PML-N's uphill task in Punjab.

Whether countrywide elections are held within three months to coincide with the elections to the Punjab Assembly, after its dissolution, or separately on the completion of the term of the National Assembly and the remaining provincial assemblies, it is abundantly clear that the PML-N has its work cut out for it.

All eyes will be on Punjab as the province has the lion's share of the country's 122.2 million registered voters at nearly 58 per cent of the total, with Sindh 21pc, KP 17pc and Balochistan picking up the smallest provincial share of just over 4pc.

Crucially, compared to the 2018 general elections the number of registered voters jumped up by 13pc in 2022 which translated into over 16m new voters. Of them, some 10m are in Punjab alone. It will be safe to assume many among this group in particular will have smartphones and use social media.

The voting intentions of this particular cohort could well influence the outcome of the elections, and significantly so, if the new voters are spread fairly and evenly across all the constituencies and their turnout percentage equals or exceeds the national turnout.

Can the electoral appeal of the father-daughter duo revive the party's fortunes in Punjab?

The run-up to the next elections and its result will demonstrate whether the head start the PTI has in its use and domination of the social media is reflected in the votes cast in its favour, particularly by the younger social media-savvy voter.

The PML-N knows that it has an uphill task to win back Punjab from the PTI. It will know from experience that even if initially given a leg up by the military and its agencies, once a party drops roots among the electorate, it is impossible to dismiss it as an also-ran.

Little wonder then that the PML-N has announced that the recently elevated chief organiser, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, will be returning to Pakistan within a fortnight. Sources also say PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif may himself also be on his way home to take command of the campaign ahead of the next elections in Punjab if he can secure his freedom from the courts.

Whether the electoral appeal of the father-daughter duo can succeed in reviving the party's fortunes in Punjab or whether its efforts will go the same way as PPP leader Benazir Bhutto's in the 1990s, once the PML-N had been established as a major political player dislodging the PPP from its perch with the establishment's assistance in the province, is a question that can only be answered...

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