If the fight in NA-120 has taught us anything, it is that election tactics do not change. A retired state employee recently stated that his institution was trying to bring a certain crowd of people from the realm of violence into mainstream politics. While the new kid on the block did not win, this endorsement is problematic. It does not seem prudent to direct people accused of mass murder towards law making. The inclusion of these shadowy candidates in parliament will ensure that an already ideologically divided Pakistan becomes even more ideologically divided. This constant struggle for Pakistan’s identity taking place in the national and provincial assemblies, does however suit the institution that backed this supposedly no longer violent horse. The more parliament fights with itself, the less chance it has to interfere with the institution. Likewise, the more this institution has a chance to run things unhampered.

The second-in-place contender was a lady with excellent credentials; Dr. Yasmeen Rashid was one of the few people in the political sphere that cares about clean drinking water. One should not have to explain how such a basic and yet important issue goes overlooked since it is not as racy as talking about financial corruption or ideological corruption – something both her party and the winning party keep accusing each other of. Dr. Rashid had an uphill battle to fight; the electorate of NA 120 has historically allied itself with PML-N. Considering the odds were stacked against Dr. Rashid, she fought a good fight. Perhaps her party’s message did not resonate well with the people. While Dr. Rashid herself is a very capable lady with an excellent message, her political party has been using the same message over and over, a message that is beginning to sound hackneyed. The message of her party seems to be, “If anyone votes against us, they are either a) naïve, b) lack clarity, c) pro-corruption, d) unpatriotic or e) all of the above”. This message appears condescending and does not take into account what the voter considers important. The message, instead of appealing to the voter, is insulting the voter for not automatically taking the PTI’s side as the morally superior side for granted. Instead of highlighting the successes of their own in the existing constituencies, or even the successes of the provincial government that they control, they chose instead to highlight the moral shortcomings of their chief rival party. Moreover, this political party unnecessarily dragged the Supreme Court into the mix, something that the judiciary does not appreciate. Since the apex court disqualified the head of the PML-N, ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, the PTI felt that it would not be immoral to slogan on social media that “a vote for PTI is a vote for the judiciary”. That was an immoral stance and should be condemned by judges everywhere for trying to politicise the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The view contends that by finding the ex-PM guilty in the apex court, his entire political party is just as guilty. Likewise, just because the PTI was a complainant in the case that the Supreme Court decided against ex-PM Sharif, it does not hold the right to equate itself to the Supreme Court in any way. The Supreme Court judges do not sit in the National Assembly. PTI members of parliament do not sit in the Supreme Court. To use this slogan to electioneer is to spit on the concept of separation of powers. It is also an insult to the apex court as it arrogantly hints to the PTI controlling the court.

The winning candidate, Mrs. Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif herself is an ill lady and has to contend with opposition parties coming up with conspiracy theories regarding her illness. The lady does not deserve the lies that have been spouted by the opposition and their stalwarts about her health. Since she was herself too ill to campaign for the constituency, her daughter did so for her. Instead of talking about the candidate in question, most of her speeches were about ex-PM Nawaz Sharif. Since ex-PM Nawaz Sharif was not the actual candidate for NA 120, it showed how much her party is relying on the personality of an ex-head to win. That is an admission of lack of current visionary leadership. While she was extolling the virtues of Mr. Sharif, she was also attacking the Supreme Court decision to remove her father from office. The courts should not have been brought into these speeches, politicising the judiciary is not the ethically correct way to win an election. It does not matter what one feels about the case that disqualified Ms. Maryam Sharif’s father, the fact remains that the party needs to move on. They do not have any legal avenues of redress to bring the ex-PM back to power; they are electioneering with a new, possibly temporary, Prime Minister and with a new cadre of party heads. Instead of focusing on the past or on their opposition to a case that hurt an ex party head, the PML-N needs to look to the future. The fact that the PMLN- has a majority in parliament itself shows that the decision was against a party head, not against the entire party. Equating the ex-PM to the entire party is an erroneous path to tread. Ironically, supporters of the PTI and PML-N both kept criticising the opposition for mentioning the Supreme Court during the election campaigns hypocritically.

The one thing that can be taken away from the NA-120 election campaign is that ethics are not something one can expect from Pakistani political parties. One can expect hypocritical accusations of financial and moral corruption from those who live in glass houses, one can expect institutions that should not be politicised to be politicised and one can expect institutions that should not be interfering in the political process to come up with shadowy candidates. One can contend, not much has changed in Pakistan other than a growing environment of intolerance by all political sides.