PTI eyes win in Punjab by-elections

ISLAMABAD – As the result of crucial by-elections in Punjab would decide the course of future politics in the country, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) aims to boost up its election campaign through upcoming weekend protest rallies announced for July 2 (Saturday).

Last week, former prime minister and Chairman PTI Imran Khan had announced countrywide rallies to protest against the rising inflation and controversial amendments in the accountability law.

Khan in a televised address had said that his party would hold rallies in cities and towns including Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan with the main gathering to be held at the famous Parade Ground of the capital for his supporters of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

According to a PTI insider, the by-elections in Punjab have become a make or break situation for the party as this will not only decide the fate of the Punjab as well as the central governments but also set the tone of upcoming general elections as well.

For this purpose, the PTI is focusing on a two-pronged strategy — to keep its voters charged ahead of the by-polls scheduled to be held on July 17 on 20 constituencies of Punjab Assembly and to put pressure on the Election Commission to minimize the chances of rigging.

PTI believes that it can attract more voters by putting blame on the ruling coalition led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for rising inflation and making changes in the accountability law. The party blames that the coalition government has made the accountability law “weak and ineffective” by bringing amendments in it that have been recently passed by the parliament.

According to a decision taken by the PTI’s political committee, Khan himself will lead the Islamabad protest on July 2. Khan will address his supporters at the venue of Parade Ground while big screens will be installed in major cities broadcasting the speech of the former prime minister live.

Last weekend, Khan kicked off his party’s by-election campaign from Lahore asking his supporters to reject the “turncoats” who crossed the floor in the election of Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz. In April, as many as 25 lawmakers of PTI including five MPAs on reserved seats had voted in favour of Hamza paving his way for the election of CM and ousting their party from power in the province.

After the PTI filed a reference against its lawmakers, the Election Commission had de-seated all the lawmakers thus announcing by-elections on 20 vacant seats.

If PTI wins the by-elections on the majority of seats, this will not only jeopardize the future of CM Hamza government but also the situation can lead to the dissolution of Punjab Assembly bringing the country towards general elections. This will be a win-win situation for the PTI as announcement of early elections is the major demand of ex-premier Khan since he was ousted from power through a vote of no-confidence in April this year.

In the context of Pakistan’s politics, it is always a hard task for any opposition party to get victory in the by-elections as the sitting government has huge resources at its disposal to win over voters. If the ruling PML-N wins majority of seats in the by-election, this will make the Punjab government stable putting an end to weeks long political uncertainty in the country’s largely populated province.

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