I’d been a Lahori since birth and only one the family who was born here; and that was a jibe often thrown at me while growing up with my siblings in Islamabad. But my romance with Lahore developed when I moved here some 8 years back.
Politically speaking, I didn’t have much idea about what was going on since Islamabad despite being the power-center was apolitical to its roots. I came face to face with the reality in Lahore and things started to grow on me slowly. Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) or PML headed by Nawaz Sharif had always ruled Lahore, the power-center of Punjab. I remember flashes of my father, from my childhood days, supporting Nawaz Sharif against Benazir Bhutto’s PPP. Being the leftists, PPP always had tough time in the central and upper Punjab for various reasons; perhaps, it lacked the luster to woe already affluent populace with the standard roti, kapra aur makaan slogan of theirs.
But things seem to be changing in the last 3 years, politically. With the slow death of PPP after Benazir Bhutto, a new political contender has emerged in the politics of Punjab: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). PTI’s popularity rose from 3% in 2008 to 33% in the last 4 years, while PMLN’s hold, who had been ruling with support of PPP, has shrunk from 81% to 41%, according to an IRI survey conducted in February 2012. The situation, though, looks more alarming on ground for PMLN 4 months on.
PMLN’s recent failures to hold a note-worthy rally speaks about dwindling support. Rickshaw drivers, more than 35000, are said to be the pulse of the city; if you want to check what the city is thinking, ask for their views. Every rickshaw driver (in dozens) I had spoken to in the last couple of years, supporting PTI. The trend has shifted from blaming others to supporting PTI openly now. PTI landmark rally at Minar-e-Pakistan on 30 October 2011 only showed the change what rulers of Punjab have been shunning during their last few years of their rule.
With an unexpected comeback at the helm of Punjab Government against Pervez Musharraf-backed rival faction of Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PMLQ), PMLN thought it has conquered all of Punjab’s fortresses. Little did they knew that the seeped in desire for ‘change’ they had voted them in demanded them to take a different route than the previous one; who has performed well enough to be voted in again, but people did not. From a toothless opposition in Center to saving Punjab from the fatal electric loadshedding schedule, the list of PMLN’s failures are long but that is out of the scope of this piece.
PMLN held a rally against unjust loadshedding in Punjab at Neela Gumbad near Anarkali Bazaar. The venue is a small congested place, filled with car park every working day due to shoppers coming to Anarkali Bazaar, can barely hold 5000. The rally rather seemed in the honor of crown prince of Punjab, Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, who has built a dubious reputation in various scandals already. The crown prince and Punjab Government resources failed to fill the space. I had seen Punjab Government’s buses in my locality with PMLN supporters literally begging people to go the rally, but hardly had more than 2 people in any bus. The only noteworthy number was at truck that was 5 people.
I wonder the future will bring for PMLN in Lahore? Has PMLN already lost Lahore to PTI? I think so!
PS: I hope to do a detailed analysis of PMLN’s current electoral standing in Punjab in the my next post.