The recent events in the course of Pakistan’s political affairs has made the slogan “vote ko izzat do- jamhooriyat ko izzat do” (respect the vote/ respect the democracy) the central theme of the general elections 2018.

PMLN, who came into power in 2013, completed its most challenging 5 years of office. Although the tenure wasn’t as successful as expected, as the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was booted out of the office and attended trials in the corruption and money laundering cases. All this eventually concluded in the arrests of Nawaz, Maryam and Captain Safdar serving ten, 7 and 1 year of imprisonment respectively.

This touched many people’s sentiments and the general elections became more of the battle of narratives than the clash for power. Since the powerful PMLN leaders, including Nawaz, Maryam and Hanif Abbasi are now behind the bars, people believe that it would be extremely difficult for the party to gain any support or votes from the public, but this is perhaps a false notion.

Thanks to the electables! Even if the most revered political leaders are not on the ground to contest the elections, the political parties make necessary arrangements beforehand to get the votes. They fund the electables to represent them and to make sure their absence or their inabilities do not stand in their way.

In the political culture of Pakistan, the term “electables” has emerged particularly when the national elections are around the corner. “Electables” are those electoral candidates who have sufficient or significant influence, based on their social position, to secure victory in parliamentary elections in specific constituencies. In the upcoming general election, the selection of so-called electables in many constituencies across the country led to dissatisfaction and protests among the different parties.

It would be safe to say that choosing electables is the new horse-trading. We breathe in a society where majority either don’t know the meaning of horse trading or the same majority do not think this as something condemnable. To buy conscience of any politician, any representative of the common people is the main feature of the hourse trading. Unfortunately, our institutions are full of such conscience-less individuals, who are available for sale 24/7.

I strongly object to the use of the term horse-trading. A horse is a loyal animal but the term horse-trading is used for sell-outs who betray their parties for temporary benefits. Candidates are mostly handpicked by all powerful party heads. Cronies are accommodated in the house. Loyalties are shifted overnight and one is not surprised to see the turncoats returning to the house under a different party banner each time. Money can buy a party ticket or even a seat in the house standing as an independent.

The horse-trading is a phenomenon that was introduced in our politics by former president Asif Zardari. He joined hands with the PML-Q whom he used to refer as Qatil Party prior to elections. However, he along with his party did not hesitate even once before shaking hands with the PMLQ to collaborate in Balochistan.

Similarly, Nawaz and his party also took great advantage of this trade and they kept on buying and funding the most influential electables to gain power in the 2013 elections.

  • In 2002 general elections, 140 members of the national assembly ditched PMLN and joined the then powerful party PMLQ, supporting the dictatorship under the presidency of General Musharraf.
  • In 2008, when the Musharraf’s regime was in hot waters, 89 NA members said their farewell to the PMLQ to join hands with the PPP.
  • The 2013 general elections witnessed the floor changing when 121 NA members abandoned the PPP to support the PMLN.
  • Today, all of these conscience-selling individuals are part of the great Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf.

Traditionally, the PPP and the PML-N have been enjoying the support of most of the “electables” in different parts of Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan as in K-P “electables” have had insignificant political role.

Now, when the elections are going to take place very soon, Imran Khan has decided not to miss any chance that can lead to victory. Therefore, just like other parties competing in the elections on the backs of electables. PTI has also been able to garner the support of some electables not only in KP but in Punjab and Sindh as well. PTI has been preparing for elections since 2013 and therefore, it cannot afford to lose the polls as they have everything at stake.

  • Today, Amir Liaquat Hussain who was the most loyal member of the MQM is now part of the PTI.
  • Firdous Ashiq Awan, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Raja Riaz, Babar Awan, Fawad Chaudhry, and Mustafa Khar of the PPP have also joined the PTI in the elections 2018.
  • Akhtar Kanju, Mumtaz Bhutto and Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar are some of the names from the PMLN shaking hands with Imran Khan’s party,
  • The names of some of the electables from the PMLQ include Jahangir Tareen, Amir Dogar, Ghulam Sarwar, Zahir ud Din and Tahir Sadiq.
  • The electables from MMA joining the PTI include Azam Swati, Fayyaz Chauhan and Sameeh ul Haq.
  • Fazl ur Rehman needs special mention when talking about horse trading. The persistent supporter of the N league has recently come out in open support of Imran Khan and his party.

If we take a look at the statistics of the electables that have joined the PTI aiming to form a new Pakistan, almost 70% members of the PPP, 99% of PMLQ and 50% of PLMN, MMA and MQM have united with the PTI.

Majority of these electables are known goons and corrupt, and yet PTI seems to have compromise its policies to take advantage of these defectors to win the power game.

The horse-trading and the growing trend of electables in our politics has also given the non-political actors the advantage to meddle in the democratic affair of the country. It is because of these LOTAS ( the electables), that the establishment is believed to be buying all possible unfaithful defectors of different political parties to ensure Imran Khan’s success in the general elections. These electables are in a way taking away people’s democratic right by allowing the non-political actors to engineer the course of politics in our country, and preventing level playing field in the elections.

Many loyalists and supporters of the PTI now feel ditched and disgruntled by the inclusion of electables in the party, as by embracing the culture of electables major political parties diminish the role of the party and negate their ideology in politics.

The PTI has argued the number of electables does not automatically mean the senior leadership will compromise on the party’s values and agenda if it is elected to power.

What really makes the electables a threat to the democracy is that these candidates do not come with an agenda. They do not have a political ideology and with their lateral entry in different parties, they play the role of mere trump cards, used whenever and wherever deemed necessary. The electables do not help in any way to strengthen the organizational structure of the political. Instead, they weaken the political parties and they weaken the democratic system completely.

Of course, choosing the candidate is the right of a party, but the extent of the relationship with the party cannot be the sole criterion for issuing tickets. Where the nation thought that the concept of horse-trading has finally come to an end, the funding of electables for support has become rampant.

It is pertinent for the common people to make a wise decision before casting their votes on 25 July. It is pivotal that the voters act sensibly and make their ballots count- allow their votes to make a difference. You may not be supporting a certain party but if you are even voting for an independent contestant make sure that he is not a conscience less person who would shatter your hopes and make your lives miserable in exchange for some amount of money.

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