Despite the adverse political climate, the PML-N drew a large crowd to its rally in the capital of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – in stark contrast to the opposition’s Lahore protest. Notwithstanding the setbacks faced by PML-N, it still seems to be maintaining past levels of support and popularity.

The strong show in KP will certainly irk the PTI and its satellite of religious parties – as PML-N has never had a strong presence in the province – it shouldn’t bother them overmuch. PTI is almost certain to retain KP and increase its share of seats in the National Assembly. The optics of the episode are damaging if not massively tangible. The opposition failed to muster a crowd in the heart of PML-N territory, while Nawaz Sharif, discredited daily by PTI and buffeted by scandals, managed to draw a large crowd in the heart of PTI territory

While the volume of political rallies has never been an accurate foretelling of election results, and a lot can happen till the general election, the Senate elections are another matter. Under the formula of proportional representation, PML-N is all set to become the single largest party in the Senate after 18 years. Set to retain more than 30 seats in the 104-member house, the PML-N is expected to win almost all 12 seats in Punjab, both the seats from Islamabad, 1 seat in the KP and a probable 2 seats in an unpredictable Balochistan.

Presently, the former prime minister continues to adopt a confrontational mode with the judiciary and establishment which, in the face of the pending outcome of NAB references in the Accountability Court, lends to the uncertainty in incurring future setbacks. However, in a turn of fortune for the PML-N, the opposition has failed to provide a combined front in the Senate; the Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) parties are no longer contesting on a joint platform, while PPP, PTI and MQM ironically, grappling over horse-trading for votes could finally not devise a joint strategy to offset the Senate election.

However, PTI will still win a majority of seats in KP and ultimately if overseas Pakistanis win voting rights, combined with public support in urban areas there is a greater probability of PTI making gains.

For now, granted the politico-judicial situation stays at ebb and barring any sudden unexpected defections, the current Parliament will be the Electoral College for the next election of 48 senators. After March 2018, the PML-N, as the posed custodian of the house, PML-N should be confident of its current political position.