New Delhi: Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) are in a battle to become the single-largest party in the Pakistan National Assembly but there is another battle waging on the sidelines — this one between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the extreme far-right coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) to occupy the kingmaker’s seat.
With Pakistan inching towards a hung assembly, the role of a kingmaker assumes importance.
As of 10pm on Wednesday, Khan’s PTI was leading the race with 93 seats, while the PML(N) — led by the beleaguered Sharif brothers — was trailing at second place with 52. Even as the race to 137, the magic majority mark in the Pakistan assembly, wages between the PTI and the PML(N), the PPP is at the third place.
Led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the PPP was ahead in only 30 seats as of 9pm. In Punjab, the PTI and PML(N) were locked in a tussle for control of the National Assembly, while the PPP maintained an iron grip over its traditional stronghold of Sindh.
Meanwhile, another silent player inching towards the corridors of power is the MMA led by cleric Fazlur Rehman.
Rehman, a controversial cleric known for being sympathetic towards the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), hails from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and has cultivated an image of being a turncoat over the years.
His critics have argued that he gravitates towards whoever is in power at the moment. The MMA is a coalition of extreme far-right religious outfits that have come together on a common platform. The JUI(F), the main party in the coalition, was in alliance with the Asif Ali Zardari-led PPP government till 2012, till Rehman jumped ship to the PML(N).
During the election campaign, Khan had hit out at Rehman for his turncoat politics. “Whenever a government goes out of power, it leaves two things behind — the treasury and Fazlur Rehman,” Khan had joked at an election rally.
However, just ahead of the polls, he had joined hands with the MMA. According to a report in Geo News, however, elements within the MMA were not happy with the tie-up with Khan’s party. If Khan gets within reach of the majority mark, a dozen extra seats from the MMA and a few independents may prove key.
On the other hand, if PTI falls short massively of the majority mark, the PPP and PML(N), who have been traditional rivals for decades, may have a shot at creating an unlikely alliance.