On Sunday 17, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party made a clean sweep in the by-polls for the Punjab assembly, managed to win 15 out the 20 seats.
The ‘unexpected’ sweeping victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the all-important Punjab by-polls is set to influence the political as well as economic future of the country.
The province, home to about 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population of more than 220mn, has long been considered the political stronghold of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his brother Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister.
Mr Khan was ousted as prime minister in a no-confidence vote in April 2022.
He repeated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.
He blamed the USA for doing conspiracy against his government. This led to an increase in Anti- American sentiments among his supporters.
The official rate of inflation in June was recorded as 21.3% and by all means, such figures are hugely underestimated. Food inflation is at its peak and the cost of transportation and household energy supplies have become unbearable for middle-class and low-income groups.
Senior columnist Imtiaz Alam says the deteriorating economic conditions have played a role in setting the mood of the voters but it is mainly a verdict against the turncoats whom the PML-N embraced
But there were also internal problems in the PML-N which led to their grip over Punjab weakening. The party had abandoned its political position of challenging the establishment to achieve civilian supremacy in the country. In retrospect, this move was damaging because the popular sentiment in Punjab turned anti-establishment, particularly post Imran Khan’s removal.
PTI has had a one-point agenda: fresh elections as soon as possible. PTI victory in Populous Province will increase the expectations of Elections as soon as possible.
Observers had been expecting that Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi, who is a joint candidate of the PTI and PML-Q for the re-poll for CM’s office, would be reluctant to dissolve the assembly and try to convince Imran Khan to prolong their stay in power in the province to further deal a blow to the PML-N through state resources. But, he told a private TV channel late in the night that he (after becoming the CM) would dissolve the assembly minutes after a direction from Imran Khan.
The decision to dissolve the National Assembly will also raise questions for Imran Khan, who is now feeling emboldened after a successful performance in Punjab.