Daska’s Anticlimax: Political Indifference Returns As Election Frenzy Dies
Daska tehsil is the true manifestation of Central Punjab’s typical stretch: vast rural area, the abundance of crops, and comparatively prosper. The caste family system is strong and preferred here; together with a sound political acumen among the locals residing close to urban centers.
During the Mughal period, because of the distance of ten(Das) ‘Koh’ from the Center comprising Sialkot, Gujranwala, etc, it was renamed as ‘DasKoh’ and then modulated to Daska. The recent political circumstances in the country apparently gave Daska the central position, but here again, it insinuates that by the closing of the second by-elections, Daska lagged just ten Koh: the elections held on April 10 — after much hype and clamor — somehow ‘moderated’ the gusty political weather.
The by-elections would never have been a big deal here. Being a rural constituency and a stronghold of the PML-N or its ‘alternative’, and the vacated seat amidst the death of the league’s member, it would have been anything but the political battleground. The political rivals and the supporters used to lower the tone as per our traditions complying with the death.
Nevertheless, it was the former minister during PMLQ tenure and the candidate from the ruling party Ali Asjad Malhi’s ‘positive’ gestures, that the government decided to weigh in, and turned the humdrum Daska seat the cynosure of every eye.
Though the PDM had lost a bit of momentum after the failure of its Lahore meeting and the decision to run in the by-elections and the Senate elections, the government was nowhere at ease for obvious reasons: the formation of all opposition parties against the government, and then the aggressive strategy of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the PML-N.
In the tug of war, amid the influence of Asjad Malhi, the government ignited the battle in Daska on the assumption of giving a major electoral blow to the main opposition party in Punjab, and to defeat it in no time. Victory in the constituency became a matter of political life and death.
Being overpowered in its own stronghold and the seat vacated by the demise of its member would have been a huge political dent to the PMLN, so space was given to ‘another’ Malhi by the ruling elite to the extent that about twenty presiding officers of the election commission were ‘disappeared’ on election night along with their mobile phones. Though they did turn up again when ‘fog’ was clear, the election became so ‘foggy’ that the Election Commission declared the election process null and void there and issued a notification for re-election in March.
Following the Senate Elections, the announcement of the PDM’s long march, accusations and blatant attacks of rigging between the government and the PML-N over Daska, it showcased whether there was a long march or not but ‘Daska March’ would definitely take place.
At a time when Daska had become a focal point, the government was able to push Daska to ten Koh: able to reschedule the by-elections to the tenth of April in the name of arrangements and the replacement of the administrative officials. The political heat of March was replaced by subdued April, and as expected the protracted time worked wonders for the government.
By the extended time, the PDM’s backbone was broken due to PPP’s refusal to streamline resignations with the condition of the long march. What was already left behind in the PDM was further worn out amidst everyday chaos and discord among the alliance. The political scenario had already been turned to its head in between the due and the rescheduled date of elections in the constituency of Daska.
With the victory of their candidate and daughter of the late Iftikhar ul Hasan Noshin Iftikhar with 15,000 to 16,000 votes, the PML-N could for a time sway the government and the state machinery on the issue of rigging, but it cannot be overjoyed by the win of that close margin keeping in mind its lead of more than 40,000 votes in general elections and the typical sympathy votes in rural Punjab. Furthermore, the PML-N has carried on with the family politics which has been its forte. The young emerging leaders are also the sons and daughters of the old guards, which is a moment of reflection for their ‘revolutionary politics’.
More importantly, despite the massive claims of the unpopularity of PTI in the face of dysfunctional Buzdar’s provincial government, the close competition in Central Punjab shows that the government’s power and influence have not yet waned. Most importantly, it is felt that the government and the establishment still depend on each other. The political heat and the pressure of the opposition have already subsided considerably; moreover, there is no possibility of any investigation into the rigging. The impact of this victory on the political environment of the country looks quite insignificant now and the effect of the victory would have receded in few days.
Meanwhile, Daska has further eroded the PTI’s moral position. Rigging and use of the state force to manipulate has pushed it back into the ranks of the old parties or even behind them. The Daska election has profoundly shattered the already depleted image of PTI as a democratic and transparent party. With that, the PPP’s retreat and the ‘Zardari Reconciliation Policy’ has made it less likely that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would be able to make a ‘comeback’ in Punjab anytime soon. The quick ‘falling action’ of Daska also brought a letdown for the main political parties and the politics of the country.