Elections, inevitable?

What next, is the question on everyone's minds now that Imran Khan has crossed the Rubicon. Despite the reservations of those around him, as well as the scepticism of those without, the PTI and the PML-Q have dissolved the Punjab Assembly. Khan's party, the parliamentarians as well as his allies who were said to be the Trojan horse placed there by the establishment, have all gone along with him. Despite the rumours of dissent within and the fears of losing the government, the deed was done. And the PML-N has accepted the move and is now getting ready for an election, instead of trying to delay it.

But as the country gears up for elections, provincial or general, or even a new spanner in the works, here are three factors which will be critical to the developments ahead.

The dissolution: the psychological impact of this decision should not be underestimated. Not just because Khan is now seen as forcing the ruling coalition to react to his decision rather than having a strategy of their own, but also because the PTI has successfully pushed the idea of dissolution 'reportedly' being opposed by the establishment. While the PDM also hinted at this, the most vocal evidence came from Parvez Elahi, who said in a recent interview that the establishment was not in favour of early elections. And then came the claims of PTI provincial-level parliamentarians being pressured to not show up for the vote of confidence. From phone calls to threats, it was all hinted at and believed, for just four years ago, the PML-N made similar allegations. But it didn't work.

So now the perception is that Imran Khan was able to resist or defy the establishment's pressure, and stood his ground and succeeded. Such is his popularity that the constituency politicians were willing to defy the powers that be to ensure a PTI ticket for the next election. This perception will have an impact on the 'hawa' (atmosphere) which plays a key role in the elections in Punjab.

As the country gears up for elections, three factors will be critical to the developments ahead.

The PML-N's fightback: The PDM has suffered a similar psychological defeat. But this, or even inflation, is not its biggest handicap in the elections to come. The party's biggest challenge is the mess within the PML-N, where the main leadership continues to be absent for unfathomable reasons.

Shehbaz Sharif is busy playing prime minister, and apparently can't make time for the party. Oddly enough, he is not even expected...

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