Both PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan have engaged in trenchant criticism of the outgoing government in their separate campaign rallies in Lahore on Saturday. Both said that the election, to take place on June 11, was a form of accountability, and to that extent they were both right, that a government seeks the renewal of its mandate on the basis of its performance in office, and to that extent it means that the election campaign actually begins when the government takes office. Mian Nawaz made his statement during an address at Jamia Naeemia where he said that neither foreign powers nor the army could be given the right of accountability, which was a truism. But it represents not just one of the aspects on which the present government’s record is attacked, but also represents an angle of criticism which allows the military to take over, which it always does in the name of accountability. Imran Khan’s rally at Minar-e-Pakistan gathered together the recently elected office-bearers of the party, but his theme was the one that the PTI would need to convey if it hoped to win in the coming election: the government was corrupt and the voter would best carry out accountability by bringing the PTI to office.

However, the appeal made by both parties raises the question of what happens when the electorate carries out the accountability of its elected rulers, by turfing them out of office. So far, whenever the PML-N won an election, it showed itself liable to the same charges of corruption, nepotism and jobbery that it had levied against the PPP-led government it replaced. The six promises made by Mr Khan are based on this past, and which seem set to continue. Both the PML-N and the PPP indulge in dynastic politics and have taken undue advantage of public office, while neither has protected expatriates’ rights, spent public money wisely, kept wealth abroad and had loans written off.

Despite these promises, the voter has no guarantee that the PML-N or PTI will not repeat the flaws of which they accuse the PPP, if elected to office. The beginning of the elections should make it obvious that making charges against the government will not be enough. Unless parties can show they will not repeat those mistakes, they will not be elected. Bothe the PML-N and the PTI need to keep this in mind as they campaign.