If everything goes according to plan, Pakistanis will head to their local polling stations on May 11 to elect their representatives for the next five years.
In an online survey conducted by The Express Tribune on March 30, 82 per cent of the respondents said they would not vote for the same political parties they opted for in 2008.
The survey result is not representative of the general population because of sampling limitations, but it does indicate that people might be weighing in on new options ahead of the elections.
The manifestos of political parties might not be a major influencing factor for a majority of voters in Pakistan because of patronage-based or ideological voting patterns. But manifestos do provide a way to determine if political parties delivered on their pledges.
In a report titled “Delivering on Promises: Assessing Implementation of Political Party Manifestos,” the Jinnah Institute, a public policy think tank, assessed how parties fulfilled their promises from 2008 manifestos on the issues of education, energy, unemployment, women, minorities and counter-terrorism and youth.
The report is based on qualitative analysis of the manifestos and performance of six political parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The report indicates that all parties “vowed to promote universal free primary education in their manifestos” in 2008. This promise became a fundamental right through the 18th Amendment. But the report also states that other claims, such as madrassa reforms in the PPP and MQM manifestos, met with stiff resistance.
Energy and unemployment were given sparse importance during the five-year term of the elected assemblies compared to education, according to the report. The PPP and PML-N promised energy conservation and saw a nominal decrease in line losses, down to 19.6 per cent in 2011-12 from 20.4 in 2010-11.
For employment, the report states, “None of the employment programmes or policies spelled out in the party manifestos - from the PPP’s ‘Public Works Programme’ and ‘Literacy and Health Corps’ scheme, to the PML-N’s ‘National Educational Corps’, ‘National Employment Fund’ or ‘National Manpower Plan’ - have seen the light of the day.”
The religious minorities in Pakistan came under targeted attacks between 2008 and 2012, despite the fact that all six political parties promised to provide them with security and equal status.
The PPP, MQM, ANP and PML-N pledged to repeal discriminatory laws and to curb violence against women. These promises met with success with the passage of bills for the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act and the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Two parties —the ANP and the JUI-F — did not make specific pledges targeted at the youth vote in 2008. The PPP and PML-N claimed they provided for the youth through government-supported internship schemes.
For the 2013 elections, the Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaf (PTI), which did not participate in the 2008 elections and was not part of the Jinnah Institute report, has emerged as a major player. The party apparently draws significant support from the youth segment of Pakistani society, as is evident from the presence of young supporters at the party’s public rallies.
The report recommends promoting internal policymaking, underlining human rights issues, developing intra-party evaluation systems and mainstreaming the digitisation of manifestos.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2013.