October issue 2017

By | Cover Story | Published 1 month ago

Your first thoughts on the NA-120 by-election?

We were obviously expecting to win. And as far as the [decreased] size of the margin is concerned, it’s not rocket science [to understand why]. There are a few modalities that need to be considered.

Number one, it was a by-election. Number two, there is an incumbency factor for the ruling government after four years. And third, if we’re talking about reduction in the overall vote count, every major contender, including the PTI, has seen a decrease.

Furthermore, everyone else knows what happened there – such as who abducted our workers, why people weren’t allowed to vote, why polling started at 9:40 pm in many polling stations.

Yes, of course there were problems. But they weren’t big enough for there to be a 30,000 vote gap. Also, the PML-N voter was a bit laid back this time, thinking that they would easily win anyway, so why go out on the weekend, when they could instead [stay home and] enjoy their halwa puri, paaye and so on and so forth.

You’re talking about not being allowed to vote, polling starting late – it’s almost as if you’re the opposition…

This actually proves that the Election Commission of Pakistan is an autonomous body, with its own set of rules and regulations, and that’s how things transpired as they did. The ruling party cannot force the Election Commission to work according to its own will.

The Election Commission has also been accused of overlooking the presence of ineligible ministers campaigning for the PML-N.

First of all, I’m personally against this clause. But if you’re talking about Bilal Yasin, he lives in that area. Should he have stopped going back home? There were no speeches or rallies by any federal or provincial ministers belonging to the ruling party.

You say that all parties witnessed a decrease in their vote bank. But this was not the case in regard to the religious parties. How much did they dent the PML-N vote bank?

No one can stop the religious parties, or ask them to not participate in the elections. But banned outfits should not be allowed to contest elections, and the Election Commission should have ensured that those backed by banned groups did not participate.

But I don’t see where this so-called dent is. Is a 15,000 vote win not a victory? Won’t 150-200 of these wins not make Nawaz Sharif the Prime Minister?

We will see if the right-wing moderates, or those that ideologically agree with us, are upset over something, and sit down and discuss the matter with them.

Moving forward, how do you see the results of the elections in Punjab next year?

The result in 2018 will be even better than 2013. Because back then we hadn’t added 6,000 MW power to the system – now the plan is to bring another 8,000 MW [on line].

Also, we’ve worked really hard in the rural areas. We’ve constructed 5,000 km farm-to-market roads. There are 32 [ongoing] public welfare projects, and [we have provided] services ranging from tubewells to fertilisers.

Do you think the PTI will remain your main challenger? Or do you foresee a challenge from the PPP or the religious parties?

The main challenge will be an establishment that won’t let Pakistan progress, and doesn’t want any betterment for the country.