Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) swept the Punjab by-elections held on July 17 by bagging a total of 15 out of 20 Punjab Asse­mbly seats while the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) only managed to win four seats. An independent candidate won one seat. The unexpected and sweeping victory of PTI in the all-important Punjab by-polls is set to influence the political as well as economic future of the country. The outcome of the by-elections has not just sealed the fate of Hamza Shehbaz’s government in Punjab but also sent alarm bells ringing for Shehbaz Sharif’s federal government.

The million dollar question is, what happened in Punjab that the kaptaan was able to pull this off in the heart of PML-N? PTI Chairman Imran Khan led a vigorous campaign against those who had ditched the party during the first poll for the chief minister on April 16 and voted for Hamza. Even the PML-N’s voters did not vote for the ‘lotas’ or turncoats. Khan continuously targeted the ‘neutrals’ for not siding with him in foiling the so-called ‘conspiracy’ the PML-N, PPP, and other parties had allegedly hatched “with the help of the United States” to oust him from power. That his foreign conspiracy mantra sold like hot cakes shows that Pakistanis love conspiracy theories.

The Punjab by-elections have brought to the limelight further questions: what is next for the PML-N? The ruling PML-N really needs to ‘introspect’ its shortcomings and need to go back to the drawing board and check every possible situation that led the party to its failure in Punjab. Was the vote of no-confidence the right move? Was the PML-N really thinking that a father-son duo as prime minister and the chief minister can turn out to be successful? At present, the most important question is, when is Nawaz Sharif coming back? The party has faced a lot of damage in his absence. Within the PML-N, a lot of people are of the view that Hamza should accept defeat and immediately resign as chief minister, while Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should call the next general elections as soon as possible. What the PML-N will do next can shape the future of Pakistan. Will Shehbaz Sharif announce the general elections or stick to power? Will a caretaker government be formed that can also take care of the economy for three months given how crucial the IMF deal is?

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Whatever happens, Pakistan is in need of massive reforms. With the pertaining economic crisis and inflation, major political, as well as economic stability, is required. The country needs stability more than ever.