The Punjab PPP is going to start its election campaign with a series of rallies in the Punjab. The first is scheduled for Malakwal in Mandi Bahauddin district on October 25, and is to be addressed by President Asif Zardari, also the party’s Co-Chairman. According to media reports, the President has approved the schedule of rallies. Party leaders also plan to have rallies in Lahore, Gujranwala and other cities of the province. It must be remembered that the PPP last won a majority on its own in Punjab back in the 1970s. Since 1977, it has mostly been in the opposition, though in 1993-6 and 2008-2011 it was a partner in a coalition headed by the member of another party. Though it has been in the opposition in 1993-6 and during the Musharraf years, the PML-N has usually held power in the Punjab since 1985. Its head, Mian Nawaz Sharif, parlayed his Chief Ministership of the Punjab into the Prime Ministership of Pakistan. If it is to regain national power in the next general election, it will have to win big in Punjab. With the general elections only a few months away, even if the current assemblies run to their full term, it is no surprise that he has been receiving PPP and PML-Q deserters into the fold. The PML-Q is has just entered the electoral arena. At this point it is jockeying for position with the PPP, its senior coalition partner. However, the first PPP rally depends on the Chaudhry cousins, who belong to neighbouring Gujrat district, from which Mandi Bahauddin district was hived off. Another party out for the elections was the Tehrik-i-Insaf. Party chief Imran Khan organised an anti-drone rally in Tank, but took the American anti-drone activists through the North Punjab during this activity, including through his own constituency.

However, the PPP is likely to be the first party to come out specifically for the election. This is only right, as it is the majority party, but this should also signal the need to obey the election code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan. This is so especially since there is a need to avoid such incidents as the one at Sadoro Janwari, in Khairpur district, where six were killed in a rally organised by the local MNA. Another thing the parties should agree on is the need to observe the spending limits set by the Commission. It is better to avoid surprises by observing these limits rather than trying to handle the situation arising from a failure by candidates to observe them. Another point at which the parties can help the Commission is by helping it prepare accurate electoral rolls rather than trying to pad them. The parties must be aware that they have got an important role in the holding of free, fair and impartial elections, and that if the coming elections are to help solve, rather than further complicate, the many crises facing the state, they must produce a truly representative government.