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Saturday 28th January 2023 / 6 Rejab 1444

By-election controversy

By-elections seldom garner interest in our country and are often characterized by low voter turnout and the previous party often retains the seat. But the recent by-polls have created controversy and surprises, which could indicate the changing political scenario in the country.

The ruling PTI has faced a string of defeats in the by-elections which have exposed the faultlines within the party. The PTI may be in the opposition in Sindh but there were high expectations that the federal government could pull out a victory. The election earlier this week in Malir shows the party’s dismal standing as it placed third amid allegations of violence and rigging. By-elections also garner controversy as state machinery is often deployed to ensure that the ruling party’s candidate wins the polls, yet PTI made no such attempt. The party should then at least be lauded for putting up a brave face even though it may have lost a few seats.

In Punjab, the main battle still lies between the PTI and PML-N. The reinvigorated PML-N wants to regain its lost glory and retained two seats which it had won in the 2018 general elections. The party believes their victory is a sign that the people are disillusioned with the PTI. There was controversy over by-elections in Daska where election staff went missing and the election commission issued a statement that the result appears to have been falsified. The ECP maintains that the controversy is a result of the weakness of the law-enforcement agencies and the administration. The government must take the matter seriously as it shows their inability to conduct free and fair polls and can erode public confidence.

PTI faced a shocking defeat in Nowshera, the constituency of stalwart Pervez Khattak. The province is the fortress of the PTI and lost a seat due to infighting and squabbling is an embarrassment. There must be a wake-up call for the ruling party that it must not lose touch with its constituents. This is an indication of the prevailing mood that the government must deliver both economically and politically or it will face a reality check in the next elections.

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