Staying relevant : PPP hopes to be part of coalition government

LAHORE: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) camp is striving hard to propel its National Assembly seat count to at least 50 seats in the upcoming general elections. The latest efforts are the party’s bid to remain relevant and play an active role in the post-election engineering process.

PPP has given its chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari a freehand to run the 2018 campaign. The party is trying to dispel the notion of political pundits who have painted a gloomy picture for PPP after the 2018 elections.

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The party’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, who remains in the backseat during the election campaign, is apparently busy with pre-poll strategising to get the desired results for his party. The aim is for the PPP to become part of a coalition government or play its role as a meaningful opposition party in the Centre.

Shahzad Ali Khan, a PPP leader and a close ally of Zardari, tells The Express Tribune there is much uncertainty over the way elections are being conducted, but the party shall, nevertheless, provide tough competition to its rivals.

He adds that earlier, the party was expecting to surpass 50 national assembly seats. However, it is now facing an alliance of the Grand Democratic Alliance and PTI in Sindh. The party leader continues that while this union may dent PPP in the province, it will not be by much.

“We are expecting 35 NA seats from Sindh and we will manage to push the total count to 41 or above.”

Since PTI has almost isolated itself from other mainstream political parties, the chances of PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) joining hands to form a coalition government are increasing, he says.

“The PML-N will still win 65 or above seats in the NA and this could make post-election alliance which natural in the current circumstances,” Khan says. He adds other forces such as Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Sherpao Group and Mahmood Khan Achakzai will join the PPP.”

Dr Rasul Bakhsh Rais, who teaches political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), says PPP is trying its best to keep alive through politics and protests. “If Imran Khan sweeps this election, one party which can is PPP. They are trying hard to win at least a reasonable number of seats in the Centre.”

He went on to say that they cannot rule out the alliance of PPP and PML-N after elections but wild estimates at this point in time are difficult. “Currently PML-N is in difficulties as many of its electables have either left the party or are facing different cases in courts and PTI is in strength. Therefore, PTI stream is more but this does not mean that the pockets of PPP and PML-N vote bank have been ended, both are traditional parties and can join hands in future.”

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On the other hand, Khan also said that the only way PPP will be nowhere in future is if PTI sweeps this election. “We don’t have a point to contest in the post-election scenario if PTI sweeps, however, it is not going to happen as independents will play an important role.”

In Punjab, many PPP candidates have either moved to PTI or are contesting as independent candidates, the prime example of which is Mian Manzoor Ahmad Watoo, he said. “We are in contact with our possible allies no matter they belong to any party or are contesting as independent candidates, we will fight to bring in PPP lead coalition government.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2018.

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