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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 346, 12 May 2022

The political crisis in Punjab: Three likely scenarios



Punjab now has a chief minister, but no cabinet yet.

Ankit Singh

On 11 May, the Lahore High Court (LHC) constituted a larger five-member bench to hear PTI’s intra court appeal.  The PTI has filed against the previous single bench judgment by the court which called for the oath-taking ceremony of CM elect Hamza Shahbaz Sharif without delay. The judgment had not sought an opinion from the governor as well as the president who were constitutional stakeholders in the process.

Hamza Shehbaz Sharif in his three petitions earlier had pleaded with the judiciary to enable his official swearing as the governor was not willing to facilitate the process. The governor lamented on a mafia-style take over by Hamza Sharif supported by police and the provincial assembly secretariat. The LHC is taking up the case against the delay by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the question of disqualification of PTI MPAs for defection. They have voted against the PTI requirement in the election of the chief minister of Punjab on 13 May, an action perhaps validating the ex-post-facto situation in the province.

Now, Punjab has a Chief Minister but does not have a cabinet. What does it mean for the political future of the province? This note looks at three possible scenarios.

First, the return of dynastic politics with PML-N at the front in Punjab. The province has more than half of Pakistan’s population and has been the kingmaker in political contestations at the national level. The PML-N has had a base in the province and would not want to give up easily; this would explain the exasperation of the party in snatching power from PTI. The PML-N would likely reinforce that all roads lead to Lahore and that can be affirmed with loyalty on top of governance The retaining of bargaining power of the PML-N vis a vis other mainstream political parties originate from the province. The PML-N would likely reinforce that all roads lead to Lahore and that can be affirmed with the loyalty of voters on top of Punjab speed governance to remain politically relevant.

Second, PTI as an alternative. Punjab is fertile for PTI to increase its national influence and impact across other provinces. The rise of PTI is a symptom of populism, many democratic countries in today’s information revolution era have witnessed the rise of independent voters who do not believe in freezing their loyalty. The voters desire a rejigged of politico-economic network of elites to hope for better governance. PTI during its rule had initiated a crackdown on food commodity hoarders and ensured that at least heavyweights with indirect support from PML-N are brought to become accountable. This will nudge the voters to keep an alternative.

Third, Punjab with no clear winners, leading to multi-party fighting. The PML-N has been cropped up with active support from an Establishment in its early years during 1990s. The party was utilised as Punjab’s response to the heavyweight PPP from the Sindh province. Over time, the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif pitted himself as real Punjabi alternative to the ‘Punjabi’ Army. There is an effort by the establishment to not cede much space to the alternative Punjabi narrative, which also gives scope for political representations from provinces like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

References
Javed Hussain, “Imran urges SC to take notice of 'blatant violation' of Constitution after Punjab governor de-notified,” Dawn, 10 May 2022
CM-elect oath: Larger bench to resume ICA hearing tomorrow, Dawn, 11 May 2022
Munawar Mahar, “Stalemate Or Check? Nawaz Sharif And The Battle For Punjab,” Naya Daur, 12 November 2020
Fahd Hussain, “Does PTI have a future?,” Dawn, 9 April 2022

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