The Pakistan Political Palette

This is a Pkpotpourri Exclusive

By: Yasmeen Ali

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 18th Amendment- 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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  • Javed Hafeez  On March 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    These would be big money elections.Zardari is desperate to be re-elected and for that NA and PA seats are required in large measure.NS has been out of federal power far too long. For both AAZ and NS power means mutiplication of personal assets. Only PPP and PML(N & Functional) have the kind of money to buy voters.Minimum price bid for one vote is equal to the daily wage of a labourer. Others can jack it up.IK will not be in a position to compete in that respect and may have to settle for 30-40 NA seats.I see ML leading followed by PPP and then TI.Who so ever comes to power, will face huge problems on the economic front.
    We may be forced to down size the governments(which may be difficult in coalitions), down size the armed forces, lower our international profile. I do not see public services like education and health facilities improving for the common man.For the next government(s) it would be a gigantic task to complete five years.Unless the rich pay taxes, energy subsidy is phased out and GST imposed, our fiscal deficit would not be controled.We are getting closer to the days of reckoning.

    • Yasmeen Ali  On March 26, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      Nothing will be downsized. If IK makes 20 seats he’s done well.
      PS These will be the bloodiest of elections.

  • Mamnoon  On March 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Well-balanced article. I guess you believe ” Mitti Payo” gentleman is a non-factor as you did not mention him I agree, he is a non-factor.

  • Yasmeen Ali  On March 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Lol. No I do not believe in Matti Pao.But in connecing dots Sir.

  • Ahsan Abbas  On March 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    A beautiful piece

  • Zeeshan Shah  On March 27, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Very well linked article 🙂 Thank you !

  • Dr Badar  On March 27, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Do we continue on the disaster course with talk shows and analysis or the inevitable

    mainly to quote from Robert article

    Surely Pakistan does not lack for talented, entrepreneurial individuals, idealistic youth, or a core constituency for creating a modern, rules-based state. And in recent years it has developed a feisty media and a judiciary willing to challenge traditional power brokers.

    Pakistan has failed abysmally in cultivating leadership, vision, and a national commitment to turn around the fortunes of an ailing state. Equally bad, the people of Pakistan have for too long tolerated shoddy governance, venal politicians, failing institutions, and second-best performance. The equanimity with which Pakistanis accept bad governance and reward those culpable with new terms of office remains astonishing. One current minister, for instance, the official whose portfolio includes law and order, is credibly reported to have blamed Karachi’s abominable history of sectarian murders on angry wives and girlfriends. Rather than incensed indignation, his eccentricities have inspired little more than amused tolerance.

    How to explain this collective shrug of indifference, this fatalistic acceptance of conditions and behaviors that ought to be unacceptable? That is a complicated question that defies easy answer. Part of the explanation might lie in a feeling of powerlessness that reflects the daily experience of most Pakistanis, who see themselves as having little control over the decisions and processes that shape their day-to-day lives. Hence the widespread belief in Pakistan in the ‘hidden hand,’ in conspirators hiding in the shadows.
    Can Pakistan continue to muddle through? Will Pakistan exist more or less in its current manifestation ten years from now? In all probability, yes.
    But is muddling through good enough? Decay is a cumulative process and not easily reversed. Equally to the point, today’s Pakistan displays few signs that any of its current power centers are serious about trying to reverse the country’s rot. There are exceptions, to be sure. But that’s precisely the problem: they are exceptions.
    Ultimately, Pakistanis must do this themselves. They must demonstrate an unaccustomed willingness to face hard realities, to make difficult choices, to accept short-term pain in the hope of laying the groundwork for longer term success.
    This is a troubling conclusion, if for no reason beyond the fact that most people find it easier to tolerate the status quo, no matter how unsatisfactory, than to jump off a cliff into an unknowable future. Until that moment when a fed-up Gdansk electrician runs out of patience, a charismatic ayatollah unexpectedly emerges to rally his fellow aggrieved, a spontaneous protest takes on a life of its own. At which point anything can happen, and not only in ways that are constructive or beneficial.
    That’s a risky strategy for reform in Pakistan, if it’s a strategy at all. Perhaps more prudently, Pakistanis (and Americans) should start by demanding accountability from their political leaders-and be prepared to fire those leaders when they fail to deliver. Pakistanis must no longer be content with observing some of the forms of democracy-periodic elections, multiple political parties, a parliament. Instead, they must demand the realities of good governance-honesty, transparency, and accountability. Until that time, outsiders can do little more than stand by as horrified spectators, watching a train wreck in slow motion.

  • Khalid Rahim  On March 27, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Who knows a miracle can take place! In 1970 nobody expected PPP to be the winning party beating Muslim League and National Awami Party being the two old
    political rivals. Unless there is no interference from any corner PTI has good chances of winning enough seats to be wooved as a coalition partner. Whoever IK joins in coalition and he controls the other partner from running amock as in the last five years the coalition ran the government in circles. We may have a chance to see a new dawn.

  • Yasmeen Ali  On March 27, 2013 at 5:35 am

    An extremely thought provoking response that has clarity & deserves a well thought out reply.
    Robert Fisk is a writer whom I respect.
    -Yes Pakistan does not lack talented individuals.Only today I read news of Labha Masih from Okara. Son of parents who swept streets their whole lives, he has now become a Judge after passing Public Service Commission Exams. A news that gave me a deep sense of Pride in Pakistan.
    -Yes Pakistan has failed miserably in cultivating leadership. Leadership cultivates,in turn vision. A democratic set up inter-party & nationally results in accountability and progress. Unfortunately, what we have seen in Pakistan never was democracy. It is dynastic politics exchanged with democracy. Lack of transparent , in-house party elections can never lead to democratic order.When the head of the party remains the same, irrespective of merit- sycophancy ,appointments made on personal preferences etc must result. Please read my piece published in Pakistan Observer on Democracy:
    -To have people deserving of the seats-and to offer choices in true spirit to people I had written a few months ago to Fakharuddin G Ibrahim. I suggested implementing a system of NOTA. This allows a slot on the Ballot Paper stating, ‘None of the Above’. A straight 50% of the constituency voting on it must result in disqualification of all candidates in that constituency & re-elections with fresh candidates.When masses are denied a choice barring the age old names-what can be the result?
    -Economic dependence particularly in rural areas guides decisions.This in itself is a long debate.
    -Muddling through is a poor substitute for good governance-unfortunately, it seems this is how things will remain for some time to come.
    -Let me state here, its not just the Americans who are interested in the Region and/or meddle in our affairs-Saudi Arabia is a big contender.Surely we have not forgotten the NRO? In fact, Musharraf’s return to Pakistan is a result of back-door dealing with saudi Arabia who cautioned Nawaz against any harsh reaction to Musharaf’s return .And what of UK? Why is UK harboring Altaf Hussain? When countries serve their vested interests by harboring politicians of Pakistan can we expect accountability?The court of Answerability becomes these powers not the people of Pakistan. I share a link of Geoge Galloway as he blasted the UK Parliament.
    -In light of the above,which is the tip of the ice berg, how can the people demand transparency , honesty etc?
    I look forward to hearing more on this from you.
    Fond Regards

  • SHOMU BHATTACHARYA  On March 27, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Now that Imran Khan is again going to bat, Musharraf too has thrown in his hat. And Nawaz Sharif thinks that only he deserves to get the pat. But Bilawal it seems has already smelt a rat. And for heaven sake please don’t throw the poor people of Pakistan once again on the mat.

    Therefore do take the Lady’s advice and vote for only those who are honest, sincere and who tell no lies.

  • Brig Farooq Hameed Khan  On March 27, 2013 at 6:01 am


  • idrees  On March 29, 2013 at 6:36 am

    We pray and we strive that imran wins a majority routing both the PML and the PPP for good measure. And may all the small parties join him in establishing a clean and efficient government.

  • Zubair  On March 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    A balanced and factual report. Money has always been the main criteria on any elections—-however, these elections promise a lot of bloodshed. even if Imran gets 20 seats it will be a good start. If not overall majority we need some one who an offer a good and strong opposition and I hope IK can do just that,

  • Khalid Iqbal  On March 31, 2013 at 3:40 am

    An excellent analyses of the political scene by Yasmeen. It’s for or against no one. It simply lays bare how the things are today. Very concise and articulate.

  • suraiyahaider  On April 21, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Reblogged this on MedChemHot.Pakistan.

  • Franziska  On June 27, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I definitely
    enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.
    I will remember to bookmark your blog and will often come back in the foreseeable future.

    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have a nice morning!


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