Pakistan Votes: The Elections 2018 Blog
Real-time election news, analysis and opinion from across Dawn
Real-time election news, analysis and opinion from across Dawn
Electioneering is picking up pace in NA-241 Korangi III constituency. If campaigning is anything to judge by, the Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party has a slight edge over its political rivals.
Its workers, some of them well-experienced partisans of Altaf Hussain’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, are better charged than that of the MQM-P, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami contesting under the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal banner.
Workers and voters both note that times have changed.
"The Altaf Hussain era is over when a candidate was rest assured that he would wake up in the morning to learn that he or she has won the election. Now you will have to work really hard to win a seat no matter which party you belong to. You have to show to the constituents what individually or as part of the party you have done for them." —MQM worker
The future of Karachi lies in seawater desalination. The city needs a pilot desalination/reverse osmosis plant using waste-to-energy technology that can be scaled up, apart from two other desalination plants. Sewage can be recycled and treated for use. Investments are available and all this can be achieved in two to three years.
This is the gist of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s recently launched plan of action for Karachi’s water, garbage and electricity woes.
The party deserves appreciation for coming up with a list of proposed solutions to the city’s worsening civic conditions, but experts' critique that the proposals are not new and have failed in the past.
Members of the Senate on Monday lashed out at state authorities over their alleged failure to protect candidates and the public ahead of the July 25 elections, while taking aim at policies they said have "allowed" extremist ideologies to permeate society.
Ex-chairman Senate and incumbent PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said the duty to protect citizens was the state's while pointing out that the caretaker set-up was the existing state..
Rabbani also complained that while orders to arrest political workers were "being implemented swiftly", there was silence on the Mastung incident.
Referring to the participation of alleged members of banned outfits in the forthcoming elections, Rabbani said a new phenomenon was emerging modeled on the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.
"The interior minister should reveal how [members of] banned organisations were allowed to contest the elections. How were the names of [members of] banned outfits removed from the Fourth Schedule? What will the atmosphere of the parliament look like if even 25 of such people are elected?" —PPP Senator Raza Rabbani
Referring to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, Rabbani observed that 150 members of the "party that staged the sit-in at Faizabad" are candidates for National Assembly seats.
PML-N senators, too, raised similar concerns.
After almost a decade, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), which emerged as the third-biggest political force in the 2002 general elections, is back as a five-member religio-political alliance to contest the polls in 2018, comprising the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i- Islami (JI), Jamiat Ahle Hadith and the Islami Tehreek (IT).
It was back in early 2000, after the toppling of Nawaz Sharif in October 1999, that the General Pervez Musharraf-led military government, which had vowed to never allow the return of the exiled leadership of the PPP and PML-N, was desperate to find an alternative political force.
The JI was on good terms with the military government. Then-JI chief, the late Qazi Hussain Ahmed, even went on a tour of the United States, where he spoke to think-tanks in a bid to portray his image as a moderate religio-political leader.
In the 2001 local bodies elections, the JI also managed to get hold of Karachi’s city government. The MQM had boycotted the polls.
However, in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the lead-up to the US invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan was being pressured by the US to take action against hostile religious elements within its borders.
General Musharraf had no choice but to crack down on militant organisations and cooperate with the American-led coalition.
Take the quiz to find out who was present and who bunked the National Assembly.
Proceedings for the 2018 general elections have been terminated in PS-87 Malir-I following the death of Shareef Ahmed Khan, the ticket holder of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.
According to a notice released by the returning officer for the constituency today, fresh proceedings for a new election will be announced as per the directions of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Unlike in the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where excessive heat forces people to seek respite in cool shade, the alpine hill station of Abbottabad is caught in election frenzy and there is the palpable feeling that elections are just around the corner.
The politics in Hazara, which has largely been a PML-N affair until recently, has been undergoing transformation.
It began in 2013, when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf made inroads in the region, which elects 10 national and 17 provincial assembly members. In 2013, they grabbed at least four seats from Haripur and Abbottabad, while two independent winners also joined the party.
As of late, the PML-N has been in a flux. Squabbles resulting from delimitation, issuance of tickets and jockeying for power have been tearing at the seams of the largest political player in the area, but the PTI, too, is not immune to the wrath of disenchanted aspirants
Former senator and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Dawood Achakzai was injured in an incident of firing in Balochistan's Killa Abdullah district early on Monday.
Assailants opened fire on Achakzai as he was sleeping at his guest house in Killi Pir Alizai, Levies sources said.
Central ANP leader Zamarak Khan Achakzai said that timely retaliation from their own security personnel caused the assailants to flee.
Today's gun attack is the latest in a series of assaults on political parties in various parts of the country. Last week, an ANP leader in Peshawar, Haroon Bilour, was killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Riven by groupings within the party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PPP leadership has been struggling to provide stable leadership to unite and reorganise the party in the province.
In the last decade, the PPP provincial chapter has had five presidents, all nominated from the top.
"There is no party. We are virtually on our own." —PPP campaigner in Peshawar
The party leadership in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or whatever that remains of it, seems more interested in Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s election from Malakand, leaving the party candidates elsewhere to fend for themselves.
But even if they had been around, there would have been little they could have done to help their candidates by mobilising jiyalas to counter Insafians.
The PPP that once was one of the major political parties in KP has suffered erosion in its ranks, senior party leaders acknowledge, adding that disenchanted with the ideological drift of the party, many of its workers have opted to join the PTI.
Poll candidates in several constituencies of the tribal districts are bribing voters and doling out cash to the poor to ensure they cast ballots on polling day in their favour.
As if handing out bribes in cash or kind is not enough, shrewd contestants not only bind the voters to swear on the Holy Quran, they also make it binding on the electorates to swear that their lawful marriages would become invalid if they don’t vote for them.
“After paying the voters, the contenders make them take oath on the Quran to vote for them. But since that doesn’t guarantee anything, they invoke something far graver in terms of socio-cultural and religious significance.”
Rich candidates are offering to dig wells, pave the streets and distribute solar panels, fans or pay heavy amount to welfare organisations, mosques, seminaries, shrines or other religious places in the name of donations. Interestingly, candidates have started payment of donation to shrines, charity bodies and mosques after filing their nomination papers.
At the same time, some voters see the elections not as a process of democratic representation but an opportunity to claim their share of the electoral largesse by selling their vote.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has rejected ban on election-related activities of his party by the provincial caretaker government, saying as citizens of the country running election campaign is their constitutional right.
“We will devise a strategy after checking that the reports are true or not. If there is any such order by the government, it is not acceptable to us.” —Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Bilawal said that his Malakand rally was postponed as mark of solidarity with people of Balochistan after the Mastung blast that killed 132 people. He visited Malakand despite the postponement and discussed his party's contribution to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Fata reforms and commitment to the National Action Plan.
“Polling is 10 days away but elections have almost already been rigged. Mandate of the people has been stolen and the seeds of controversial and manipulated power transfer sown already. Ground reality permits no other judgment,” says PPP secretary-general Farhatullah Babar.
The Pakistan Peoples Party says results of the general election have already been made controversial thanks to gerrymandering, leaving the July 25 polls just a search for a "Sanjrani" prime minister in a fragmented parliament.
"We will neither boycott elections nor allow these to be postponed under any pretext."
Babar also dismisses the proposition that resistance includes protest on the streets.
Since the emergence of the PTI as the PML-N’s chief rival in Punjab, some observers have periodically voiced concerns about rampant polarisation in the electorate.
What’s cited as proof is the deeply partisan identities adopted by supporters both offline and on social media, which render any conversation skirting the issue of politics into an often tedious zero-sum exchange.
In recent months, as we inch closer to the election, these exchanges have escalated in both quantity and their degree of hostility, leaving large social gatherings (on or offline) completely unbearable.
In an ideological vacuum, the non-cosmetic difference between the PTI and the PML-N is always going to be marginal.
A part, if not all, of this partisanship can be traced to the fact that politics is also the dominant form of cultural consumption on our airwaves. Because we don’t have the Pakistan Super League for more than two months a year, and because there’s no other sphere of cultural activity large enough to garner more of our attention, we’re perhaps left only with political arguments as a way to satiate partisan cravings or identity crises.
Historically, Pakistan’s private sector, projecting a neutral image, preferred to watch electoral politics from a safe distance. This is not the case anymore.
In these changing times, as the country prepares for general elections next week, the business class, much like other segments of society, is engaged in the process.
The deep-seated culture of patronage thriving on personal relationships demands a closer nexus between businessmen and politicians.
Pakistani businessmen also extend support to candidates belonging to their ethnic, linguistic or religious community, irrespective of the party. While there might be a few who help aspiring politicians on ideological grounds; the majority, however, set aside some cash for anyone who knocks on their door close to elections.
And in the absence of guidelines on corporate political funding, companies in commercial and industrial hubs raise money collectively and disburse it quietly through middlemen amongst major parties on the basis of deals cut.
If there were any doubts that Pakistan still remains vulnerable to terrorism, the past week has put an end to them.
Claims of responsibility for the carnage have come from quarters with which the public is wearyingly familiar.
However, whether attacks such as these are carried out by the TTP, the militant Islamic State group, Jamaatul Ahrar, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi or any of the other outfits that have left a trail of destruction in their wake, they all subscribe to an equally violent ideology and have a common objective: to destabilise this country and the region as a whole.
There is a clear difference between religio-political parties that engage with the processes of parliamentary democracy, and those that hold it in contempt and will ultimately undermine it.
Certainly, some extremist organisations have been banned, but radicalised elements espousing similar ideologies have been allowed ingress into the body politic through the back door.
It is not surprising that many ultra hard-line outfits stay silent in the face of such slaughter as we have witnessed last week and cannot bring themselves to condemn the groups involved.
Most of the 'regular' political parties have become well and truly complicit in co-opting extremist elements, with a proven capacity for violence, within their ranks.
But are they prepared to live with the inevitably dire consequences that will flow from their expediency?
As the nation observed a day of mourning over recent terrorist attacks on election candidates in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just a few days before the general elections, the caretaker prime minister, Senate chairman and political party heads arrived in the city on Sunday to condole the Mastung killings.
The death toll in the Mastung suicide bombing reached 149 on Sunday when officials found that some bodies had not been brought to any hospital.
The national flag remained at half-mast on government buildings across the country to mourn the death of all those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks at Peshawar on July 10 and in Mastung and Bannu on July 13.
Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk today chaired a high-level meeting of civil and military officials to review the law and order situation in Balochistan, especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Mastung that targeted an election gathering.
While condemning the violence that comes days ahead of countrywide elections, Mulk said: "Utmost precaution should be exercised and all possible measures should be taken to ensure security of the candidates and the public."
Get details from the meeting here.
"For a long time, Karachi’s NA-250 has been one of the city’s most unpredictable constituencies. It still is," writes Nadeem F. Paracha in his Sunday column in Eos. "Now even more so, as due to last year’s delimitation of constituencies, it has been merged with NA-249 to become NA-247."
"One of the biggest constituencies of Karachi has become even larger
"As NA-250, it constituted the city’s main 'posh' localities as well as some thickly-populated middle- and working-class areas. All of these localities are dotted by hefty pockets of Mohajir, Pakhtun, Baloch, Punjabi and Sindhi populations. The ethnic and class diversity of this constituency has become even more widespread with the merger of NA-249."
Read more about the constituency where no party has managed to maintain a political hold in NFP's column here.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who was visiting Malakand on Sunday — days after a suicide blast killed Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour — said that terrorists wanted to derail democracy in Pakistan through fear. They, however, will not succeed, said the young leader.
"I want to reiterate that the PPP wants the elections to take place on time," he said, adding that a level playing field was also necessary.
See what else Bilawal had to say about the upcoming polls in the video [courtesy Express News] below.
Karachi’s Mohajir ‘vote bank’ was never homogenous to begin with but since the fragmentation of the MQM, it is more splintered than ever before.
In today's Dawn, Eos takes a look at leaders associated with secular Mohajir politics and what their prospects may be to influence voters in their favour.
"The internal fissures in the MQM-P that have been played out publicly have prompted comparisons with the autocratic discipline maintained by Altaf. The lacklustre performance of the local government has been put into contrast by the two run under the gaze of Altaf. And the manner in which the PPP has sidelined the MQM-P has been juxtaposed against the MQM being part of the power matrix under Altaf
The in-depth report (you can read it here) analyses what role MQM-P Chief Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui can play in the upcoming polls; if "rebel" Mustafa Kamal can lead Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) to electoral victory; and how "the emperor who loved his sherwanis" Pervez Musharraf is no match for the established actors in Karachi.