difficult to search for a anti PTI blog these days on internet as most of the anchors and bloogers want there popularity on social media sites and for that they try to manipulate facts and supports PTI where it is not necessary. Recommend

  • Asim

    Very well written and good analysis.

    InshAllah PML-N will beat all these PTI,PML-Q,PPP and JI.

    Next elections will be between PML-N and merged voter of PTI,PML-Q,PPP and JI.Recommend

  • AS

    Great analysis, good work and words together

  • Uzair

    @tajjee , Sir it is wrong that you totally accept whatever the PTI says in defense of their weak performance in by-elections. The by-elections are infact a trailer of the upcoming general elections. In 2007 PMLQ was indeed winning the byelections but they were the most popular party until Lal Masjid and the CJP issue started, these issues caused the downfall in Musharraf’s downfall.Recommend

  • Falcon

    Misplaced analysis. There are 2 things that have been ignored: By-elections are almost always won by incumbents (PMLN in Punjab in this case), you ask why? Because of their ability to use government machine heavily in their favor. Secondly, non-traditional voters that are typically expected to come out en mass in general elections to change their fate are hardly seen anywhere in such elections. Lastly, you forget to mention the fact that Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif were there on the ground to directly support this candidate. On the other hand, PTI supported the candidate indirectly without much fanfare because of their internal party elections. Recommend

  • Tanweer Hassan

    This proves that Politics arena is different from Cricket and if we analyse that in all seats the PPP,Q-League, and the PTI couldn’t break the vote bank of PML-N as it was strongly considered
    that Mr Zardari and Chaudhries are planning to get PTI in and it will effect on PML-N vote bank which proved wrong.
    Now peoples have realised that the only party PML-N is real savior of Pakistan and it can get the masses out of crises. Recommend

  • KIng Khan

    More delay in election, more harm for PTI & PML-Q/PPP & PML-N will be the ultimate beneficiary.

    Everyday, leaders defecting to PML-N.

    There are strong rumours of around 39 setting MNAs/MPAs from PML-Q will be joining PML-N after 15 Dec & also around 9 PPP MNAs are in contact with PML-N.

    Alliance b/w PML-N with J.I. & Alliance b/e PML-N & PML-F will be enough to clean sweep in next general election.Recommend

  • heretic

    The boycott khan, coming soonRecommend

  • Khalq e Khuda

    One thing the writer ignores is that PPP and PMLQ fought the elections separately and did not field joint candidates. The only PMLN gain was the so-called electable cum turncoat or lot who resigned from PPP and joined PMLN.Recommend

  • Mumtaz Ali

    If the analysis does prove to be true, it will be good for the country. PTI dent to PMLN can only strengthen PPP/PMLQ which means no change. But if PTI fails then PMLN will surely win the election and bring change. PMLN tenures have always seen economic growth and development.Recommend

  • Parvez

    One and only one clear picture seems to be emerging and that is, like in all previous elections or political change that has happened those who come into power and even those who do not, be they red, green, black, white even the yellow ones, all win. The only loser has been and will be the people of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Irfan

    Totally biased analysis, one sided. I read your post 3 times, totally partial analysis in favor of PML. Recommend

  • adnan

    excellent analysis. punjab is lucky to have CM like shahbaz sharif. i pray that sindh should also hv a CM like punjab.Recommend

  • Adnan Rasool

    Going through these comments, firstly thank you guys for reading what I wrote. Secondly, if you think I am biased and I am being unfair, point out exactly where and counter it with logic and facts. Enough with this rhetoric that yeh ho jai ga who ho jai ga, get to the point and start explaining how.

    Politics is done by mind not by heart. No matter how many times you want to think otherwise, the ground reality is exactly this. Test it out in your workplace or even at home. Also if you disagree with what I wrote, write a counter piece! It is actually that simple! If it is good enough I am sure ET would consider it. But to sit here and just repeat rhetoric is going to do no body any good.

    So if you disagree, write a counter piece or at least point out exactly what point you feel are unfair so I can have a second look at them.
    Thanks again ppls! Recommend

  • aSim

    the analysis is very much realistic. Ground realities are that PMLN is popular party in punjabRecommend

  • Waheed Buttar

    Dear PPP candidate was also there and took arround 20000 votes. Please correctRecommend

  • Waheed Buttar

    @Adnan Rasool

    Now come to the logic. Kindly give us the figure where ruling parties lost by elections?

    Mr. Shaukat Aziz secured more than one lac votes in by election of Attock, was he capable to win a U.C seat in general election?

    Was not state machinery/resources used in by elections?

    Where PTI claimed that they are fighting this by election?

    Suppose Rai Hassan was supported by PTI local organization (surely not by top Leadership) then still it was the most close competition in Punjab against Punjab Government. Moreover, the myth that he has personal vote bank of 65000 is not correct, as in 2008 election his relative was also supported by Q-League. And he still manage to get same amount of votes in a bye election where he could not give anything to people of the constituency against massive use of government resources.

    If leaving of a party of some influentials is the criteria of low popularity then whey their joining PTI has negative impact on PTI?

    Only reason of leaving PTI by some influentials is their criteria to get ticket and internal democracy (in which PTI is busy for the last six months and due to less ground activities and playing big shots by incumbants the people like you manage to give the impression that PTI is rapidly losing ground) You will see the real Tsunami in the election campaign when there would be no government resources for so called “Sher-e-Punjab” and “Ek Zardari sub pe Bhari”.Recommend

  • Adnan

    Talking about ground reality, My family have around 60 people, who voted for PML N in last general election. Now all of us voting for PTI and I know many such families who will do the same !
    Keep your eyes open, Tsunami is really coming !! :)Recommend

  • Rabia

    @Adnan Rasool:
    Alot of the above comments have given you “facts” and not mere rhetoric, for one you can take the following comment by Tahir:
    Tahir 19 hours ago
    “Well you choose just few factors and ignored many others. Elections were held in Punjab and PMLN being a Governing party had everything in their favor. You ignored this and then you ignored pre-poll rigging and rigging in the election.
    Express news report on rigging in Chichawatni:
    How on earth can any blogger who tries to pose himself as analyst ignore these factors? And moreover PTI did not participate in the election officially and no PTI leader went to hold any jalsa in the area.
    I feel you wanted to write a biased and you analyzed the election on just few factors ignoring many others and if you have included them in your analysis then conclusion would have been otherwise”
    If you want to close your eyes to all facts that do not suit your distorted reality maybe you should start blogging on facebook and not on a national newspaper website. That way you are more likely to get compliments from those who fit your facts of fiction.Recommend

  • Adnan Rasool


    Firstly, if the logic of governing party winning everything anyway is true that how did the governing party in Punjab let a seat in Narrowal, a place where they are very strong, get away? Logically, you’re the argument that winning parties win anyways does not stand here because if that were true, they would have won Narrowal. So this argument is BS.

    With regards to the seat in Chichawatni, if there was so much rigging than how come the PTI candidate ended up getting 70,000 votes to start with? I mean come on think about it, agar rigging karni hi thee, to gin ke 5000 vote ke karni thee? Also I have no idea if you know this or not, Rai Naqaz’s family is seriously influential in that part of Sahiwal. They have massive property holdings, so to imagine they would be standing there while Zahid Iqbal’s people were willy nilly rigging an election is at best moronic.

    And enough of this BS crap about PTI not being part of it officially. If the party cannot be a part of anything officially to phir PTI kya anday bechnay ke liye bani hui hai 16 years se. In those 16 years, the party has taken part in all but 1 election and has won a grand total of 1 NA seat. You cannot keep trying to talk politics while saying we r not officially a part of it. If you are not a part of this game, then please chillax, let the people who take part in this activity do what they wish.

    And just for the record, what you said, was rhetoric. You repeated the party line which is easily available on PTI’s two websites and Recommend

  • Naeem

    Neither Nawaz Sharif nor Shahbaz Sharif went to any of the constitutencies during the election campaign.Recommend

  • Waheed Buttar


    Mr. Hamza Shahbaz run a full fledged campaign alongwith Rana Sanaullah. And you know Hamza is the son of Chief Minister and also running an office of Chief Minister Sectt and Rana Sanaullah is sitting Interior / Law Minister. Moreover Mr. Nisar Ali Khan, Opposition leader visited the constituency thrice and Mian sb personally was in touch with local administration.

    I request the admn why my questions to the writer still not posted?Recommend

  • Ahmed

    In Bye elections the ruling party retains its seat is true as people are not expecting things to change but to say that state machinery was used is totally pathetic allegations and “Tabdeeli Supporters” putting forward thesee allegation want to RETURN TO 90’S. You people think of yourself as CHANGE FROM STATUS QUO but the thing is your attitudes/thinking and inexperience wants to take pakistan back to political instabilities of 90’s.

    Secondly, if you guyz think aboout multan election where qadir gillani won , an earlier lead of tens of thousands was reduced to 4,000 against BOSAN. PPP still won but one can easily judge the popularity.PML N’s main victory is NOT RETAINING THE SEATS but improving the margins EXPONENTIALLY on NEW VOTERS LISTS.Recommend

  • Wajid ALi

    The end results is,
    PMLN won the game and beat all parties including PTI. this shows the trend of ppl for general elections. Recommend

  • Wajid ALi

    haha ok we are 39 in family and voted ppp last elections, now ready to vote PMLN at least in punjab… even more i know who are ready to vote pmln who were nt supporter of pmln before.Recommend

  • zahid

    I hate the word, Tsunami and Sweeeeeepppppppp
    immature IK must get rid of these words. we know he has no candidate in sindh, balouchistan, KPK. so how he would sweep? only SMQ and lugheris to some extend can get theire seats. Recommend

  • ammad Ali

    I don’t think so its a realistic analysis. PTI has a lot of voters. this constituancy but are not organised. it is now test for pti leadership how they can mobalize their voters . in these 120 days if pti is able to mobalize their voters then it will. a huge blow to. parties. my suggesion to pti. my suggesion to pti to come out of social media and be on the ground. of Pakistani politics as we r not leaving. europe or America. these lection results may mobalize pti voters.Recommend

  • X-Ray

    Need tons of bornol for PTI supporters…Recommend

  • Adnan Rasool

    Came across this… just to make a point how detached PTI and its lovers are to ground realities….

    Here is the Resignation Letter.. ORIGINAL Letter… of the President of PTI’s Minority Wing… Reason he quit.. cause Imran Khan refuses to meet Minorities and Representatives of HIS OWN PARTY….

  • hamza

    its almost seems hilarious that people like this authror are judging PTI when PTI did not even participate in these by-elections! Just shows how everyone is obsessed with and scared of PTI. Imagine what will happen if PTI does actually partcipate in one of these elections. Its funny that pml-n’s performance is being applauded when they are in govt and had govt machinery at their disposal, not to mention the bogus votes and riigging which was openly caught on tv cameras. Wait for general elections under a neutral care-taker set-up; PTI will clean sweep with a big margin. Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood

    Go PML NRecommend

  • Kamran Naqvi

    Excellent analysis!
    Thussnami Khan becomes a history with a mystery!!!Recommend

  • Azfar


    bla bla bla coming soon yawning :P Recommend

  • Kamran Naqvi

    It is good to see that media persons are now developing the courage to talk realistically against Tussnami. In fact, the PTI (Pasha Tehrik-e-Intaqam) became orphan after the retirement of its mentor General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.
    As expected, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is following the footsteps of his uncle General Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi who lost East Pakistan but was cracking dirty jokes with General Arora at the time of “surrender”!Recommend

  • jahandad

    WHO SHOULD WE TRUST ? there are politicians and political parties ,all in the same boat of corruption and lack of sincerity ,,,,,,,I THINK WE SHOULD CHOOSE THE LESS EVIL ,,,,,OR WE SHOULD BE SINCERE PERSONALLY AT NATIONAL LEVEL TO RAISE AWARENESS AND BRING A NATIONAL CHANGE VIA PEACEFUL PATRIOTIC WAY,,,Recommend

  • Khan

    The tsunami is not coming; neither is a hurricane or a typhoon. At best, given this current status, a light breeze might come and that too will hardly be one to stir a few leaves.Recommend

  • Arsie

    Good analysis. the best way to deal with Pti’s immature n emotional supporters is to Ignore n smile. Wait for the elections. Best wishes n prayers for Pml-NRecommend

  • MAD

    A well written article no doubt but do keep in mind the writer is an active worker of PMLN.Recommend