With party workers and leaders alike in jail, the joke is that the party’s own mascot, the lion, has left the Noon League.
Today is the big election day in Pakistan. The two main contenders for power are the lion and the bat.
The lion is the symbol of the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), also known as the Noon League after the Urdu pronunciation of the letter N.
The bat is the symbol of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
A restaurant in Lahore is judging the commitment of the supporters of both parties by seeing who gives more tips. The winner will be the restaurant staff either way.
That’s Nawaz’s daughter and heir apparent, Maryam Nawaz. She is in prison like her father on corruption charges. So is her husband. The sexist meme below, made by PTI supporters, suggests she isn’t very smart – all she has is good looks. The truth is that Maryam has emerged as a sharp politician in her own right through a time of crisis in the party.
They thought she wouldn’t return from London to go to jail. They photoshopped her face to the poster of a film called Punjab Nahi Jaungi (Won’t go to Punjab).
She and her husband were convicted along with her father Nawaz in a corruption case. Nawaz’s enemies were very happy to see him convicted.
He was gone from the election scene, they thought.
It was bad news for his supporters.
But, when he decided to go to jail and play martyr…
… raising fears of sympathy vote for his party, this was the impact on Imran, according to PML(N) meme creators.
Nawaz has had a long inning.
One Noon Leaguer has found an innovative way of canvassing for the party.
But with party workers and leaders alike in jail, and media and state institutions biased against them, some feel the party is collapsing. The lion has left the Noon League, this meme says.
This may have been because of ‘over-eating’, a reference to corruption as much as his being a ‘Butt’ – as many Punjabis of Kashmiri origin in Pakistan are called. A stereotype associated with Butts is that they eat a lot, and the same is said of Nawaz too.
Nawaz’s brother Shehbaz Sharif has been the chief minister of the Punjab province. His big obsession has been infrastructure development in Lahore, and has made claims of turning the city into Paris and so on. In the cartoon below, he is playing the guitar and saying he will turn the jail, where his brother is staying, into Paris. Nawaz tells him to get lost. The subtext is that Shehbaz is happy to see his brother go to jail – it helps his own ambitions to become the main face of the party.
Some conspiracy theorists see Shehbaz as giving his rival Imran a lifeline.
Others see him as a lonely man.
Although, perhaps, not as lonely as his elder brother.
Before going to jail, Nawaz made a new contribution to Pakistan’s lexicon. He started referring to the army establishment as “Khalai makhluq” – creatures from space, or aliens. In the meme below, an alien is saying, “Ay Pakistani voter! Ek teri khwaish hai aur ek meri khwaish hai. Lekin ho ga to wo hi jo meri khwaish hain (O Pakistani voter! You have your wish and I have mine. But it is my wish that will prevail).”
According to some, this is what the real Election Commission of Pakistan looks like.
In the meme below, the Urdu reads, “Aglay waziray azam ko assembly tak pohchanay ki koshishein. (Efforts underway to transport the next prime minister to the assembly).”
PML(N) supporters feel like they’re drowning.
The party hopes it will manage to outwit both the PTI and the establishment on polling day, somewhat like this:
Provided the booths are not taken over by the PTI and the establishment.
Or perhaps, the question is not whether the polling will be rigged but how badly it will be rigged.
Imran himself said in an interview to an Indian TV channel years ago that no one can win an election in Pakistan without the support of the establishment. The clip has been doing the rounds among his critics.
This is the first part in a two-part series on Pakistan elections.
Read the second part here.