The decision to oust Imran Khan ultimately allowed him to hijack the anti-establishment tag in his favour. Khan’s repeated reference to the government as the “imported government” and to the military as “neutrals” further reinforced his perception as a popular civilian leader
Pakistan’s barely four months old ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been dealt yet another blow by the country’s Supreme Court as it announced a decision nullifying the election of Hamza Sharif, son of the prime minister, as the chief minister of Punjab as “illegal”.
On Tuesday, the court termed “illegal” the ruling of Punjab Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari who declared Hamza as the winner of the trust vote in the provincial assembly by disallowing the counting of ten votes of PML-Q members.
Although the proceeding of the court was boycotted by the ruling alliance over the court’s refusal to form a larger bench, the judgement delivered a major victory to opposition leader Imran Khan who has continuously questioned the legitimacy of the ruling alliance in the centre.
Earlier this month, the ruling alliance led by the PML-N suffered a humiliating defeat when the opposition PTI won 15 out of 20 seats in the country’s most populous province. The defeat made the position of PML-N’s Hamza Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab untenable.
However, during the trust vote last week, the deputy speaker cited the recent ruling of SC and disallowed the counting of votes of PML-Q, an ally of Imran Khan’s PTI, for what he claimed was not as per the wishes of the Party head, thus considering them as cross-voting.
With this, the deck is cleared for Pervaiz Elahi, the chief ministerial candidate of Imran Khan’s PTI and the PML-Q, to be the chief minister of Punjab.
For the ruling PML-N led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, losing the by-elections in the state considered as the party’s stronghold seems alarming and indicates a shift in the party’s voter base.
The loss, according to some party leaders, is due to its departure from the original anti-establishment “vote ko izzat do” ( give respect to mandate).
The party’s decision to side with the military to oust the government of Imran Khan hasn’t gone down well with its cadre who regarded the party as for civilian supremacy.
The decision to oust Imran Khan ultimately allowed him to hijack the anti-establishment tag in his favour. Khan’s repeated reference to the government as the “imported government” and to the military as “neutrals” further reinforced his perception as a popular civilian leader.
The whole episode resultantly diluted the core messaging of the PML-N, which once took on the military for its alleged role in ousting its leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017.
Faced with repeated setbacks, the PML-N is reportedly considering relaunching its “Vote Ko Izzat do” campaign. However, it may find difficult this time as the appeal has already been diluted by its recent steps—gaining power by orchestrating backroom deals with the military and playing games in the assembly trust votes.