In ramp-up to by-polls, another PML-N minister hangs up gloves

With PTI laying the groundwork for PML-N's defeat in the upcoming by-polls, Malik Muhamad Ahmad Khan has become the latest minister of the ruling party in Punjab to hang gloves to invest all energies on election campaign and battle the odds that the handling of country’s economic affairs has stacked against the PML-N-led government.

Malik Muhammad was the only minister in Punjab who, unlike his counterparts, had a ministerial portfolio.

He is the fourth minister to resign as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Punjab Minister Salman Rafique already tendered their resignations on Saturday citing ‘personal reasons’.

The exodus from the already lean cabinet — eight ministers — has left the government of the country's largest province being operated with mere five ministers.

In a showdown with PTI chief Imran Khan, who is breezing through the province with a rally one after the other, PML-N's Maryam Nawaz embarked on her own rally spree from Monday.

On Tuesday, Maryam addressed a rally in Jhang where she bashed Imran Khan and his team for ruining the country. These rallies were primarily aimed at shifting the burden of economic failures onto the previous government.

PML-N's predicament

However, the slew of resignations on the trail leading up to the July 17 by-elections, are indicative of a mounting pressure on the party and not without a reason: a clean sweep by PTI and an embarrassing electoral rebuke would not only mean achange in the provincial government but also a potential blow to the central government.

Although PML-N enjoys a numerical advantage over PTI, it cannot leave anything to chance.

Currently, PML-N has around 176 votes, while PTI has 172 votes (excluding the vote of Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari) in Punjab Assembly. For PML-N to attain a simple majority, 10 seats are required and in order to attain a majority of the existing members, only 9 seats are needed.

Also read: PML-N leader Awais Leghari resigns as Punjab minister

On the other hand, PTI would require twelve seats just to level with PML-N , at 184 each. To win they would requires 13 plus seats.

Given that all twenty disqualified on these provincial assembly constituencies were PTI MPAs, one might wrongly assume that these were PTI seats.

Out of these twenty PTI MPAs, 11 had won elections as independent candidates, meaning that these 11 were not PTI seats to begin with.

And the winning horses of these 11 constituencies were currently with PML-N , which gives PML-N another added advantage over PTI.

Incumbency factor will also go in favour of PML-N.

Despite these disadvantages, Imran Khan was holding huge by election rallies in Punjab, which irrespective of how things pan out on election-day, was putting pressure on PML-N .

Surveys done by vloggers on social media have shown that PTI was leading by a long margin. However, such surveys given the lack of survey methodology can hardly paint a well-rounded picture.

According to Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan’s staff officer, he was entrusted with the task to focus on election of south Punjab.

It was said ministers were resigning to avoid any possible violation of code of conduct of these elections. His personal staff officer said Sardar Awais will also be looking at affairs of south Punjab. He said that Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Salaman will focus in central Punjab.

It is pertinent to mention here that PML-N, in every election rally was promising of electricity subsidy after winning by elections. The subsidy, which was announced a few days back by CM Punjab, was suspended by ECP for violating ECP election code as it was announced ahead of by-elections.

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