PTI won the battle but can it win the NA-125 war?
The judicial commission set up to investigate the legitimacy of the votes casted in NA-125 has decided that there shall be a re-vote in the constituency. Shah Mehmood Qureshi deems this as one of the first steps towards a Naya Pakistan under Imran Khan.
After the revelation, Khwaja Saad Rafique was found defending himself in front of reporters and journalists, blaming the returning officers of the seven polling stations where the irregularities in vote count were found. While these politicians blame each other face front, their parties have already begun deciding candidates for the empty seat.
The war between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) began the very day the results for the 2013 general elections were announced. PML-N defended itself as PTI and many other major parties like Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) accused PML-N of having rigged the elections since the establishment in Punjab was already in their support.
As the days progressed, videos of rigging from within the polling stations began circulating throughout social media as PTI started planning to begin its campaign against the ruling party. After months of urging the government to start a commission against the four seats where rigging instances had been spotted, PTI decided to launch its significant long march.
Eventually on August 14, 2014, PTI began its long march to launch a commission against the rigged elections and also to make the prime minister resign. However, after the Army Public School attack took place, Imran and Nawaz decided to work together to handle the situation and the march came to an end. Towards the end, Imran let go of most of his demands and focused on the creation of a judicial commission to check for irregularities in the 2013 general elections. This judicial commission came into existence after PTI and PML-N signed an official agreement through a presidential decree, and focused its concerns with four constituencies – NA-125, NA-122, NA-110 and NA-154.
Just days ago, PTI lost badly in the cantonment elections across the country and lost many seats, some even to members of underdog parties, like in Karachi, and independent candidates, like in Attock. After their humiliating defeat, people had widely started to speculate PTI’s demise, thinking that the party’s decline was inevitable, especially since it lost the NA-246 by-elections.
However, these speculations died down after the commission proved that PTI’s claims were correct – partially at least.
Now, PTI hopes to fight forward and win the re-polling in NA-125. Nineteen candidates competed for the seat in 2013 and 11 in 2008 and both times the candidate of PML-N (Khwaja Saad Rafique) won by an astounding margin to the runner-up.
This is the final make or break point for PTI as it has another chance to win in the NA-125 and PP-155 seats. If PTI takes the election in the area by a compelling margin, they can easily get back to a stronger position to blame PML-N for rigging but if PTI loses to PML-N again or to any other candidate, the repercussions could be severe and dangerous for Imran’s party.
One can easily predict, if PTI loses this by-election, people will largely start doubting Imran’s capacity as a leader. Having said that, Imran will still have the support that youngsters have to offer since they have been blinded by the reputation and bold personality of the World Cup-winner but as proven by several surveys, he will have to wait a few years before they get their turn to vote.
If PTI wins NA-125, any other seat that opens up after the results from the judicial commission will be a possible win for the party. And that would increase the trust people have in Imran’s capability. By keeping itself in the limelight and maintaining itself as the centre of attention, PTI is making sure that people know that it is here to stay. And hopefully this would help them in the 2018 general elections.
For now, it is up to Imran Khan to select his best candidate and set him/her up to compete in NA-125. If he manages a win, there will be hope again but if he loses, things can definitely go south.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.