LAHORE – After Ashura, all major political parties have resumed their activities, preparing for the upcoming elections, as the dust begins to settle owing to the repeated statements by the President Asif Ali Zardari, the Prime Minister, Federal Ministers and the Chief Election Commissioner have been recorded stressing that the polls would be held on time.

The possibility of fragile law and order situation in Karachi, Balochistan and KPK delaying the electoral process is now not being given much importance.

Wrapped in judicial language, remarks and directions given by the Supreme Court in the Karachi law and order case also indicates the apex court’s wish for timely elections. It has sought fresh delimitation of the constituencies in Karachi and verification of votes through rangers and the army. The Election Commission had announced the code of conduct and plan to take the by-polls on December 4 as a test case to prove its credentials as fair and impartial.

Finding much against itself than others, the PPP is trying to push the implementation of the Asghar Khan case to the back burner. All the four main parties, PPP, PML-N, PTI and PML-Q are taking extra care while commenting on the Lahore High Court verdict on Kalabagh Dam construction in case the anti-dam voters and the nationalist parties do not slip out of their hands while ensuring timely election. For the time being the atmosphere for the election, which should be held till by May, is in the making. Hence both right and left wing parties are realigning themselves for the polls, focusing on Punjab which consists of around 60 per cent of the general seats.

President Zardari had announced to make Lahore the centre of his political activity in the near future and knowledgeable sources say it will start with his two-day weekly stay in the city from January.

Zardari would have to do a lot to ‘conquer Punjab’, which the PPP wants to do at any cost. For this purpose, the leadership would have to comfort the disgruntled voters who feel badly ignored and still consider new Punjab PPP President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo a stranger in the party. Notwithstanding electoral alliance and good gestures by Zardari, the PML-Q is also taking time to develop working relations with Wattoo in Punjab. Taking over the party affairs, Wattoo has formed a four-member committee to name PPP candidates for the city seats and claims that he is keeping many surprises for the future to take the wind out of the PML-N sails in Punjab.

After giving much hype, the half-hearted response by President Zardari on carving out of the Sariaki Province was also going to pose as an election challenge to the PPP as its outlines have begun to be drawn out by ex-parliamentarian Nasrullah Khan Dreshek who has started getting all major families of the Southern belt on one platform.

Unabated price hike, loadshedding of power and gas, and multiple problems facing the people call for urgent attention by President Zardari. Ending rifts in the party ranks and charging up ‘jiyalas’ to their traditional level is another need to which the president can address. A section of people in the PPP wants the polls to be held in March instead of May given the fact that in summer energy crisis would be acute and the ‘killing’ loadshedding could turn the voters against PPP and its partners.

President Zardari is also gearing up his son and Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for full participation in the upcoming electoral politics to meet any eventuality. Bilawal is being trained in Urdu language and the exposure he got in the recent D-8 Conference shows how serious his father was in bringing him to the forefront.

The SC in the Asghar Khan case maintained that it wants impartial and transparent elections plugging the outside interference which starts from the president and is carried out through the agencies. It has sought action against those involved in rigging in the 1990 polls however fixing no time limit yet restraints on the political role of the President is with immediate effect. In case President Zardari is not allowed to play politics then naturally Bilawal will be ready to supplant him and call the shots.

Although President Zardari has to give the election schedule after dissolution of the assemblies in March, the Opposition parties call for their immediate announcement so the election process could start. PML-N President Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has asked Leader of the Opposition Ch Nisr Ali Khan to expedite contacts with the opposition parties to finalise the interim setup and the name of the caretaker prime minister. The PML-N is being acknowledged in a far better position to win the elections by friends like Saudi Arabia and Turkey and even by America. As such it is fast completing its manifesto and ironing out rifts which had mainly appeared in the party ranks in Khyber PK where Nawaz Sharif is undertaking a tour this week.

The party is also going to broaden its spectrum to take along others to ensure a majority sufficient enough to form the government. The party is also expected to see the Jamaat-i-Islami and the PML-F leaders this month when, Ch Nisar, reportedly is also going to contact the PM for a talk on the election schedule, interim setup and the PM’s name.

The PML-Q has entered in to a seat adjustment with the Sunni Tehrik leader and is quite happy after PML-N leader Salman Mohal has joined the PML-Q.

However it continues to suffer political losses and the recent defection of former Speaker Punjab Assembly Afzal Sahi and his brother to the PML-N is just one example. Both Muslim Leagues are struggling with the odds. The PML-N is struggling to keep its potential candidates cool after defection to their old rivals in the party while the Q-League struggling to retain theirs under its wings.

The Metro Bus project is a special target in the hands of PML-N opponents on account of money spent, the time it is taking to complete and the problems caused to the masses. A delayed completion may affect the PML-N’s election performance. Aware of it, the Punjab chief minister has asked the contractors to complete the project this year.

The PTI Chief Imran Khan is starting a two-month long public contact drive beginning from Lahore next month, during which he will also address public meetings and lead rallies. After the PTI has held the intra-party elections, a brake has been applied on the defection from this party while marathon tour of Imran Khan is also going to pay its dividends in the coming days.