LAHORE  -   The year 2018 which marked the end of two-party system in Pakistan, ends today, leaving behind a trail of political upheavals but eventually placing the PTI in the power corridors.

Major opposition parties-the PPP and the PML-N-find themselves in the dock towards end of the year. They see the recent moves by the ruling PTI as an attempt at establish one-party rule in the country by suppressing the voices of dissent.

If the year 2018 had started with dislodging of the PML-N government in Balochistan, it is ending with obvious moves to dismantle the PPP’s government in Sindh. Political maneuverings for a no- confidence motion against Syed Murad Ali Shah are underway to push out the PPP from its stronghold. This comes at the heels of constitution of cases against the top PPP leaders for their alleged involvement in fake bank accounts. Investigation is underway against Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as their names appear among the 172 persons placed on the Exit Control List. 

It was in the first month of 2018 that Sanaullah Zehri of the PML-N was voted out and Mir Abdul Quddus of PML-Q was elected as new chief minister. It was then seen as a conspiracy orchestrated by the PPP with the covert support of the powers that be.

This development was followed by the election of new Chairman Senate in March 2018 jointly supported by the PPP and the PTI. However, this rare collaboration between the two rival parties proved a short-lived arrangement as the same was not witnessed in later part of the preceding year.

Much like the previous elections, the results of 2018 elections were also taken with a pinch of salt by the major political parties who raised questions on the impartiality of the Election Commission. Notwithstanding the question of transparency, the July vote paved the way for the PTI to assume power establishing the fact that country’s political system also had room for a third party to emerge victorious in a popular vote. Now, we have a three-party system in place in clear departure from the past tradition when the PPP and the PML-N would swap power after every election. The 2018 vote even did not place the PPP and the PML-N in a position to form a coalition government with the help of allied parties. 

Even though the PPP failed to make its government in the centre for the second consecutive time, but returned to power in Sindh province yet again with convincing majority. Its power base in Sindh remains unchallenged over the years despite occasional machinations to reduce it to a minority party.

 Though the PTI is ruling in the Centre with a scant majority, there is no joint opposition in the parliament to pose any challenge to its being. Despite being pushed to the wall in the name of accountability, the PML-N and the PPP have not been able so far to make a joint front against the government. It is yet to be seen however that for how long the bitterness of the past holds them from uniting against their common enemy.

The year 2018 brought with it a lot of miseries for the Sharif family. Apart from his party’s defeat in 2018 polls, the PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif also lost his spouse this year. Earlier, his return from London along with daughter Maryam Nawaz and their subsequent arrest at the Lahore Airport was also recorded in history as an important event of the year.

Verdicts delivered by NAB court in Al-Azizia reference and jail sentence served to Mian Nawaz Sharif towards end of the year was also seen as an important development having far reaching consequences for the PML-N’s political future. 

Efforts by the religious parties to revive the MMA failed to make any impact in 2018 elections. The alliance ended up securing a few seats in the National Assembly. As the year 2018 ends today, the MMA has lost its political relevance within months.

As against all expectations, the preceding year witnessed the revival of the PML-Q, a party which was almost at the verge of its political extinction until 2017. Starting with the election of its chief minister in Balochistan, the year also brought new political victories for the party. After the July vote, this party is an important coalition partner with the PTI in the Centre as well as in Punjab. Its leader Ch Parvez Elahi was not only elected Speaker in the Punjab Assembly, he now also leads a group of 20-plus MPAs from the PML-N and his own party in the provincial house. But given the current party position in the Assembly where the ruling PTI lacks a simple majority to form its government single-handedly, this tiny group of lawmakers has the potential to upset the apple cart.

It also happened in the same year that Prime Minister Imran Khan took the whole country by surprise by nominating a little know person as the chief minister of the biggest province. Many in Pakistan are still finding it hard to digest this development which has now become a political reality. 

The issue of creation of Janoobi Punjab province remained one of the main political issues during 2018. The PTI used it as its election slogan to win support in south Punjab. The formation of Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaaz just before the elections and its eventual merger with the PTI was discussed at the national level as one of the political developments.  

As the PTI government wants creation of a new province on administrative grounds, it has initiated steps to set up a mini secretariat in South Punjab with a new Chief Secretary, an Additional IG and Additional Secretary Home. If the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar is to be believed, the new administrative set up will become functional after the start of next financial year.

Though the PPP has announced its support for the south Punjab province, the PML-N continues to hold its hypocritical stance on the creation of new provinces. While all other parties support creation of only one province in south Punjab, it has come up with the proposal to create two provinces-Janoobi Punjab and Bahawalpur-out of the greater Punjab. The PML-N has taken this position knowing full well that the PTI would never like to support creation of two provinces in the southern region.

Political analysts predict political instability in the succeeding year which may prove testing for the ruling party.