The (unofficial) verdict is in and it says that PMLN is too. For it has seemingly bagged the biggest number of Senate seats in yesterday’s vote. Thus the message is clear: the ruling party is still an election force to be reckoned with. It may have as many as 15 seats (from the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad) under its belt. Indeed, if the PMLN rides this high come the summertime elections — some might devilishly concede that the ‘ex-communication’ of Nawaz Sharif could just be the best thing to have happened to the party.
Other winners were the PPP; though it ultimately had to play second-fiddle to all the King’s men. Nevertheless, according to early indicators it secured a respectable 12 seats (from Sindh and KP). That PTI only made off with some five seats in (from KP and the Punjab) has prompted Imran Khan to cry foul over alleged PPP horse-trading. This may or may not be a thinly veiled jab at Ayesha Gulalai’s shock admission that she voted for the latter. Though given recent circumstances and rumours — the surprise is not so much that she did not box-tick her former party but that she backed not the PMLN.
Nevertheless, the whole shebang ended without undue incident. Apart from, you know, Imran Khan not bothering to go and smash it in the Upper House. This no-show at Parliament is becoming somewhat of a pattern with the PTI chief. Yet this utter disregard for this important institution is not — ahem — cricket. For if he or any other lawmaker has lost all confidence in the latter it would surely be best all round to call it quits and retreat from the political life of the country; instead of cursing it out. And while we are happy to think that this meant one less vote for Sami-ul-Haq’s JUI-S, we have to say that prioritising a reported personal matter over exercising democratic duty does not cut it. Not when the PPP’s Rubina Qaimkhani mustered the strength to do the needful — despite burying her just a day before. Yet Imran was in bad company given that the MQM’s Farooq Sattar and the indomitable AWL chief Sheikh Rasheed also decided to stay away.
We understand that the prevailing mechanism is problematic. But we are not sure that this is the right way to go about redesigning the ballot; especially not so late in the game. We find ourselves rather missing the Imran of yesteryear; the one who took a principled stand against Gen (rtd) Musharraf and his National Reconciliation Ordinance and bowed out of the election race and took his party with him. Yet we are not so fond of this piecemeal approach to democracy. One is either in or out. One cannot be not out. *
Published in Daily Times, March 4th 2018.