Ramazan bazaars: A hub for personal publicity

It seems that both the federal as well as Punjab governments are in a publicity contest to attract maximum attention.

Anwer Sumra July 21, 2012
I was surprised to see Ramazan bazaars set up across Lahore providing subsidised food items to the poor for the holy month. These bazaars have become popular sites for the publicity of rulers. The canopies in these bazaars are graced with pictures of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

It seems that both the federal as well as Punjab governments are in a publicity competition to attract the maximum number of people at these bazaars. Ads, banners and pamphlets are being used to highlight price differences of kitchen items. This publicity may ultimately eat up a lion’s share of the reserved funds for subsidies, which may help the rulers gain votes in the next elections. However, this is definitely not in the best interest of consumers.

It astonishes me, being a common citizen, that bazaars are being used by the champion of austerity— the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)— for its promotion through the use of public funds. The PML-N government, in the past, had criticised the ‘Parha Likha Punjab’ advertisement campaign of the Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi government.

Elahi’s government spent Rs2.502 billion of public funds on this campaign. The PML-N government even referred this case to the anti-corruption establishment for interrogation as it thought that public funds were misused in sheer violation of rules. This case is still pending. The PML-N declared the ad campaign to be unethical and announced that the pictures of PML-N leaders will not be used in any government publicity campaign.

With elections not too far off, every political party in government will use public funds to promote itself.

Each party’s aim will be to regain its vote bank, which it may have lost due to poor governance while in power. It is the poor, lower middle and middle classes who will visit the bazaars in the hope of finding cheaper food. And, after viewing the posters, they may be inclined to vote for the party that has just provided them with subsidised food— giving the Punjab government a golden opportunity to regain its lost votes. The double standards and hypocrisy of political parties have had detrimental effects on society and this cycle may repeat itself. Let’s see how the Punjab government’s double standards fare in the next general elections.

Read more by Anwer here.
Anwer Sumra
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