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Published On:Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian

The Pakistan Political Palette

| by Yasmeen Ali

( March 27, 2013, Lahore, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Pakistan Political Palette is dotted with multi hues. Parties that have been there, seen it, done all, the wannabes waiting for their turn, individuals who have returned from yonder wanting to grab a part of the action. You name it, Pakistan has it. The trailer promises an action packed thriller. Grab your bag of pop corns everyone!

NS & AZFirst there are the traditional arch rivals: PPP and PML-N. The five years of PPP governance have been marred by increase in terrorism, inflation, energy crisis. There are charges of widespread corruption. Whereas it is true that PPP could have improved upon its governance, it is also true that after the 18thAmendment- a number of issues laid at the federation door were the responsibility of the provincial governments. PML-N and MQM cannot today, legitimately claim to oppose PPP after having governed their respective provinces/areas for the term. They were as much a part of the overall government as was PPP. Faraz Khan posting in Express Tribune Blogs published 11th Feb. 2013 shares that according to the Punjab government, 30 billion rupees were spent on the Lahore Metro Bus Service. Overall the entire allocated money for Punjab infrastructure development is Rs63 billion which means that 50% or half of the development budget of Punjab was spent in Lahore. This excludes the cost of the underpasses and overhead bridges built in Lahore. Compared to this Rs 16.5 billion was allocated to the Health sector and Rs25 billion development budget for education in Punjab for the current year. From this 25 billion a total of Rs5 billion was spent on giving away laptops.

The province’s annual average growth rate of 2.5% between 2007 and 2011 lagged far behind the 3.4% for the rest of Pakistan, according to the Lahore-based Institute of Public Policy (IPP).No smaller energy generation plants were set up although Punjab is badly hit by power cuts, destroying businesses and disrupting normal life.

Altaf & AZUnder MQM’s tutelage, Karachi burned for five years. It continues burning today. Karachi is the hub of multiethnic people. The demographic makeup of the city has changed over the past few years, leading many to believe that the ongoing violence is a turf war being fought between MQM & ANP. Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik places target killed people in past five years at 1.363(Published 7 Sept 2012: Express Tribune). By any common sense standards this is a highly under estimated account. It will be pertinent to note here that Karachi was under MQM Mayor-ship from 2005 till 2010. Delimitation of constituencies is seen as a negative by MQM – which will be at a defensive position and might lose some constituencies, though it will remain the majority party of the Karachi. MQM is already in court against the delimitations in Karachi.

Bringing in the new colors of the Political Palette is the PTI. The supporters of PTI are enthusiastic about the chances of their party in the forthcoming elections. Some over exuberant even claim a clean sweep. Brig. Farooq Hameed Khan® in an article published in a local newspaper states, “While October 30 kindled the candle of hope for Pakistan’s future, March 23 lighted the flame of a ‘Naya Pakistan’. On both occasions, Imran Khan displayed vision of a statesman and a national leader.” PTI has made an electoral alliance with Jamait-e-Islami-a step that makes sense since PTI lacks rural grounding and is restricted to urban areas only. It may stand to gain by this alliance. However, others point towards lack of any policies by PTI to bring about the much touted ‘Naya Pakistan.’ They also claim PTI lacks a well-knit team of people to achieve the claim. Induction of fall-outs of other parties, now close to the PTI Chief has not helped. That PTI will erode the vote bank of PML-N in Punjab owing to the latter’s bad governance is a foregone conclusion. To what degree they are able to harness their support and convert it into votes remains to be seen.oooooo

An unexpected entrant in the arena was Tahir-ul-Qadri, He claimed to “get rid of electoral dictatorship.” He raised questions about the integrity of the candidates in light of Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Mr Qadri insisted that before elections are held, a system must be put in place to probe the integrity of candidates. Since his party will not be contesting the forthcoming elections, some believe, his entry in the foray was aimed to build pressure in order to wean out the candidates who have failed to come up to the standards constitutionally laid down and flagrantly violated.

The side-dish is the re-entry of Former President General Pervez Musharraf. Columnist Cyril Almeida said Musharraf the politician today evokes the memory of Imran Khan from a decade ago: a high-wattage name, lots of media coverage, and absolutely no impact on the electorate. This may or may not turn out to be true in light of the welcome received by him on his return to Pakistan. Notwithstanding the challenges, both legal and otherwise, his party will manage to cull some seats, if they contest. Musharraf had declared the rally by Tahir-ul-Qadri a success saying in unequivocal terms, ““I have supported them from the beginning.”

Mush & TUQ

The three vote-cinching parties offer different goodies to the people. PML-N with its glossy manifesto, making wild promises- especially in relation to countering energy crisis-solutions suggested neither workable nor practical. PPP mainly banks on the Bhutto legacy and the fact that being the only national party, it has access to the Pakistani People. There are many populist promises thrown in, that work. MQM, talks about everything under the sun from education, poverty alleviation & empowerment, health, urban development and so on. One may pose the question, as to why these were not acted upon in these five years- maybe a query for another day!

Then there are the motley of smaller regional parties, smaller religious parties, the independents…all wanting a piece of the pie!

The million dollar question is: which way will the camel sit? And no, the Army is not taking over. The facts are different: that the ‘electable’ will carry weight, electoral alliances will be cobbled together between the smaller/newer parties with one aim: to oppose PPP. Will their joint seats succeed in forming the government? Who will head that alliance? PTI Chief? Will PTI lose on table failing to carry other winners with it? Or, will PPP succeed in proving itself to be the only nationalist party it states in its manifesto? With whom will PML-N and MQM throw in their lot? One would not undermine PPP’s negotiation abilities.

One thing is clear. It will be a hung parliament with more cooks joining in to make the broth.

The writer is Author of, “A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.” She is a University Professor & may be reached at Twitter ID: @yasmeen_9

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