The Khan-led PTI won 15 seats while PM Sharif’s PML-N managed to secure just 4 seats. One seat went to an Independent.
Almost all the PTI turncoats who voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz Sharif for chief minister lost the elections.
In the 371-seat Punjab assembly, this is how the numbers stack up now:
This means PM Shehbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shehbaz Sharif will be ousted as chief minister. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi of PML-Q is being seen as the frontrunner to replace Hamza in the election for chief minister due on July 22.
Khan seeks early national polls after bypoll win
Buoyed by the bypoll victory, Khan has called for early national elections.
Khan was ousted in April following a protracted political drama that saw Shehbaz Sharif take over as PM.
Since then Khan has held massive public rallies demanding the country head to the ballot ahead of the scheduled October 2023 dates. He’s now touting Sunday’s electoral win as a sign of popular support for his party.
“The only way forward from here is to hold free and fair elections under a credible ECP,” Khan said in a tweet, referring to the Election Commission of Pakistan. “Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty & further economic chaos.”
Why the byelections
The byelections to the 20 seats were necessitated as the members elected in the 2018 polls were ‘disqualified for defection’ by a Supreme Court order. 11 of these seats were won by Independents and 9 by PTI candidates. The 11 Independents all subsequently joined PTI. However they all voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz Sharif iin the election for chief minister in the assembly.
Hamza was elected chief minister on April 16 this year in a controversial and ruckus-marred session of the Punjab assembly. The PTI-PML(Q) combine had challenged the election in court. The Lahore high court on June 30 annulled Hamza’s election as CM.
PML-N shocked in its stronghold
The bypoll results are a setback for PML-N, coming after it toppled the Imran Khan government in Islamabad with the help of PPP and some other parties in April this year.
Giving tickets to PTI turncoats, and some of the tough decisions by Shehbaz Sharif government did not go down well with Punjab voters, it seems. This includes fuel and power tariff hikes- conditions laid down by IMF for a financial package to stabilise the crippling economy.
The PML-N has not been able to effectively tame inflation- an issue it used to target the Imran Khan government.
Analysts feel that the loss in Punjab will weaken Shehbaz Sharif’s federal government, and it may not be able to sustain for long the pressure from unfriendly provincial governments.
PM Sharif to feel pressure on economic front
Pakistan was able to secure a $6 billion financial package from IMF only after agreeing to tough conditions. The IMF could now delay disbursing the loan and wait for political clarity within the country.
Even friendly countries will be reluctant to extend assistance to an unstable government facing financial crunch, they feel.
An immediate effect of the Punjab results was seen in the currency market, as the Pakistani rupee hit a new low against the US dollar, plunging Rs 5.06 to Rs 216.01 in the inter-bank market on Monday.