I spent a few hours on the campaign trail with Maryam Nawaz Sharif yesterday as she toured NA-120 deep in Lahore’s old city to keep the flag flying for her father. It was fascinating to hear her talk about Nawaz Sharif and the way she thinks he has changed since his two rather curtailed terms in office in the 1990s.
This campaign has been notable for its bloodshed so far. And Maryam was travelling in an armoured vehicle at her father’s insistence, she told me.
His party, the PML-N, has been spared the worst of the violence so far and has long been accused of cosying up to the extremists. The PPP has had more-direct threats so perhaps it is not surprising that reports are circulating (with the caveat of unnamed sources) that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, its chairman and the political heir to Benazir Bhutto, will not be returning. Who could blame him?
But one thing is clear. The PPP has largely given up the fight. While it no doubt has many good candidates fighting hard at a local level, at the top it seems rudderless, perhaps happy to concede this election and save itself for next time.
For the PML-N it’s now a case of how much damage Imran Khan can do and whether they can squeak through to the 172 seats they need for a majority. (Incidentally, they think he’s picking up mostly disaffected PPP voters…) I know what I think – but I’d be a fool to predict anything just yet.