The PML-N is engaged in building alliances before the coming general election. As a result of this, not only did party chief Mian Nawaz Sharif reach an understanding on Monday with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to put up joint candidates, but has followed it up with a similar understanding with PML-F President Pir Pagaro, and SNA chief Mumtaz Bhutto on Tuesday. The understanding with the JUI-F is the most venturesome, because it is not only the first time ever that the PML-N is allying with it, but because Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been counted as a PPP ally ever since the two parties were together in the old MRD. While the PPP has allied to the ANP to form the KPK government, the JUI-F has been seeking an alliance as well to replace the one it had with the Jama’at-i-Islami, under the MMA name, which formed the previous KPK government. At the same time, the PML-N agreed to attend the JUI-F’s All-Parties Conference on February 28. The APC is about FATA peace, which shows that this particular problem will last beyond not just the APC, but also the elections.

One of the reasons why Mian Nawaz has been pursued is that he is often the only point of egress for the opposition parties for a voice in the caretaker setups. Pir Pagaro and Mumtaz Bhutto would be concerned about Sindh’s caretaker setup and Maulana Fazl about the KPK and Balochistan setups. Because of the JUI-F presence in the Pashtun areas, putting up joint candidates there would mean straight contests with PPP or ANP candidates. It is worth noting that there are no alliances being formed, merely understandings. However, the result would be the same as if there was a common symbol: one-to-one contests, and prevention of the splitting of a particular vote bank.

It is only to be expected of the PML-N to seek out alliances as the polls grow closer. The main opposition party, it should expect the ruling PPP to take steps which go beyond its existing allies, the MQM in Sindh, the ANP in KPK and the PML-Q in Punjab. The PML-N should not only expect a PPP response in terms of alliances with parties, but in the winning over of strong candidates.