Election season is looming over political skies against all speculations and rumors of extended delay. Someone rightly said that mills of rumors run 24/7 on social media platforms in Pakistan. Rumors become worst when they start impacting the public perception. A perception was knitted with threads of rumors about prolonged postponement of elections. Such speculative opinion twisters fanned the political uncertainty and directly hurt the economic stability. Rumors have ended with the announcement of election schedule and political parties are now gearing up for the final show down on 8th February.
Theoretically speaking, political parties are required to announce respective manifestos after lot of deliberations. Like many fundamental democratic norms, our political parties significantly lack on account of manifesto as well. Recently, PIDE pointed out serious gaps in the political parties’ manifestos due to disconnect with issues of public concern. Manifesto seems more of a ritual than serious political exercise and there is no tradition of forming the shadow cabinets to improve upon the governance. With such kind of fundamental shortcomings, election campaigns in Pakistan usually revolve around attractive slogans, personal attacks on opponents, hollow verbosity, lofty claims and baseless promises.
Pakistan is facing multiple inter-connected challenges at internal and external fronts. Economic deterioration, energy shortage, poor governance, corruption, over-reliance on foreign debts, surging terrorism, political disorder, illegal immigrants, hostile neighbor on eastern border, instable Afghanistan and cross border terrorism in two provinces are those issues which require well prepared political leadership with serious head on shoulders. Let’s have a glance at pre-election narratives of major political parties to gauge that how well are they prepared to run the country after winning the elections.
PPP: Hanging Between Legacy, Slogans and Blunders
Being the senior contestant in electoral game, PPP is very much troubled everywhere except the Sindh province. Chairman Bilawal is aspirant for PM chair to carry along the legacy of his maternal grandfather ZA Bhutto and mother Benazir Bhutto. After ruling Sindh province for three consecutive terms, PPP has little to offer on account of good governance, economic growth and internal security. Its past tenure in centre (2008 -13) was full of controversies on account of corruption, bad governance, unsmooth civil-military relations and betrayal with political allies.
Despite leaving PDM alliance in mid of political battle, PPP supported VONC against PTI in National Assembly and joined the coalition government headed by PM Shehbaz Sharif. Chairman Bilawal seems focused on charming the voters by disowning the failures of PDM government and criticizing the old aged political leadership. Besides this, party leadership continues to overplay the traditional card of Bhutto family’s sacrifices. Unfortunately, PPP has so far not offered any concrete plan to tackle the major national challenges.
PMLN: Survival Battle, Dented Image and Victimhood Card
Whole struggle of PMLN has been revolving around regaining its political stronghold Punjab, removal of legal hurdles amid corruption cases and projection of the PTI rule as an outcome of rigged election. After ouster and disqualification in 2017, Mian Nawaz Sharif had to continue the political journey through opposition benches, prisons, self-exile style foreign stay and VONC leading to a turbulent coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif. Though, PMLN leadership is gearing up for elections with lot of vigor but ill effects of unprecedented inflation in its 18 months’ tenure might not be easy to tackle in election arena.
It was even admitted by top PMLN leaders including Shehbaz Sharif that VONC and coalition government move had costed them the political capital. Unfortunately, PMLN, entangled with complicated political challenge, is continuously allocating maximum energies for political survival, repair of dented image and electoral alliances to regain power in centre. Due to PTI centric approach, PMLN is least concerned about the sensitive issues being confronted by the Pakistan.
PTI: Buried Under the Debris of Follies, Compromises and Self-Created Crises
PTI’s political rise and fall is a sorry tale of populist misleading narratives, ill-preparedness, bad governance, politicization of state institutions, corruption and unwise diplomacy. After forming the governments in Center, Punjab, KP and AJK over reliance on seasonal birds and Para droppers eventually led the PTI to political disaster. Exit from NA after VONC defeat, flop long marches, dissolution of two provincial assemblies and insistence on confrontational policy against the advice of majority party leadership are those blunders which pushed Pakistan in the pits of instability. Controversial foul play on Cipher issue , dubious role in 9th may riots , numerous corruption cases , defection of front line players and existing legal hurdles have practically reduced the PTI to a bruised cult. PTI and its key board warriors are vigorously exploiting the governance failure of PDM government to camouflage their political blunders and trying to portray massive popularity. It is irony that past ruling party has no cogent plan to deal with the most important national challenges.
Disappointing preparedness level of major political parties, having ruling experience at various levels, indicates a precarious post-election unfolding. Elections in Pakistan are more than a five yearly ritual due to multiple challenges at internal and external fronts. If traditional political wrestlers are entering the election arena unprepared then the voters should knock them out with the correct use of ballot. Citizens, the real stake holders, should take stock of the situation and use the power of vote to held the political parties accountable for their follies.