After announcing a grand Rs 115 bn investment into the health sector by constructing new hospitals last week, and inaugurating the construction of the Lahore Eastern Bypass at Kala Shah Kaku, Lahore on Friday, the Prime Minister inaugurated a 40 MW coal-fired power plant in Faisalabad on Saturday. The ruling party has picked up its pace in announcing mega projects — one after another — and naturally, this trend is only likely to accelerate as the PML-N’s mandate comes closer to an end.
2018 is not too far away and the government realises this. It’s not like the opposition is letting it forget this fact either. Imran Khan’s motive for keeping the Panama leaks issue firmly fixated on Nawaz Sharif and family, and not using it as a catalyst to revive his old ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for all forms of corruption is as clear as day. He wants electoral mileage, unless he can use his populist movement to gain the title of Prime Minister before the elections. But his last great misadventure should have made him accept that this was never going to be a walk in the park.
The PML-N is using its favourite weapon to counteract the flak from opposition. And judging by the scale of the projects announced, Nawaz Sharif has brought out the big guns (or cement mixers!). Mega-projects that are announced or inaugurated by the premier serve as a reminder of who is actually behind them for the eyes of the general public. Judging by the activity of PML-N’s social media team (led by his daughter), the idea is to attribute all these endeavours to “Brand Nawaz Sharif”. And while using this tactic to deflect criticism might not result in boosting PML-N’s street power, it will almost certainly result in some guaranteed votes in the next elections.
The Prime Minister knows this all too well, especially after his party has only strengthened its hold on the country’s government through any elections that have taken place post-2013. He also understands that this is one fight that the opposition cannot possibly hope to win. If the government is perceived to be fulfilling its promises to the people, then the opposition parties can cry foul all they want, and it will not matter in the slightest.
Between the ruling party and the opposition, we are witness to opposing techniques of gaining popularity among the voters. PML-N is offering trinkets, baubles and grand projects to its supporters where PTI and the opposition is banking on gaffes in governmental policy or waiting for the skeletons of the PML-N leadership to come out of their collective closet. Judging by the voting trends of Pakistan during and after the general elections 2013, no bets will be needed to predict the victor.