Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Parties in Pakistan - Dr M Hassan & Kamila Hyat.

Political Parties in Pakistan

In any system of parliamentary representation, political parties form the primary unit of democracy. As such, they are instrumental in moving the process forward and determining the particular shape it assumes in a given socio-political framework. Unfortunately in Pakistan, this role has not always been effectively played by the 96 or so registered political parties in the country. In addition, administrative intervention in the working of parties, and most recently the attempts made through a series of constitutional changes to diminish their significance alongside that of an elected parliament, can act only to make political parties a still less potent force.

Of the major political parties, the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have recently come under sustained assault from the military regime, which has been accused of resorting to harassment and victimization directed against their leaders. However, the previous record of the two parties and their leaders is not impressive either, with multiple accusations of corruption and an abuse of power leveled against them. The bar placed on electoral contest by the leaders of both parties, under the rules in place for the 2002 elections, and actions taken in an apparent attempt to weaken the two parties that have dominated general elections since 1988, has inevitably brought about significant changes on the political scene. The most important of these is the emergence of a new faction of the PML, known as the PML-QA, which is seen as the party backed by the regime and the largest PML faction in the country.

The forging of opportunist alliances, with parties once divided sharply on the basis of ideology now united mainly in an attempt to create a strong front against groups backed by the military authorities, signifies too what a limited role political conviction plays as far as parties in the country are concerned. Indeed, it was only weeks before the October elections that most parties thought it fit to put forward their manifestos or explain their ideological commitments in any detail.

Of the major parties in the country, only the right wing, fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has been able to conduct regular, internal elections. Within most other parties, leadership has remained limited to a particular coterie, sometimes based on kinship networks, articulating only a narrow range of interests. Internal power struggles in the absence of party elections have led frequently to the fragmentation of political parties into factions or splinter groups, and this process has contributed in part to the steadily increasing number of political groupings present in the country. The provision contained within the Political Parties Ordinance of June 2002, in which various conditions have been set for the participation in the electoral process by political parties, including the conduct of internal elections, has resulted only in something closely resembling a farce with parties undertaking a largely cosmetic process to fulfill this requirement. As a result, almost all major parties elected their present leaders unopposed. In cases where some contest was witnessed, such as within the PML-QA, the challenge thrown to the leadership of Mian Azhar by Ijazul Haq was seen chiefly as a drama staged to indicate that a democratic contest had indeed taken place.

Political parties on the national scene today For the October 2002 polls, over 120 parties applied to the Election Commission for the allocation of symbols. This statistic has altered only insignificantly since Pakistan's return to full representative democracy in 1988, and the parties constituting this figure comprised a vast diversity of groups, ranging from religious parties of the extreme right to parties of the left, such as the Mazdoor Kissan Party, formed in 1967 following the break-up of the National Awami Party (NAP). Under new rules in place for the polls, including the barring of parties headed by convicts, the need for parties to have conducted transparent internal polls, the requirement that the party represent an identifiable group of voters and so on, the Election Commission registered only 55 parties in the initial stage of the process with nearly 35 others registered after their filed appeals against the EC decision not to register them.

A total of 96 parties will as such contest the 2002 elections.

The rules put in place for electoral contest by parties also meant that some parties, most notably the PPP, were in fact forced to contest under an altered name.

A new party, calling itself the PPP-Parliamentarian (PPPP), headed by Amin Makhdoom Fahim but including virtually all PPP leaders, was formed days ahead of the date set for registering parties with the EC, and was duly registered by it.

This manouevre, made to bypass the new laws put in place by the military regime, which have been widely criticised by groups in civic society, means that technically speaking at least, the PPP will not be contesting the 2002 polls.

The bar placed in January 2002 on some of the most extreme right-wing parties in the country has this time round eliminated groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), responsible for promoting a dangerous brand of sectarian militancy, the Tehrik-e-Fiqah Jafriya and several other sectarian forces from the list of registered parties. Others, thought to be responsible for similar sectarian violence, such as the Sunni Tehreek, however remain on the list while candidates seen as linked to the SSP and other banned groups are in some cases contesting either as independents or from the platform of the Muttahida Mahaz-e-Amal (MMA), a newly formed coalition of at least 12 religious parties.

A large number of religious parties remain on the list of parties taking part in the October 2002 polls. Indeed, over the last two decades, many new religious parties have cropped up. These include groups such as the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) of Maulana Tahirul Qadri, a former PML-N ally who formed his own party in 1989, but failed to win a single seat in the 1990, 1993 or 1997 polls.

Although PAT’s manifesto puts forward a strongly orthodox ideology, the rise of religious groups with extremist agendas means that groups such as PAT and the older more established Islamic parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami or the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI) have assumed a reputation for being comparatively moderate in their views, despite the fact that they advocate policies which are often strongly discriminatory towards women and religious minorities. PAT was in fact denied membership of the MMA since it is seen as supporting the military regime and its pro-US line against militancy by religious extremists.

Despite significant street power, and in some cases the threat of terrorist violence, Pakistan's religious parties have failed to make any significant impact in terms of a presence in parliament. In the 1993 election, the three biggest religions groups and alliances -- the Pakistan Islamic Front (PIF), the Islami Jamhoori Mahaz (IJM) and the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz (MDM) managed to secure between them 1.3 million votes, making up a meagre 6.7 per cent of the total ballots cast. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the major component of the 1993 PIF, boycotted the 1997 elections, demanding accountability ahead of the polls. Other religious parties too failed to make a significant impact, with the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) standing virtually alone among religious parties within parliament, after it claimed two NA seats from the NWFP.

Unlike the 1997 elections, no party of any note has announced a boycott of the 2002 polls. Several smaller parties, such as the Qaumi Jamhoori Party (QJP), formed by the late Omar Asghar Khan in 2001 or the Millat Party (MP) formed by former President Farooq Leghari in 1999 after Leghari was removed from the presidency following a prolonged row with then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, will be participating in the polls for the first time. Like the National Peoples Party (NPP), formed in 1989 by former PPP leader Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi in the hope that it would provide an alternative to the PPP led by Benazir Bhutto, the MP is not expected to make a major electoral impact. The MP, the NPP and another breakaway PPP faction led by former NWFP chief minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, and known as the PPP-Sherpao, form a part of the pro-government Grand National Alliance (GNA).

Other smaller parties such as the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who himself will not be contesting polls since he does not qualify another rules dictating that all candidates must be graduates, will also contest the elections. The PDP forms a loose alliance alongside other parties making up the anti-government Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD). However, major ARD member parties, such as the PPP and the PML-N were unable to reach seat adjustments, despite prolonged negotiations, and will in most cases contest polls against each other. The PPP and the various PML factions are however expected, once again, to largely dominate the polls, as they have since 1988, when the country’s first democratic election was held after 11 years of military dictatorship under the late General Ziaul Haq. A new factor this time is the emergence of the Mian Azhar led PML-QA, which is seen by many as likely to claim the largest number of parliamentary seats among PML groups, with many former PML-N leaders now a part of this faction. Indeed, between them, the PPP and the PML have since 1988 dominated parliament, each time claiming over 70 per cent of National Assembly seats. While in the 1988 election, the PPP took 38.70 per cent of the votes cast, and the IJI (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad), an alliance including the PML-N, claimed a 30.60 share, this equation has since then shifted back and forth, favouring the PML-N in 1990 and 1997 and the PPP once again in 1993. In the 1997 elections, the PML-N in fact made its strongest ever showing, claiming a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly with its 137 seats and taking over 39 percent of votes cast in an election that saw a low turnout by voters.

The two major arrivals on the political scene in 1997, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf of former cricket captain Imran Khan and the PPP (Shaheed Bhutto), led by the widow of the late Murtaza Bhutto, Ghinwa Bhutto, will again be trying their chances at the polls. The PTI has found itself somewhat unexpectedly locked in battle with the regime, following Imran Khan’s accusation that it was engaging in poll rigging and that the accountability process initiated by it was biased. While the PTI is not seen as a major electoral force, Imran Khan is seen as a possible new entrant to parliament from his seat in the southern Punjab.

The PPP-SB will again be taking on the PPP in its traditional stronghold of rural Sindh. With Ghinwa Bhutto unable to take part, as she does not hold a degree, the party is again thought unlikely to have any significant impact or slice away from the PPPP’s share anything more than the single NA seat it claimed in 1997.

The major contenders for political power

In the last four elections held since the return to full parliamentary democracy in 1988, following an eleven year long exercise in military rule, and later the controlled democracy of the 1985 party less polls conducted under General Ziaul Haq, the PPP of Benazir Bhutto and the PML-N of Mian Nawaz Sharif have been the dominant forces. Each time, in 1988, in 1990, in 1993 and in 1997, contesting independently or as a part of a broader alliance, the parties have between them acquired a share of the vote standing at around 70 per cent. Although both traditionally line up against opposite each other on the battlefield of Pakistan’s politics, for the 2002 polls the two have moved closer together as a result of their shared opposition to the Musharraf regime. There can also be no doubt that the ideological gulf between the PPP and the various PML factions is today an increasingly narrow one, despite their tradition of fierce rivalry.

Both advocate mainly centrist policies, pressing for privatisation, while commitment to any agenda that could bring genuine social change, such as wide-ranging land reforms, is not brought up in any significant context in the manifestoes of either party.

However, largely on the basis of a reputation for left-leaning politics, gained in 1970 when the PPP, under the charismatic leadership of its founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, swept the polls advocating a policy of ‘roti, kapra and makan’ (food, clothes and shelter) for every citizen, as well as other pledges for land-reform and a redistribution of wealth, the PPP continues to proffer its commitment to the upliftment of the masses and the creation of greater social justice.

The Pakistan Peoples Party was founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and a number of notable intellectuals, at a time when the agitation to remove the military dictator Ayub Khan was gaining momentum. Putting forward a socialist inspired agenda for change, the PPP played a major part in the protests against Ayub. By championing the cause of the poor and crying out for the rights of the common people, Bhutto responded both to economic need and the urge for political participation. In the 1970elections which followed, the PPP swept polls in what was then West Pakistan, but in the eastern wing of the country, the Awami League of Mujibur Rehman, contesting on a six-point agenda which included greater autonomy for East Pakistan, gained a clear-cut majority, and by virtue of a larger number of parliamentary seats, the right to form the next government. A refusal by the mainly Punjabi military-bureaucratic elite which had ruled Pakistani since its inception to allow the formation of such a government led eventually to a bitter civil war. Pakistan was partitioned as the year 1970 came to a close, and the independent state of Bangladesh born in 1971.

Under Zulfikar Bhutto, the PPP ruled Pakistan till 1977, when a protest campaign by political parties, claiming rigging in the March 1977 polls, led to the overthrow of Bhutto and the army take-over by General Ziaul Haq. During the eleven-year martial law that followed, the PPP continued a struggle for the ouster of the dictatorship. After General Zia’s death in a 1988 mid-air aircraft explosion, the PPP, under Bhutto’s daughter Benazir, returned to power. However intervention by the President of the country, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, in 1990 cut short her tenure in office.

The PPP sat on the opposition benches from 1990 to 1993, and was again elected to power in the 1993 general elections. The term of the second Bhutto government was terminated in 1996, this time by a President appointed by the PPP government, Farooq Ahmed Leghari. The 1997 elections brought for the PPP the poorest electoral result to date, with the party claiming only 18 National Assembly seats as opposed to the 137 taken by the PML-N, its main rival in the election.

In both 1990 and 1996, corruption and mismanagement were cited among the reasons for the government’s removal, with Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, among those against whom allegations were regularly made in the national press. Zardari today is serving his seventh year in jail. He has been convicted in only one of the 13 cases against him, and has been awarded bail in 11 of these cases. Benazir Bhutto has also been accused of pushing the PPP further in the direction of policies aimed at maintaining, rather than challenging the status-quo, under pressure from the military-bureaucratic establishment which has always dominated politics in the country. She has also been charged with conforming to the narrow class interests of the feudal and other wealthy elite who figure prominently within her party, and steering a course away from the original agenda for change, advocated -- but never fully pursued -- by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto is currently in self-imposed exile, and faces arrest on corruption charges related to various deals reached during her tenure in office if she returns. She has been declared an absconder by courts for failing to appear before them for the hearing of charges against her. Her candidature for the 2002 elections, as a candidate of the PPPP was rejected, on the grounds that she was an absconder from justice, and thus barred under the new rules in place for the 2002 polls.

Several splinter groups, led by disgruntled PPP leaders, have broken away since 1989 from the main body of the party, but have failed to make any significant impact at the polls.

The main challenger to the PPP, the PML, inherits the legacy of the Muslim League, the party which dominated the pre-1947 struggle for the creation of Pakistan on the basis of a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims, where their economic, religious and political rights could be protected. The question of economic domination by the Hindu majority of united India, and the issue of access to prime government jobs, also played a part in the struggle for Pakistan, which was spearheaded by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah’s Muslim League dominated politics in Pakistan during the first few years after the country’s creation in August 1947. However, the failure to frame a constitution for the new country, or to conduct elections, tarnished the record of the party following the death of Jinnah in September 1948, with regional dissent, the fall of several weak governments and the rise of bureaucratic power leading up to the military take-over by Ayub Khan in 1958. During the years before military intervention, the Muslim League had struggled to combat internal strife within its own ranks, and faced opposition, notably in the minority provinces from more radical, regional parties, as well as confronting the ideological confusion over a future course of direction which followed the creation of Pakistan.

The post-Ayub period saw the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and in the campaign against him, in 1977, the Muslim League played a part as a major member of the nine-party alliance pitted against the PPP. Under the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq which followed, the Muslim League received considerable patronage, forming a major part of the un-elected Majlis-I-Shoora created by Zia. After the partyless 1985 elections, Mohammad Khan Junejo, a Muslim League leader selected for the job by Zia, assumed charge as prime minister.

In May 1988, Junejo was unceremoniously ousted, after surprising his military masters by adopting an independently democratic stand on a number of issues. The rise of the industrialist and trader from Lahore, Mian Nawaz Sharif, as a Muslim League leader in the Punjab, begun during the Zia era, and by the time parliamentary democracy, with party participation, was restored in 1988, Nawaz Sharif had emerged as a significant leader, commanding the most powerful faction of the Muslim League, within the leadership structure, within which business, industrial and feudal interests were all well represented. Although the PML-N remains a party anchored strongly in the heart of the Punjab, during the 1993 elections it broke new ground by securing a respectable 26.7 per cent of votes in the interior Sindh, while an ideologically incomprehensible but electorally sound alliance with the left-leaning Awami National Party (ANP) helped it gain presence in the North West Frontier Province. In 1997, the PML-N claimed a massive share of seats in the National Assembly, winning 137 seats from across the country, including traditional PPP strongholds such as the interior Sindh. It also established a significant presence in the NWFP, while winning a smaller but still relevant share of votes in Balochistan.

After a tenure of two and a half years in office, during which Nawaz Sharif, as prime minister consolidated increasing power in his own hands, stripped the President of powers awarded to him under the controversial article 58(2-B) of the Constitution, forced President Farooq Leghari out of office and waged a battle with the Supreme Court leading to the removal of then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Nawaz was himself removed in the military coup of October 1999. Accused of attempting to hijack a commercial aircraft in which COAS General Pervez Mushrraf was a passenger, Nawaz was jailed and later found guilty of the hijacking charges. He and his extended family were exiled to Saudi Arabia in an agreement with the military government reached at the end of 2000. Since then, the regime has maintained the family is barred from participation in Pakistan’s politics for ten years under the terms of this secret deal.

The PML-QA, now seen as the most powerful PML faction, emerged after the exile of the Sharifs, and in fact was carved out from within the PML-N. Mian Azhar, a former governor of the Punjab and a close ally of Nawaz Sharif, who shared with the Sharif family a background as a trader and industrialist, had developed increased differences with the party chief during the PML-N’s second tenure in office. Azhar was elected as leader of the new party in March 2001, as the new faction took formal shape. The PML-N repeatedly accused the regime of harassing its members and coercing them to line up with the Azhar-led faction, as a fierce war between the rival PML groups was waged. Ahead of the 2002 polls, a significant number of former PML-N leaders placed themselves in the PML-QA camp, with the two parties are lined up against each other in the electoral battle ahead.

Other PML factions, formed over the years, too continue to exist, with the Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo) entering into an alliance for the 1993 polls with the PPP. Claiming 3.9 per cent of the vote cast, the PML-J under the leadership of Hamid Nasir Chatta helped bolster the PPP vote share in the Punjab. However dissent within the PML-J has split the faction once again, continuing a tradition of division on the basis of personal conflict or struggles for leadership, with the Muslim League today fractured into more than six factions, each signified by the addition of a separate initial before its name to distinguish it from other groupings.

Regional divisions and the politics of alliances Although the political contest in Pakistan is often depicted as a battle between the two major parties, this is something of a fallacy. Notably in the smaller provinces, strong regional-based parties have existed since the creation of Pakistani, and this tendency has continued till the present date, providing perhaps some indication of the ethnic, and ideological, diversity in the country.

One of the parties which most effectively demonstrates the ethnic nature politics has frequently pursued in Pakistan is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party which holds almost total sway as far as electoral success is concerned in the Sindh capital of Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city, gaining over 5 per cent of the national vote in both 1988 and 1990, an astonishing figure given its narrow base. On both occasions this translated into 13 National Assembly, and 28 Sindh seats. The MQM boycotted the 1993 polls. In the 1997 polls, it again claimed a share of just under 5 per cent of the vote, which gave it 12 seats in the NA.

Representing the Mohajirs, or those who immigrated from India to Pakistan in 1947, the MQM, founded in 1978 by Altaf Hussain (today in self-exile in London), has powerfully mobilisted the search for identity of the mohajir population, and its feelings of resentment against perceived discrimination. Isolated from the population of rural Sindh by language and culture, the Urdu-speaking mohajirs, locked in a tussle for university places and government jobs, has carved out a distinct ethnic identity for itself in the years after Partition. Governed by both internal and extenal constraints which prevented integration, the mohajir sense of ethnicity has grown stronger, rather than weakened, over the decades since 1947. Since its fornication, the highly organised cadres of the MQM have articulated the demands of this ethnic group for an end to discrimination, and have established a powerful hold over the mohajir community of Karachi and other urban centres in Sindh. Despite accusations of indulging in terrorist acts, which resulted in a crackdown on Karachi under the last PPP government, the MQM remains the most powerful political force in the major urban centre of Sindhi. Originally called the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, the party re-named itself as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the 1990s.

At around the same time, internal rifts within the party also led to the emergence of a faction opposed to exiled leader Altaf Hussain, which is known as the MQM-Haqiqi. Rural Sindh meanwhile remains a stronghold of the PPP, with some limited, but ideologically committed support for the smaller, Sindhi parties who advocate greater autonomy for a province which has since Partition frequently raised a voice against political domination by the Punjabi-influenced centre.

In the North West Frontier Province, the anti-British activities of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s Khudai Khidmitgar movement had created considerable political activism in the years before Partition. After independence, the National Awami Party (NAP), created in the 1950s on a progressive, mainly secular platform advocating social reform, continued to exercise a strong influence over Frontier politics, in opposition to the Muslim League. The politics of NAP were inherited in the 1980s by its successor, the Awami National Party (ANP), which under the leadership of Asfandyar Wali, the grandson of Ghaffar Khan, remains a major force in the NWFP today. However, the party has been accused recently of increased opportunism, particularly in the formation in 1997 of an alliance with the PML-N, a party which, in ideological terms, seems to be diametrically at odds with the more radical policies of the ANP.

Other examples of the ideological chaos which exists within Pakistani politics come in the form of various alliances between parties that seem to share little in common. In 1993, the PPP, which still presents itself as a party advocating a moderate, tolerant brand of Islam, linked up with the JUI-F of Maulana Fazalur Rehman, whose madrassahs (religious schools) helped train the fanatical Taliban militias of Afghanistan. This marriage of convenience appeared to produce few results as far as the PPP was concerned, and the 1993 polls brought a mini-debacle for the party in the NWFP. The combined percentage of the popular votes for itself and the JUI-F plummeted from 33.4 per cent in 1988 and 43 per cent in 1990, to 26.4 per cent in 1993. In the 1997 polls, the JUI-F, contesting independently, claimed two NA seats. It will go into the 2002 polls as a part of the MMA alliance, which has limited backing from the PML-N.

On the other side of the divide, the ANP too suffered has a decline in fortunes over the years. In 1993, it was reduced to three National Assembly seats from the six it had held in 1990, while the PML-N made major gains in the province, winning 10 NA seats and 27.3 per cent of the vote. However, most of the PML-N gains came in the Hazara area, with fewer inroads made into the Pukhtoon regions which form the heartland of the province, and where the religions parties made some advances. The agreement between the PML-N and the ANP reached ahead of the 1997 elections again bolstered the ANP in its home province, with the party claiming 10 NA seats.

Of the three smaller provinces of Pakistan, it is Balochistan which appears to be most removed from the political mainstream in terms of electoral politics. The leading national parties have always struggled here, and in the 1993 elections, it was again the nationalist and regionalist parties which finished with seven of the provinces 11 National Assembly seats. Three of these went to the Pukhtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) led by Mehmood Achakzai, representing largely the Pukhtoon population of Balochistan and speaking strongly for the rights of smaller provinces; two seats were claimed by Nawab Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and two by smaller Baloch parties. However, in terms of vote share, the PPP, once totally absent from the Baloch political scene, made its presence felt, with 18.4 per cent of the vote – the largest by a single party. The formation of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) by veteran leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal in late 1996 brought together several of the smaller, nationalist Baloch parties on a single platform. The BNP took 3 NA seats in 1997, while the JWP claimed 2, again indicating the extent to which regional parties hold sway in the province.

Political trends

While in terms of numbers, the political parties engaged in the electoral contest in Pakistan is great, this does not represent, in ideological terms, a political diversity. The class base for most of the parties has failed to move beyond the traditional elite which wields influence in Pakistan's politics, and even when representatives from the middle-classes have emerged, as in the case of those making up the leadership of the MQM, they heave tended to articulate interests based on factors of ethnicity, other narrow categories, rather than on the basis of broader class interests. Moreover, in terms of ideology, the major political parties have been moving closer towards each other, and generally steering away from agendas advocating radical social change. The divide in terms of policy is narrower than ever before, and despite their vociferous attacks on each other, and the deep-rooted polarisation which often prevents them from coming together even on matters of common interest, the leading parties in the country represent a single force, rather than a range of groups articulating different, conflicting interests.

The virtual disappearance of the left from electoral politics in Pakistan has aggravated this tendency, with conflict between parties based largely on rhetoric or highly personalised attacks on party leaders. The fact that, on the basis of political opportunism, members of one party are frequently willing to switch alliances and move to another group perhaps reflects the extent to which politics in the country have been stripped of ideological beliefs or commitment. And, even for the parties themselves, it is electoral pragmatism aimed at increasing vote banks and seat shares which for the most part dictates strategy, rather than the pursuit of the lofty ideals detailed in party manifestoes.

This remains as true for the October 2002 elections as those that preceded it, while the restrictions placed on outdoor public gatherings under rules put in place by the military regime have in fact further encouraged politics based on negotiations in drawing rooms rather than the putting forward of agendas that serve the interests of the citizens of the country. This factor perhaps also goes to explain the limited voter interest in electoral campaigning for the 2002 contest, leading to speculation that turn out will remain low on polling day, as voters continue to await a party that truly represents them and effectively articulates their concerns.

COURTESY: Kamila Hyat

Party manifestos

Election manifestos were issued very late in the election campaign -just 10 days or a week before the polling day. Although election manifestos of major political contenders resemble each other, the main political players can be divided into three distinct groups;

a) Parties and alliances committed to support all actions and policies of the military rulers unconditionally. The administrative machinery is also visibly- sympathetic towards these individuals and groups.

b) Parties and alliances that are acting as opposition to the military rulers and are professing to change the arrangement made by the regime during last three years.

c) Religious parties and alliances that are against the military regime because of its policy against religious extremism and its decision to extend unconditional support to United States' military campaign in Afghanistan.

The main points of major political parties and alliances' election programmes are given below:

The Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP)

1 - If voted to power, the party will undo all constitutional amendments, except for women's representation and joint electorate, introduced by the military rulers;

2 - Will provide jobs to everyone, protect personal respect and improve law and order situation;

3 - Will strengthen democratic reforms and provide protection to minorities;

4 - Support right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and creation of a Palestinian State;

5 - Support an independent and impartial anti-corruption institution to investigate matters against any citizen irrespective of the office he or she may hold,

6 - One economy, the PPPP focuses on making the changes that help people make successful business. "Pay as you earn scheme" will be adopted in government corporations and other salaried institutions.

7 - A credit bank will be established for small and medium size loans to encourage purchase of television, furniture, cars, houses and other household items.

8 - The party pledges to eradicate poverty by increasing social sector budget.

9 - For enchancing literacy and standard of education textbooks will be provided to schools. Libraries will be promoted and vocational centres will be established. A special credit facility will be available for outstanding students.

Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM)

1 - Revival of the true spirit of Lahore Resolution. All the Constitutions, including the 1973 Constitution, failed to provide fundamental rights, security, democracy, freedom, social justice and equality to the people of Pakistan, specially to the people of smaller provinces. All the defunct constitutions of Pakistan including the 1973 constitution were bereft of the true spirit of the Lahore Resolution.

2 - The civil and military autocrats have made so many amendments to the Constitution of 1973 without the consent of the people that it has lost its original form, spirit and utility.

3 - MQM stands committed to strive for complete economic, financial and administrative autonomy and political freedom for provinces through;

a) Making the Senate an effective body for the protection of constituent units.

b) The provinces will have full provincial autonomy in accordance with the spirit of the Lahore Resolution of 1940;

c) No taxes or fee will be imposed by the federal government on its own behalf;

d) Funds needed by the federation for defence, foreign affairs and currency will be paid by the provinces on the basis of population;

e) Zakat will be distributed in the districts from where it is collected;

f) All federally administered areas will be made regular districts within the jurisdiction of the respective provinces, except the federal capital;

g) The local bodies institutions will be strengthened with effective financial administrative and legislative powers;

h) All federal corporations, autonomous bodies and services including defence will have equal provincial representation;

i) Governor will hold office subject to the approval of the provincial assembly.

4 - Allocate 5 percent of GNP annually for education.

a - Education up to matriculation will be compulsory and free.

b - Subsidized girls' education in rural areas.

c - Allocate 4 percent of GNP for health sector.

d - State Bank of Pakistan to be completely autonomous with a Board of Directors having equal representation of all provinces.

e - Minimal reliance on foreign loans.

5 - Revised labour policy.

a - Guarantees for security of life and property.

b - Eradication of feudal system

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)

1 - Resistance to continue till the end of military government.

a - Eradication of poverty through enhanced economic activity.

b - Education for all by providing more funds for education.

c - To create an effective defence committee for solving controversial issues between armed forces and civilian leadership

d - To work for the restoration of the prestige of the armed forces by making it a non~ political institution and raising its professional expertise in the field of defence.

2 - To have an open debate on the defence budget, except for confidential expenditures.

3 - To provide more economic activities for greater employment opportunities.

a - To support right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

b - To improve relations with India through bilateralism.

c - To have an independent judiciary to provide justice to all.

d - To stress on mutual dialogue and debate to reach national consensus on various issues.

3 - To provide full protection and equal opportunities to religious minorities and other disadvantaged classes.

4 - To have close friendly relations with the Muslim world.

5 - To undo all amendments made by Musharraf administration in the Constitution.

6 - To continue and improve all those policies and programmes of development that were being followed by the Muslim League (N) before and upto October 12, 1999.

Muslim League (Q)

PML (Q) has issued an agenda of 22 points for political reforms, good governance, and economic development.

1 - Political reforms to have a stable democratic government.

2 - To have independent judiciary to provide justice to all.

3 - To ensure basic civil rights to all citizens.

4 - To eradicate poverty through enhanced economic activity.

5 - To provide more employment opportunities by eradicating unemployment.

6 - To give special attention to agriculture, industries, education and health sectors.

7 - Special planning will be done to develop agriculture as a majority of the population depends on this sector. The role of the "middle man" will be curtailed to ensure better price for agricultural produce. Better facilities will be provided to transport produce from fields to markets.

8 - Small dams will be constructed to provide more water for irrigation and generate power.

9 - To avoid governance through ordinances and to make working of parliament effective through reform in the role of parliamentary committees.

10 - To preserve the "Islamic identity" of the State.

11 - To provide more facilities for education and to raise the standard of education at every level.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT)

The manifesto of PAT consists of 24 points for achieving its targets in various fields in next 10 years.

1 - To make Pakistan a modern, progressive Islamic state;

2 -To provide basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing to all;

3 - To provide opportunities for technical education.

4 - Eradicate poverty through creating more employment opportunities;

5 - Improve the conditions for women and end discrimination;

6 - Provide entertainment and recreation facilities to youth for the development of a healthy generation;

7 - To encourage creative arts and cultural activities;

8 - To improve conditions for economic activities.

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).

MMA is an election alliance of religious parties. The religious parties that had supported the military government initially after Oct 12, 1999, changed their stance after Musharraf administration decided to support United States' military campaign in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan has not been mentioned in the manifesto.

1 - To implement "Shariah" in Pakistan and make Quran and Sunnah the supreme law of the country;

2 - To protect ideological boundaries of Pakistan along with geographical boundaries;

3 - To end foreign interference in the affairs of Pakistan;

4 - To eradicate linguistic, ethnic and regional feelings and create a peaceful society based on Muslim brotherhood;

5 - To promote democratic traditions and protect Constitution and federal parliamentary system;

6 - To have independent judiciary and rule of law;

7 - Eradicate corruption and ensure democratic fundamental rights;

8 - To guarantee provincial autonomy and end of concurrent list;

9 - Protection of minorities' rights and security of their places of worship;

10 - To provide rights to women in accordance with Quran and Sunnah;

11 - To make education system in consonance with Islamic Ideology;

12 - To end unnecessary taxes on agriculture;

13 - Eradicate feudalism;

14 - Independent foreign policy with stress on better relations with Muslim world;

15 - Develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes;

16 - Support to right of self-determination for Kashmiri people;

17 - To provide healthy entertainment to youth;

18 - To ensure freedom of Press and freedom of expression and bring it in line with religious norms;

19 - To work for improvement in economic conditions;

20 - To enhance employment opportunities

Pakistan Tehrik-I-Insaf (PTI)

The PTI has stressed upon providing justice, human rights and enhancing the feeling of' self-respect and dignity among the people.

1 - People's power as the basis of democracy;

2 - Strong federation with autonomous provinces, with equitable distribution of resources;

3 - To undo amendments in Constitution made by the military government;

4 - Protect and strengthen local bodies;

5 - To implement police reforms for the betterment of law and order situation;

6 - To have an effective system of accountability to end corruption in all walks of life;

7 - Provision of permanent residence to the people lining in Katchi Abadis;

8 - To build 5 lakh houses every year;

9 - To provide better sports facilities to youth;

10 - To improve water resources and build new dams;

11 - To provide all employment in government sector through Public Service Commission

12 - Eradication of illiteracy;

13 - Provide better health facilities;

14 - To have tax reforms.

Sindh National Front

Sardar Mumtaz Ali Khan Bhutto

The SNF has rejected the federal system for Pakistan and said that Pakistan was established on the basis of confederal system, therefore, that should be implemented.

1 - Pakistan will be a confederation;

2 - Provinces will be states, and all authority would rest with the states;

3 - States will be sovereign and independent;

4 - States will collect all taxes;

5 - Armed forces will be controlled by the Centre, however, the defence expenditure and size of the armed forces will be reduced;

6 - President of the confederation would be elected from the Senate by rotation in alphabetical order from all states; President and prime minister will not be from the same state.

National Alliance

Tummandar Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari

National Alliance is an alliance of six parties, in which Millat Party is most prominent.

1 - Negotiations with IMF and World Bank to have new agreements;

2 - Reduce burden of foreign loans through payments from the money recovered from corrupt elements; to get wealth back accumulated abroad by corrupt elements;

3 - Restore confidence of the people in state institutions;

4 - Improve law and order;

5 - End unemployment through improved economic activities;

6 - To provide employment to one million people in education sector;

7 - Improvement in irrigation system and proper distribution of water among provinces;

8 - Have an effective system of accountability;

9 - Restore confidence of the people on judiciary by having an independent judiciary;

10 - To relate increase in salaries of public servants with the rate of inflation;

11 - To solve Kashmir dispute on priority basis;

12 - Have an independent foreign policy.

Courtesy: Dr Mehdi Hassan, Ms Kamila Hyat and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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