LAHORE - Former president and PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari is secretly working on a plan to defeat the PML-N in the next general elections, mainly through manipulations and other tactics.

The idea is to incapacitate the PML-N to form the next government at the centre by making sure that Nawaz party does not get more than 100 general seats from Punjab , a province which decides who forms the federal government in any election.

The remaining 48 seats from Punjab may be shared by the PPP, the PTI, the PML-Q and the independent candidates. The PPP will also be open to any seat adjustment formula with the opposition parties to ensure that the PML-N is not able to bag more than 100 seats. And if the PTI performs exceptionally well in Punjab and grabs more seats than expected, it will also be seen as a good sign to oust the PML-N from the centre.

The PPP leader reportedly shared his election strategy with some of his trusted aides during his recent stay in Lahore though he set out with the plan couple of months before. He also had meetings with party ticketholders from Lahore division.

In a House of 342, a party needs 172 votes to form the government at the centre. As conceived in the plan, if the PML-N is restricted to 100 seats or so in Punjab , it will not be able to get the magic figure needed to form the government. Under the strategy, efforts are also underway to contain the PML-N in other provinces especially in the KP where it won five general seats in the last elections.

The PPP’s plan will work well even if the PML-N is able to retain its current tally from other provinces.

The PML-N had obtained 120 general seats out of total 148 from Punjab in 2013 elections. The rest of 28 seats had gone to the independents, the PTI, the PPP and the PML-Q. Its total seats from this province touched the figure of 163 as it won 32 reserved seats of women and 11 independents also joined the party considering it was going to form the next government.

In respect of other provinces, the PML-N had won five general seats from KP and one each from Sindh and Balochistan. Its total strength in the National Assembly rose to 188 after addition of women seats, those of non-Muslims and 17 independents who joined the party mainly from Punjab and Balochistan.

The insiders said that the ex-president was working on the assumption that electorate would throw a split mandate this time for the National Assembly. The PPP chief thinks that the PML-N will surely be losing its seats in the coming elections as the party was on the path of self-destruction after the ouster of Mian Nawaz Sharif from power and his continued confrontation with the establishment.

Asif Zardari is reportedly focusing on three-pronged strategy to restrict the PML-N to 100 seats or so in the biggest province. Efforts are afoot to enlist the support of at least 10 electables from Punjab before the coming elections. Zardari’s latest meeting with Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa was part of this strategy. Leaders like Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Faisal Saleh Hayat, Nauraiz Shakoor, Makhdum Ahmad Mehmood and Haji Nawaz Khokar are already working on this plan.

The option of making seat adjustments with the PTI close to the next elections will also be tried to achieve the desired results. A PPP source said that there are at least 20 national seats in Punjab which could be snatched from the PML-N if the opposition parties make seat adjustments on these.

Sources said that Makhdum Ahmad Mehmood has been tasked to woo his brother-in-law Jehangir Khan Tareen to convince Imran Khan on the need to make such an arrangement with the PPP. Besides, the PPP is also concentrating on Sindh to increase its existing tally from there. In 2013, the PPP had won 34 general seats from its home province and now it plans to add a few more seats with the help of electables. If the PPP manages to get even a few seats from KP and Balochistan, it will place its leader in the position of a King maker after 2018 general elections.