Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seem to be gaining ground after the vehement criticism of the policies being pursued by the ruling party, especially the unbearable rise in inflation which has no counter policy to match the living standards. In the last couple of months, we have seen an increase in the price of basic necessities which has agitated the population and created space for the disenfranchised voter to look towards the mainstream parties for support. PML-N has put forth nine demands to the government, the most basic of which is the disapproval of any policy which suggests a further increase in prices. The same stance has been pursued by PPP as well.

There are two aspects to consider here. This is definitely a time when mainstream parties can shift the narrative in their own favour. PPP already has a strong presence in Sindh and Punjab is the hub of PML-N. There is a great chance that if policies of the ruling party do not bear fruit, which the government itself has admitted to in the case of former Finance Minister Asad Umer, there is a great chance that the masses will once again look towards the traditional two parties because no amount of narrative can disregard the fact that inflation is making lives difficult. At the same time, the disenfranchised voter will also be wary of the narrative of these two mainstream parties because it now largely depends on their diplomatic strength on how they aggregate the interests of their voters. For this purpose, they need to engage with the government, which they have not done in the last nine months. Excessive walkouts have been staged which have time and again created mistrust between the government and the opposition.

At the same time, keeping in mind these developments, the ruling party also needs to reassess its governance strategy. Ignoring the opposition and labelling them as corrupt altogether will no longer work out because several of those politicians are elected in the parliament. The parliament needs a cohesive explanation regarding reshuffling of the Cabinet, the perusal of the IMF programme, a briefing on the strategy for the National Action Plan (NAP), and the economic policy for the next four years. The government’s greatest strategy should be its economic policy, which is largely absent at the moment and if this remains so, it will certainly provide a cushion for mainstream parties to step in.