Thursday, August 2, 2012

Haq's Crystal Ball: A Look at Pak Elections 2013

Political parties and pundits are catching the election fever as the current PPP-led coalition government in Pakistan is nearing the end of its term in February 2013.

Campaign rallies are being organized across the country by major political parties including Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League factions (PML N & Q), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat Ulama Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and others like Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), etc.

Overseas Pakistanis are getting into the spirit of elections as well. A WBT TV show called Viewpoint From Overseas recently interviewed me on the subject and asked for my analysis and predictions of winners and losers in 2013. Here's a summary of how I see the outcome of the upcoming elections in Pakistan:

1. Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) is likely to emerge as the single largest party with 90 or slightly fewer seats of the 272 general seats up for direct elections in 2013.

2. Pakistan Muslim League (N) would be competing with Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) for the second spot.

3. PPP is most likely to form the next coalition government with smaller parties like PML (Q), MQM and ANP.

4. PPP will essentially retain its vote bank in rural Sindh and Southern Punjab while MQM and ANP will carry urban Sindh and KP province respectively.

5. PML (N) will have real struggle getting overall majority in Punjab province.

6. There will be little change in Balochistan given the fact that the nationalists and insurgents are not ready to talk peace and participate in elections.

For detailed analysis, please watch this video:

Here's a more recent video on election strategies of PTI, PPP and PML(N) in the battleground province of Punjab:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings
Pakistan Rural Economy Showing Strength

Judicial Coup in Pakistan
Land for Landless Women Peasants

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

FMCG Companies Profiting From Pakistan's Rural Consumption Boom

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Elections


Asim-PTI said...

PTI will sweep out PPP seats from Southern Punjab and significantly hurt N league elsewhere in Punjab too.

There will be a close match between ANP, PTI and DPC in KPK

And hopefully PTI would sweep through Balochistan.

Sindh would definitely go to PPP and if PTI can get a few seats here n there that would be bonus.

With some allies I hope PTI would be able to establish the next government.

Riaz Haq said...

Asim-PTI: "PTI will sweep out PPP seats from Southern Punjab.."

I disagree. PTI Tsunmani is just another urban legend.

What NA-151 tells us is that Abdul Qadir Gilani beat the combined opposition candidate Shaukat Hayat Bosan (brother of PTI leader Sikandar Hayat Bosan) who was fully supported by PML (N), PTI, JI and others.

The fact that Gilani won by just 4000 votes rather than the 24000 vote margin his father enjoyed in 2008 shows that PPP has lost some popularity but it is still more popular than all of its opponents combined.

It shows that if PTI continues to fight with PML (N), both will lose big to the PPP.

What urban middle class analysts and commentators miss is the fact that the PPP has delivered extra Rs. 200 billion a year in rural income by raising food prices in 2008. This rural farm income has brought unprecedented prosperity to the PPP vote bank in rural Sindh and Southern Punjab.

Emm said...

I beg to differ.. PPP managed the seat only because it is still in power. Opportunists from rural areas still have a lot to squeeze.

Riaz Haq said...

Emm: "I beg to differ.. PPP managed the seat only because it is still in power.."

PPP does not rule Punjab where the election was held. PML (N) does. The police and bureaucracy in Multan report to Shahbaz Sharif.

Pak said...

There won´t be any free and fair elections. According to NADRA some 37 million votes were faked in 2007. If the people of Pakistan don´t boycott the next elections you´ll see either PML-N or PPP in power.

Riaz Haq said...

Pak: "There won´t be any free and fair elections. According to NADRA some 37 million votes were faked in 2007. If the people of Pakistan don´t boycott the next elections you´ll see either PML-N or PPP in power."

If you can not trust a clean, fair and honest person like new Chief Election Commissioner Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim working with an independent caretaker govt, I don't think you'll trust anyone in the world to hold free and fair elections anywhere.

Emm said...

Clearly you didn't reach to what I entailed, it wasn't about rigging.

Riaz Haq said...

Emm: "Clearly you didn't reach to what I entailed, it wasn't about rigging."

If you are talking about doling out state resources, then Punjab govt has a lot of resources at its disposal as the largest province with abut 60% of the population. Sharifs also engage in politics of patronage just as Zardari does.

Ismat K said...

That's very disappointing news, Riaz Saheb, although it explains why the PMLN has recently unleasehed its ' dirty tricks brigade' on Imran Khan . A PPP win would mean disaster upon disaster. Worse would be a PPP-PMLN 'entente cordiale', with PMLN once again serving as a friendly oppostion at the Center in return for a free hand in the Punjab.

I am just finishing reading Pakistan by Imran Khan, a wonderul book, although with some minor mis-judgements, which we can overlook. Have you read it? If not, I can send it to you - please let me know. Imran Khan appears to be the best hope for Pakistan. Can we do something to help his party?

Mayraj said...

I don't know. You have to think of the antincumbency factor. Nawaz Sharif is more popular than Zardari according to 2012 Pew Poll. Heck even Musharraf is now more popular than Zardari.

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj:"Nawaz Sharif is more popular than Zardari according to 2012 Pew Poll. Heck even Musharraf is now more popular than Zardari."

Gallup 2012 Wellbeing survey reports that 20% of Pakistanis say they are "thriving", down from 32% last year. However, the report shows that more of them are still better off than their neighbors in Bangladesh (16% thriving) and India (11% thriving). The number of those "thriving" increased in Bangladesh by 3% and declined in India by 6%.

The fact that the number of Pakistanis who consider themselves thriving is down from 1 in 3 last year to 1 in 5 now is understandable because of many serious and worsening crises Pakistan is facing today. The real question is who are these 20%? And why do they say they are thriving?

To explain the significance of the 20% who say they are thriving, you have to understand how democracy and electoral politics work in Pakistan and many other democracies.

The voter turnout in 2008 elections in Pakistan was just 44%. The PPP got 30% of the votes cast making up only about 13% of the registered voters to emerge as the single largest party. PML (N) received about 20% of the votes or approval of just 9% of the registered voters to finish in second place.

The ruling politicians operate a vast system of political patronage that allocates state's resources and formulates policies to satisfy their base.To win the next election, the PPP needs just 13% of the vote in the next election to stay in power. To maintain its base in rural Sind and southern Punjab, the PPP has done the following to keep it loyal:

1. Raised crop prices significantly to ensure a yearly transfer of over Rs. 300 billion income from cities which benefits the landed class and the rural folks who support the PPP.

2. Allocated the lion's share of development funds in Larkana & Multan and given contracts to their cronies to build roads, airports, etc.

3. Given billions of rupees in aid for Benazir Income Support Program most of which goes to those favored by PPP politicians.

4. Give lots of state jobs to its cronies to plunder the state's resources.

The PML(N), the ruling party in Punjab province, is engaging in similar acts of patronage of its base to maintain their loyalty and vote bank in the next election.

Imran Khan is the new kid on the block. He may take some of PML (N)'s votes. He is no threat to the PPP or its ANP and MQM allies.

So barring any serious military intervention or ISI manipulation of elections, the Pakistani parliament is likely to remain basically unchanged after the next election.

Mayraj said...

You are looking at the wrong poll.

Here's the poll (note Musharraf is now more popular than Zardari)

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "You are looking at the wrong poll.

Here's the poll (note Musharraf is now more popular than Zardari) "

Such nationwide polls do not take into account the constituency level electoral math in various regions that make up different parties vote banks.

PPP is still popular with its base in rural Sindh and Southern Punjab but with reduced margin as seen in recent NA-151 results.

Ismat K said...

Your assessment is very realistic, though saddening. A basic flaw is our system of government which is steeped in corruption from the very start. If we had a presidential system based on the American model, Imran would have easily emerged as the clear winner. Unfortunately Musharraf didn't have the guts to do impose such a system, although he knew that it was more suited to the conditions in Pakistan.

Imran's only chance is to expand the vote base beyond the 44%, but I don't see the organization and hard work whIch would make this possible.

Riaz Haq said...

Ismat: "Your assessment is very realistic, though saddening. A basic flaw is our system of government which is steeped in corruption from the very start. If we had a presidential system based on the American model, Imran would have easily emerged as the clear winner."

I'm more optimistic about the future.

With increasing urbanization, the PPP base is eroding and the urban middle class is growing.
This trend will hurt the PPP and favor urban middle class parties like Imran Khan's PTI in the long term. We should see significant shift in leadership from rural to urban in the next couple of decades.

Riaz Haq said...

The main beneficiary of the escalating conflict between PTI and PM (N) will be the PPP, virtually guaranteeing PPP's return to power with its ANP, MQM and Q League partners.

Here's a Dawn report on it:

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan announced on Tuesday that he would take Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khwaja Asif to the courts for his false accusations for the defamation of noble ‘Shaukat Khanum’ project, DawnNews reported.

Addressing a press conference at central secretariat in Islamabad, Khan appealed to the Chief Justice to hear his case as soon as possible.

“I request Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take up this case immediately as the PML-N wants to launch a campaign against Shaukat Khanum Hospital,” he said.

Khan lashed out at Asif for hurling allegations against the charity organization.

He said that the allegations were leveled in Ramzan as the PML-N knew that the Shaukhat Khanum Trust collects the majority of its donations during this month.

By hurling the allegations the lives of patients have been put in jeopardy, Khan said.

He said that if the people stopped giving Zakat and money to the hospital it would be very difficult for it to treat the poor people.

He said that the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital was spending Rs two billion on providing treatment to the poor and the deserving people.

Imran Khan said two other cancer hospitals would also be constructed in Peshawar and Karachi.

The PTI Chairman said that he had challenged Nawaz Sharif with eleven questions on Friday but he has not responded to any one of it as yet.

He said that unlike Sharif he has not made factories for his own benefit but created institutions like Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre and Namal college.

He said that he has responded to the allegations of Chaudhry Nisar by showing record of his tax returns of the last 30 years but Nawaz Sharif has not responded to any of his allegation.

Emm said...

According to you - PPP by increasing the prices of crop relieved the farmers indirectly, especially ones in rural areas of Sindh and southern Punjab. And since PPP enjoys its support of rural population in mentioned areas so this move by the PPP led government would maintain the supporting spirit among mass.

Sir, if you meant a Zamindar or Wadera by the term farmer then you're absolutely right but if you meant an ordinary worker (hari or kisan) then I am afraid you're terribly wrong. I hope you must be knowing agriculture in Sindh, people there own thousands of acres it is quite unlikely that you come across an individual who owns land more than 50 acres. The way Waderas treat their farmers/kisan is well established, these workers most of the times are found paying off the debt. Comparatively smaller Zamaindars face intrigues, water to their land is being theft with the help of irrigation department.

This so called relief serves Zamindars better than ordinary Kisans, latter class is still in the condition that they were in before, their lament is same "Aata mehnga"

If PPP policy makers still believe this move would boost their support then seriously PPP needs to replace them with professional ones.

P.S: Impact of the policy is a different debate altogether.

Riaz Haq said...

Emm: "Sir, if you meant a Zamindar or Wadera by the term farmer then you're absolutely right but if you meant an ordinary worker (hari or kisan) then I am afraid you're terribly wrong."

I agree that the big landowners who are part of the PPP leadership have benefited more but there has been a measurable trickle down effect on disposable incomes of small farmers as well as seen in rising consumption.

Here are a few key points excerpted from a recent Businessweek story on rise of the rural consumer in Pakistan:

1. Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive Co. are sending salespeople into rural areas of the world’s sixth most-populous nation, where demand for consumer goods such as Sunsilk shampoo, Pond’s moisturizers and Colgate toothpaste has boosted local units’ revenue at least 15 percent.

2. “The rural push is aimed at the boisterous youth in these areas, who have bountiful cash and resources to increase purchases,” Shazia Syed, vice president for customer development at Unilever Pakistan Ltd., said in an interview. “Rural growth is more than double that of national sales.”

3. Haji Mirbar, who grows cotton on a 5-acre farm with his four brothers, said his family’s income grew fivefold in the year through June, allowing him to buy branded products. He uses Unilever’s Lifebuoy for his open-air baths under a hand pump, instead of the handmade soap he used before. “We had a great year because of cotton prices,” said Mirbar, 28, who lives in a village outside south Pakistan’s Matiari town. “As our income has risen, we want to buy nice things and live like kings.”

4. Sales for the Pakistan unit of Unilever rose 15 percent to 24.8 billion rupees in the first half. Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan Ltd.’s sales increased 29 percent in the six months through June to 7.6 billion rupees, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “In a generally faltering economy, the double-digit growth in revenue for companies servicing the consumer sector has come almost entirely from the rural areas,” said Sakib Sherani, chief executive officer at Macroeconomic Insights Pvt. in Islamabad and a former economic adviser to Pakistan’s finance ministry.

5. Unilever is pushing beauty products in the countryside through a program called “Guddi Baji,” an Urdu phrase that literally means “doll sister.” It employs “beauty specialists who understand rural women,” providing them with vans filled with samples and equipment, Syed said. Women in villages are also employed as sales representatives, because “rural is the growth engine” for Unilever in Pakistan, she said in an interview in Karachi. While the bulk of spending for rural families goes to food, about 20 percent “is spent on looking beautiful and buying expensive clothes,” Syed said.

6. Colgate-Palmolive, the world’s largest toothpaste maker, aims to address a “huge gap” in sales outside Pakistan’s cities by more than tripling the number of villages where its products, such as Palmolive soap, are sold, from the current 5,000, said Syed Wasif Ali, rural operations manager at the local unit.

7. Its detergents Bonus Tristar and Brite are packed in sachets of 20 grams or less and priced as low as five rupees (6 cents), to boost sales among low-income consumers hurt by the fastest pace of inflation in Asia after Vietnam. Unilever plans to increase the number of villages where its products are sold to almost half of the total 34,000 within three years. Its merchandise, including Dove shampoo, Surf detergent and Brooke Bond Supreme tea, is available in about 11,000 villages now.

8. Telenor Pakistan Pvt. is also expanding in Pakistan’s rural areas, which already contribute 60 percent of sales, said Anjum Nida Rahman, corporate communications director for the local unit of the Nordic region’s largest phone company.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on Aitazaz Ahsan criticizing Pakistan Supreme Court judges in an interview with BBC:

Senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has said that, in some matters, the judiciary is stepping out of the domain of the constitution and is getting ‘too independent.’

In an interview with the BBC Urdu on Tuesday, he said that the Supreme Court’s activism is one sided and not equal for all aspects.

“Judiciary is independent, it is too much independent, actually it is getting ‘free’ of the constitution in some matters,” stated Aitizaz.

Pointing towards the supremacy of the Parliament, he said that the parliament can make amendments in the Constitution with a two-third majority, and this cannot be challenged in court.

Commenting on the role of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Ahsan said that the fromer’s gallant role against former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf had served to strengthen the democratic setup in the country, but subsequent actions had prompted people to question the judiciary.

Some judgements passed by the Supreme Court recently eliminated any possibility of the country returning to martial law and, therefore, there is no chance of the military taking over in the future, Ahsan noted.

On former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s disqualification by the SC, the Barrister said that he believed dismissing Gilani was a wrong decision, adding that the case was not a matter of disqualification, rather it was an issue related to the jurisdiction of the judiciary.

He questioned that how could the court ask to open a case against the President in a foreign court while the Constitution clearly granted him immunity?

Ahsan said that the stance taken by the Chief Justice in a speech that the judiciary can stop the Parliament from a Constitutional amendment clashes with the Supreme Court’s own decisions. He added that the apex court can review the amendments made through simple majority for any discrepancy within existing articles of the constitution, however, an amendments passed with a two-third majority cannot be challenged in the court.

Talking about the controversial Arsalan Iftikhar case, he said that the proceedings against the CJ’s son had raised questions about the court’s impartiality. He said that the present the judiciary is diverting from the prevailing principles of investigation into Arsalan’s alleged dealings with Malik Riaz Hussain.

On his movement for the restoration of judges, Ahsan said he had no regrets and that it was a movement for the victory of the people.

PPP to win next elections

Speaking on the upcoming general elections, the Barrister said that the PPP would not only win but also be able to form a government since President Asif Ali Zardari has now the experience of forming a hung parliament.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP story on TTP threatening to assassinate PTI chief Imran Khan:

The Taliban have threatened to kill a Pakistani cricket star turned politician if he holds a planned march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest U.S. drone attacks.

Although the Pakistani Taliban also oppose the strikes, which have killed many of their fighters, spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said they would target Imran Khan because he calls himself a ‘‘liberal’’ — a term they associate with a lack of religious belief. He also warned they would attack anyone who participates in upcoming elections.

‘‘If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him,’’ Ahsan told The Associated Press in an interview Monday in the militant group’s stronghold of South Waziristan. ‘‘We will kill him.’’

The threat could come as a surprise to many in Pakistan who have criticized Khan for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism on the government’s alliance with the U.S.

Some of his critics have nicknamed him ‘‘Taliban Khan’’ because of his views and his cozy ties with conservative Islamists who could help him attract right-wing voters in national elections likely to be held later this year or early next year.

Khan, who is the founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the last year after more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person in Pakistan because he led the country’s cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup.

Khan was once known for his playboy lifestyle and marriage to British socialite Jemima Khan. But they divorced several years ago, and he has since become much more conservative and religious. Khan has described himself as a liberal in various TV interviews, but he has also made clear that he is a practicing Muslim.

Ahsan, the Taliban spokesman, seemed to ignore that distinction and said the militants didn’t want Khan’s help in opposing drone attacks. Khan has said he is planning to lead thousands of people in a march to Waziristan in September to demonstrate against the strikes.

‘‘We will not accept help or sympathy from any infidel,’’ said Ahsan, referring to Khan. ‘‘We can fight on our own with the help of God,’’ he said, as drones buzzed overhead.

The spokesman for Khan’s party could not be immediately reached for comment.

Ahsan said the Taliban consider anyone who participates in elections, even Islamist parties, as infidels and will target them.

‘‘The election process is part of a secular system,’’ said Ahsan. ‘‘We want an Islamic system and will create hurdles to secularism.’’

An AP reporter interviewed Ahsan at a remote compound on a forested mountainside in South Waziristan. He was taken there from a compound in the Shawal area that housed several dozen Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns. Artillery fired by the Pakistani army regularly pounded the ground near the compound.

The military launched a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in 2009 and has claimed to have largely cleared the area. But the militants regularly launch attacks, and the interview held with the AP indicated they move relatively freely.

Ahsan arrived for the interview in a pick-up truck with two other Taliban commanders. He was wearing a white shalwar kameez — the loose-fitting shirt and pants common in Pakistan and Afghanistan — and a woolen Chitrali cap. He spoke with an assault rifle laid across his lap, and he and the other commanders fired into the air in celebration at the end of the interview.

Batman said...

whts your intell is telling you?
TTP knows , this statment will put him in good books of US?

Riaz Haq said...

Bat: "whts your intell is telling you?
TTP knows , this statment will put him in good books of US?"

I think the US prefers the PPP-led coalition over PTI or PML (N).

What TTP threat to IK shows is that they would oppose anyone who wants to be a part of the established democratic system.

TTP threat to IK could also mean that they share the common suspicion that ISI covertly supports PTI. Imran Khan's reported alliance with Sheikh Rasheed also reinforces this suspicion.

Unknown said...

Mr. haq,

Can you please share your thoughts on how the new approx 40m voters might impact your analysis.

Best regards,
Asher Malik

Riaz Haq said...

Asher: "Can you please share your thoughts on how the new approx 40m voters might impact your analysis."

Before answering your question, let's look at some election data:

1. Latest electoral rolls compiled by the Election Commission have 84 million Pakistanis registered to vote.

2. In 2008 elections, about 35 million voters cast their ballots, making up 44% of eligible voters.

3. The highest ever voter turn-out in the history of Pak elections was 45% in 1990.

Now let me ask you why you think the turn-out this time will more than double?

And even if it miraculously did, how much of it would be urban versus rural?

And who would be the biggest beneficiary of it?

The PPP with its mostly rural base?

Or PTI with its urban middle class base?

Would PTI carry all of urban middle class vote in the Punjab? Would it not be split with PML (N)?

Why would the urban middle class vote elsewhere not be proportionally be divided among PTI, PML (N), PML (Q), MQM and ANP?

Riaz Haq said...

Before answering your question, let's look at some data:

1. Latest electoral rolls compiled by the Election Commission have 84 million Pakistanis registered to vote.

2. In 2008 elections, about 35 million voters cast their ballots, making up 44% of eligible voters.

3. The highest ever voter turn-out in the history of Pak elections was 45% in 1990.

Now let me ask you why you think the turn-out this time will more than double?

And even if it miraculously did, how much of it would be urban versus rural?

And who would be the biggest beneficiary of it?

The PPP with its mostly rural base?

Or PTI with its urban middle class base?

Would PTI carry all of the additional urban middle class vote in the Punjab? Would it not be split with PML (N)?

Why would the additional urban middle class vote elsewhere not be proportionally be divided among PTI, PML (N), PML (Q), MQM and ANP?

Meengla said...

I admire your dedication to Pakistan. This post is one more positive contribution from you.

Indeed, the transfer to Rs. 200-300 billion per year to rural Pakistan since 2008 is a news for me. This can have a significant impact in the elections. Also, up to 10 million Pakistanis are reported to be benefiting from various PPP schemes like the BISP etc. Fanboys here need to understand that ALL the Pakistani bloggers, all over the world are probably less than half of the number of PPP-voters in Lyari alone. Making noises about PTI in the blogspace would not necessarily translate to electoral realities.

While I am planning to vote for PTI, I am not unaware of the fact that PPP is a 'creed' with still mass-following in rural areas of Pakistan. The party has consistently either grabbed 1st or second spots in the most number of votes or the most numbers of seats since 1970. PPP is also the only proven national-level political party in Pakistan. Hating a party like that because of visceral hatred of Zardari is not good for Pakistan.

As to the 2008 elections--they were mostly fair. If they were not then PMLQ+MQM alliance would be still in power and Musharraf would be still the president. So, 'bogus voting' claims aside, the elections were fair enough: Ill-deeds were done but they were done by most parties involved.

And, oh, the PMNL vs PTI war is certainly benefiting PPP.

Keep up the good work Riaz!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times piece on Imran Khan written by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra:

On a cool evening in March, Imran Khan, followed by his dogs, walked around the extensive lawns of his estate, sniffling with an incipient cold. “My ex-wife, Jemima, designed the house — it is really paradise for me,” Khan said of the villa, which sprawls on a ridge overlooking Himalayan foothills and Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. “My greatest regret is that she is not here to enjoy it,” he added, unexpectedly poignantly. We walked through the living room and then sat in his dimly lighted bedroom, the voices of servants echoing in the empty house, the mournful azans drifting up from multiple mosques in the city below.
“Why can’t the West understand? When I first went to England, I was shocked to see the depiction of Christianity in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian.’ This is their way. But for us Muslims, the holy Koran and the prophet, peace be upon him, are sacred. Why can’t the West accept that we have different ways of looking at our religions?

“Anyway,” Khan said in a calmer voice, “I am called an Islamic fundamentalist by Rushdie. My critics in Pakistan say I am a Zionist agent. I must be doing something right.”

Those adept at playing Pakistan’s never-ending game of political musical chairs have begun to take note of Khan. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice, or P.T.I., as it is called), has never won more than a single seat in Pakistan’s 342-member National Assembly. But a recent Pew opinion poll reveals Khan to be the country’s most popular politician by a large margin, and his growing appeal has drawn together two rivals from the establishment parties — the suavely patrician figure of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister from 2008 to 2011, and Javed Hashmi, an older street-fighting politician from Punjab, Pakistan’s politically dominant province — who are now, in Khan’s hastily improvised hierarchy, vice chairman and president of the P.T.I. respectively.

Khan’s campaign strategy is simple: he has promised to uproot corruption within 90 days, end the country’s involvement in America’s war on terror and institute an Islamic welfare state. ....
I had already read Khan’s speech, peering over his shoulder in the car; it was not much different from what he said in previous rallies. Like many in the audience, I left before 5 p.m., late in Abbottabad’s valley, where darkness sets in early. On the way back to Islamabad, I stopped at a grocery store to buy some water. The owner, watching wrestling on his small television set, was a bit reluctant when I asked him to switch over to Khan’s rally. “Has Imran come?” he asked. “Is he speaking now? People have been waiting since noon.”

I told him the crowd was starting to disperse. “Of course they will,” he retorted. “They have to travel long distances in the hills.” He snorted when I said that the lateness of Khan’s speech was due to the media’s schedule. After some channel-hopping, I caught a brief clip of Khan at the rally repeating his gibe about Bilawal Bhutto’s lack of Urdu. The depleted crowd, it seemed clear, was not going to make history for Imran Khan, or supersede Abbottabad’s reputation as the town where a semiretired terrorist found marital bliss. But he seemed more relaxed than he was in Sialkot and Mianwali. The TV channels had clearly not betrayed him. And for once his groupies, spellbound by the cameramen, had not abandoned Khan onstage.

Hopewins said...

(1) Jo hay voh nahin chaheyay.

(2) Jo nahin hay vohee chaheyay.

(3) Agar jo chaheyay tha voh mila, then Goto (1).

This is the essential philosophical cause of all unhappiness.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on deal making in Gujarat for 2013 elections:

A group from the Nawabzada family, including a former MNA and an ex-MPA, has announced joining the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, citing their reservations over the Pakistan People’s Party’s alliance with their arch rivals the Chaudhrys of Gujrat who head the PML-Q.

Former MNA Nawabzada Mazhar Ali Khan, ex-MPA and former Gujrat district council chairman Nawabzada Muzaffar Ali Khan, former opposition leader in the district council Nawabzada Tahirul Mulk and others made the announcement on Saturday at a meeting with PML-N leadership in Lahore.

Welcoming the prominent political and social personalities of Gujrat into PML-N folds, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said their joining had strengthened the PML-N. He said with the latest addition, the party would gain in Gujrat.

The newcomers said Nawaz Sharif was the only leader who could steer the country out of crisis and they had full trust in the PML-N leadership.

Both Mazhar Ali and Muzaffar Ali are elder brothers of People’s Party stalwart Nawabzada Ghazanfar Ali Gull who has been a senior member of the PPP’s central executive committee and also remained an adviser to the prime minister.

Mr Gull had been a member of the Punjab as well as national assemblies back in 1988 and 1993, respectively.

Despite the defections in his family, Mr Gull vowed to remain a life-long PPP loyalist.

Talking to this scribe about the defections, Mr Gull said sarcastically that though Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif had proved their ‘friendship’ with him by creating a split into Nawabzada family, the move could prove beneficial for their combined rivals (the Chaudhrys).

He vowed to continue to oppose the Chaudhrys while remaining in the PPP and to contest the next general elections against them “whether the party gives me a ticket or not”.

Mr Gull’s elder brothers have been in contact with the PML-N leadership for the last one year and finally the party managed to get a breakthrough.

However, some keen observers of local politics are of the view that the development would neither prove beneficial for the Nawabzadas nor the PML-N as according to them Mr Gull was the actual ‘crowd puller’ among the Nawabzadas as he had been in the active politics since 1988 and contested all the general elections since then.

They say only Mr Gull could prove an attraction for the pro-PPP and anti-Chaudhrys voters in the coming polls in NA-140 where he had been defeated by incumbent federal minister Chaudharys Wajahat Hussain in the last two general elections.

Nawabzada Tahirul Mulk, a nephew of Mr Gull, said Nawabzada group had never accepted the PPP’s coalition with the Q League and they had been sharing their reservations with the party high-command but it did not pay heed to them. Now, when the elections are approaching, they had no option but to join the PML-N, he added.

He said the family had also been trying to persuade Mr Gull to join them in their move but in vain.

In 1985 general elections, the Nawabzada family had also been divided into two factions. The group that has now joined the PML-N had decided to contest the non-party elections as independent candidates in violation of the PPP’s boycott of the electoral exercise. The both brothers — Mazhar Ali and Muzaffar Ali – were elected as MNA and MPA, receptively. Mr Gull and his cousin and former MNA late Nawabzada Zafar Mehdi, who was then PPP Gujrat district president, had honored the PPP’s decision of boycott and stayed away from the election.

Following the PML-Q’s joining the coalition government, the PPP has been suffering big blows in the district where a good number of its followers have either joined the PML-N or the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf.....

krash said...

Your estimate of 90 seats for PPP is too generous. PPP won 91 seats in 2008. Out of these, 33 were from Sindh and 21 from South Punjab. It is likely that PPP will win only a handful of seats outside these regions and lose a handful of the seats they had previously won there. So, they are likely to end up with around 55 seats. It's allies, PML-Q and ANP are likely to be wiped out while MQM will retain its 18 seats.
I think PML-N and PTI can both top these numbers. There are 109 seats in Central and Northern Punjab. PML-N will probably lead in these regions with PTI second. In addition, PTI is likely to win a majority of the 49 seats in KP and Balochistan. It will be a tossup as between PML-N and PTI for the position of the largest party in the NA with both around 90 seats each. However, since PTI is not likely to form any coalitions, PML-N is likely to form the next coalition govt. with perhaps PPP as a junior partner (much like in Punjab today)

Riaz Haq said...

krash: "Your estimate of 90 seats for PPP is too generous"

I agree. I think the PPP will get fewer seats thus time. But I wouldn't write them off because they are still strong in rural Sind and southern Punjab. They could still emerge as the single largest party. PTI competition with PML (N) will likely help the PPP to get more seats than they would have otherwise.

Riaz Haq said...

In recent by-elections, PML(N) won the National Assembly seat already held by it and for the one Punjab assembly seat PML (N) did pick up, their candidate had previously won the seat on a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ticket. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) backed one independent candidate who came in second in Sahiwal. Here's an ET story:

NA 162 Sahiwal

Newly inducted PML-N member Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal won back his NA seat with 75,966 votes, while independent candidate Rai Hassan Nawaz followed with 65,775 votes. The seat was vacated by Iqbal when he was in the PPP; however, he went on to later join the PML-N. According to the PML-N’s media office, Iqbal defeated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed independent candidate Rai Hassan Nawaz.

NA 107 Gujrat

According to unofficial results, PML-N candidate Malik Hanif Awan bagged 70,434 votes, while PML-Q’s Rehman Naseer got 49,074 votes till the filing of the story. This seat was vacated by a PML-N MNA.

PP 26 Jehlum

PML-N-backed candidate Ch Khadim Hussain got 73,905 votes, while independent candidate Raja Muhammad Afzal Khan was the runner up. This seat was vacated by a PML-N member, who left the party due to intra-party differences. After winning, Hussain announced to join the PML-N.

PP 226 Sahiwal

Even though this seat was vacated by a PML-Q member, PML-N candidate Muhammad Hanif Jutt bagged 42,294 votes, while PML-Q’s Naseem Iqbal was the runner up.

PP 92 Gujranwala

PML-N candidate Nawaz Chohan bagged 36,537 votes, while PPP’s Lala Asad followed with 16,492 votes. This seat was vacated by a PML-N member.

PP 122 Sialkot

PML-N’s candidate Muhammad Akram bagged 27,291 votes, while PPP’s Raja Aamir received 4,797 votes. This seat was vacated by PML-N.

PP 129 Sialkot

PML-N candidate Mohsin Ashraf bagged 52,195 votes, while PML-Q’s Ch Ansar Iqbal got 30,148 votes. This seat was vacated by the PML-N.

PP 133 Norowal

PML-Q’s candidate Chaudhry Umar Sharif bagged 28,998 votes, while PML-N’s Dr Niamat Ali followed closely with 22,537 votes. This seat was vacated by PML-N’s Dr Tahir Ali Javed.

PS-21 Naushero Feroz-III

According to unofficial results from 106 out of 129 polling stations, PPP candidate Syed Sarfaraz Shah bagged more than 29,850 votes, while National Peoples Party’s Syed Abrar Shah trailed behind with 21,552 votes.

The seat had fallen vacant following the resignation of PPP’s Dr Ahmed Ali Shah for possessing dual nationality.

Although there were 16 candidates contesting the by-polls from the area, the main contenders were Sarfaraz Shah, Abrar Shah and independent candidate Zohaib Shah, who is the nephew of PPP MNA Syed Zafar Ali Shah.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Financial Times on Tahir-ul Qadri's return:

A respected Islamic scholar has burst on to Pakistan’s political scene, threatening to storm the capital with a mass public protest unless his demands for sweeping electoral reforms are met this week.

“I will lead an ocean of people to change Islamabad,” vowed Tahirul Qadri, who last month returned to Pakistan after four years abroad.

To the consternation of many established politicians, including the coalition government of President Asif Ali Zardari and its main opponents, he is calling for comprehensive political reforms before a general election set to be held between March and May.

Mr Qadri, until now considered a minor force in politics as leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) or Pakistan People’s Movement, attracted tens of thousands of people to a political rally in the central city of Lahore on December 23, one of the largest such gatherings in recent memory.

“People who came were not just my supporters,” he told the Financial Times in an interview at his home in Lahore. “Pakistanis are anxious to see major changes in the way their country is being run.”

Mr Qadri draws his support from Pakistanis who are frustrated at the domination of politics by a handful of elite leaders from well-known families and who are embittered by the parlous state of the economy.

Some commentators have compared him to Anna Hazare, the anti-corruption campaigner in neighbouring India, who emerged last year as a voice for middle-class resentment over entrenched corruption and patronage.

Since Mr Qadri’s December gathering, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – the main political party from the southern city of Karachi, allied to Mr Zardari’s Pakistan People’s party – has decided to join Mr Qadri’s Nizam Badlo, or change the system movement. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star turned politician, is widely expected to join future protests too.

By contrast, leaders from Mr Zardari’s PPP and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the two biggest political parties, have united in accusing Mr Qadri of disrupting the build-up to parliamentary elections this year. The polls are being hailed as the first chance for Pakistan to see a smooth transfer of power from one elected government to another since the country was created.

The US and other western nations are ambivalent about Mr Qadri’s sudden reappearance in Pakistani politics as they seek to restore stability in the region amid a withdrawal of Nato forces from neighbouring Afghanistan. “He brings in an element of unpredictability to future politics, said one western diplomat in Islamabad. “ With others [from mainstream parties] you can predict intentions, but not with Qadri.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Fox News on Imran Khan being "confident of sweep in upcoming elections":

Imran Khan, a former Pakistan cricket star turned populist politician, says he's more confident than ever that his party will sweep upcoming national elections and that he will become the country's next leader.

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Khan says he is optimistic the country wants change.

He claims 40 million young Pakistanis will vote for the first time, out of an electorate of 90 million, and that they represent a "big vote for change." The general election is expected in coming months.

Khan accused those wanting to maintaining the status quo of closing ranks, giving huge amounts of money to the media to criticize his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and conducting a propaganda campaign accusing him of being pro-Taliban.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on a German poll results in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: A survey done by a German company has said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will continue to lead at the ballot box at the next elections.

The survey by Heinrich Boll Stiftung showed that 29 per cent of the people surveyed would support the PPP, the highest number for any political party surveyed by the company.

Nearly 25 per cent said they would support the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Another 20 per cent supported the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricketer Imran Khan.

Citing strong polling figures for the PTI, the survey also noted that the post election government would have to stand up to a strong political opposition.

In the 2008 elections that were boycotted by the Pakistan-Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) under the leadership of Imran Khan, the PPP won 30.8 per cent of votes, while the PML-N came second with 23.1 per cent.

This survey is in sharp contrast with the last IRI survey that was done on 4,997 people, 32 per cent of whom preferred the PML-N as preferred majority party in the federal parliament.

This figure was up from 28 per cent from the last survey that the agency conducted over two months in July and August last year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Telegraph story on Bhutto vs Sharif, the next generation of Pak politicians:

ONE studied at Oxford, the other at Cambridge. Their family rivalry dates back almost 40 years, to when the family of one saw their business empire ravaged by the nationalisation policy of the other.

But what Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have in common is being young, glamorous and heirs to Pakistan's two leading political dynasties. Both will be prominent voices due in general elections due in May.

The poetry-loving Ms Sharif is the daughter of Nawaz Sharif, a wealthy industrialist from the Punjabi city of Lahore, who fell out with Bilawal's late grandfather, Zulfiqar Bhutto, after he nationalised the Sharif businesses as Pakistan's socialist leader in the 1970s.

Himself a two-time prime minister, Mr Sharif is frontrunner to emerge with the largest party and the first crack at forming a coalition after the polls of Pakistan's 80 million voters.

During the campaign, his daughter is acting as one of his chief campaigners and mouthpieces - particularly on women's rights - and is expected to eventually succeed him one day.

"His legacy is beautiful," she told an interviewer last year. "Who would not want to step into those shoes?"

A party insider added: "She has grown very close to her father and you can see her learning from him."

Already on a similar path is Oxford-educated Bilawal, 24, who became the third generation of Bhuttos to lead the Pakistan People's Party after his mother, Benazir, was assassinated in December 2007.

Pakistan's national assembly had only a scattering of members present on Thursday when it quietly dissolved itself at the end of its five-year term. It was a historic moment. If elections go to plan then Pakistan will see the first democratic transition of power in its 65-year history, a period marked by political instability and three military coups.

Bilawal's father, Asif Ali Zardari, has been president of Pakistan since 2008, when he was catapulted into the political limelight after the assassination of his wife, Benazir. She was killed in a suicide attack as she campaigned for a third stint as prime minister.

At 24, he is still too young to stand in elections, but a constituency is waiting for him, reportedly the troubled neighbourhood of Lyari in Karachi, as a twenty-fifth birthday present.
Last year, Hina Rabbani Khar, the country's glamorous foreign minister, was forced to deny she was having an affair with the president's son, a rumour that some claimed was part of a smear campaign run by the military.

Bilawal's fans hope he will restore his mother's party to its traditional compassionate, leftist position, but fear his privileged upbringing and foreign education have disconnected him from ordinary voters. His late mother, they say, would also have made sure he had a firmer grasp of Urdu.

Naheed Khan, who was close to Mrs Bhutto, said Bilawal risked being exposed too early if he was expected to defend his father's unpopular government.

"He has to take a very clear decision, whether he wants to carry his grandfather and grandmother's legacy or he wants to go along with his father and what his father has done in five years," she said.

Whoever wins in elections, one thing seems certain: Pakistan's political dynasties show few signs of fading away.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune analysis of Lyari gang warfare by journalist Mazhar Abbas:

It started with Kala Nag and Shero Dada decades ago. Rehman Dakait was killed in 2009. Arshad Pappu was bumped off Saturday night. With this death also came the demise of Nabeel Gabol’s political career in Lyari. The political game in this gangland will never be the same.

One of the clearest indications that the outcome of the elections in Lyari will be different this time around came from Gabol. The five-time winner of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ticket here announced he was joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) just a day after the PPP rule ended. With Gabol’s departure comes to an end his family’s political dynasty in Lyari. Nabil’s grandfather defeated Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1937. Nabil’s uncle Abdus Sattar Gabol defeated Mahmood Haroon in 1970 on the PPP ticket.

Till the 1970s Lyari was politically controlled by the Haroons but the chain of their popularity was broken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when he launched the PPP in 1967. He challenged Haroon in the 1970 elections and awarded the party ticket to the local sardar Abdul Sattar Gabol. Since then, the PPP has never looked back and has swept all elections. Its weakness has, however, been an inability to end the bloodletting in the neighbourhood and murder became part of the politics. Anyone who wanted a piece of Lyari had to take sides.

Nabeel has become a victim of this bloody feud as he once sided with Rehman Dakait, who became his polling agent in the last elections. However, after the emergence of the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) after the last elections, this new group accused Gabol of favouring his men and ignoring party workers.

Indeed, Habib Jan Baloch, who is close to Uzair and Zafar Baloch, had even demanded action against Nabil Gabol. Gabol’s fault was that he never reconciled with the PAC, unlike the other MNA from the same area, Qadir Patel. There is no turning back the clock now.
Gabol now looks to the MQM to award him a ticket. But this also means that he will have to adjust to the MQM’s particular style of politics, which is quite different from that of the jiyalas. For all practical purposes, the PAC today controls Lyari. It has grown in strength since the tenure of former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza. But even he has been silent for a while. In an interesting move, the PAC had formed a buzurg committee of respected elders tasked with reconciling with the PPP. They are reportedly negotiating with Owais alias Tappi and Faryal Talpur, the president’s sister.

It is not clear who will contest from Nabeel and Rafiq Engineer’s seats but one thing is certain that it will be the PAC that will be vetting candidates though the PPP platform.

This seat may go to Bilawal in the end (through a by-election later on). For the time being, though, it could be Faryal, who may contest if all cases are withdrawn against PAC leaders and at least one of its prominent leaders get a party ticket.

And so, while the PPP is down in Lyari, it is not out. Despite the state of affairs there is not much chance of anti-PPP forces gaining ground. If the PAC and PPP do not reach any agreement, Uzair may, however, announce support for the PML-N, something which the PPP would never want.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakistanToday on Mehsuds and Kakakhels in Karachi:

KARACHI - The Taliban have occupied several areas in Karachi following a cold war between two Pakhtun tribes, Mehsud and Kakakhel, for ownership of Pakhtun strongholds in the city, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The Mehsud tribe has taken control of several Pakhtun strongholds where the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has established its network.
The fire at New Sabzi Mandi on Super Highway, one of the Asia’s largest fruits and vegetables market, was also a result of ownership dispute between the two tribes. Reportedly, the Taliban wanted the control of the vegetable market, which observes business of billion of rupees daily. There were reports of the Taliban uprising in the outskirts of the city, mainly the Super Highway. Earlier, both tribes were working under the political party – which claims to represent the Pakhtun living in Karachi. Later, the Mehsud tribe parted ways with the party and started occupying Pakhtun areas with the Taliban’s help.
“A cold war has been started between two Pakhtun tribes which has damaged the party structure,” said a party leader, requesting not to be named.
“From Sohrab Goth to Manghopir, Taliban have taken control of Pakhtun areas and established their system there which not only destroyed party structure, but also earned bad name for us,” he added.
“The war started after a clash of interest between the two tribes and later the Mehsud tribe abandoned the party and joined hands with the Taliban to establish a TTP network,” he claimed.
“From Sohrab Goth to Toll Plaza, Taliban have set their network and removed party flags from these areas, but we are still resisting against these elements in Al-Asif Square,” he said.
“We are in a fix because we have to secure the Pakhtun living in those areas which were occupied by Taliban with the help of Mehsud,” he noted.
“The [Sabzi Mandi] fire started from a hotel which is 200 yards away from my shop and there is open ground but how it captured the shop it is beyond my thinking,” Salahuddin, a crate maker, told Pakistan Today.
“The wind was also blowing from east to west of the market but how it engulfed the eastern part of the market it could be imagined,” Salahuddin added.
“The people belonging to different tribes of KP are working in the market but the Mehsud tribe dominates the market,” All Vegetable Tajir Biradari Alliance (AVTBA) Chairman Haji Syed Abdul Razzak Shah said.
“People of many tribes of KP are working in the market but Mehsud and Kakakhel have made their clear representation in the market so far,” he added.
“Apparently, there is no war going on between the two tribes in the market but one thing is sure that the market was set on fire as per plan, Shah said, adding that we do not have proves against anyone that’s why we cannot held anyone responsible for this blaze.”
“We can say that fire in the market was result of ownership dispute between Mehsud and Kakakhel tribe as the market is situated next to Faqeera Goth where both groups are undergoing in a cold war,” Rehman Khan, another leader of (AVTBA) said.
“I am resident of Faqeera Goth too and there were reports about some people who tried to close barber and computer shops,” Khan added.
“Few years back, some people started working for TTP in the area, but they were killed in police encounters,” Gadap Town SP Javed Iqbal Bhatti claimed...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story on upcoming Pak elections:

For some, the 17 miles of road and flyovers built for the exclusive use of a fleet of red buses that zoom above the gridlocked streets of Lahore is a shocking extravagance.


But for Nawaz Sharif, the frontrunner in the battle to become Pakistan's next prime minister, the country's first mass transit project is worth every penny – if it staves off competition from the country's wily president and a famous ex-cricket star.


Apart from being the first government in Pakistan's history to fulfil a full term, the PPP has little to brag about. Continuously buffeted by terrorist violence, corruption allegations and crippling energy shortages, the PPP has been unable to deliver real economic growth, let alone the motorways and infrastructure that Sharif touts.

But while the PPP's vote is likely to be wiped out in much of urban Pakistan, Zardari still has some cards to play as his party's prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf goes to the polls.

Zardari – whose term as president expires in September – is a ruthlessly pragmatic politician with a track record of doing whatever is necessary to keep his party in power.

The PPP is thought to have deep reserves of electoral strength in parts of rural Punjab and Sindh where its "feudal" landlord allies maintain a tight control on votes.

Through the president's political heir apparent, Oxford graduate Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, the PPP maintains a connection to the Bhutto name, harking back both to Benazir and Bilawal's grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The party has also lavished more than $1bn in welfare handouts on 5.2 million people through its scheme branded the "Benazir income support programme".

"People at the grassroots know what we have done for them, they don't believe what the media is saying," said Taj Haider, general secretary of the PPP in Sindh. "Living standards in the poorest areas have gone up and people are getting better prices for their crops."

Cynics say the Metro Bus is less about tackling urban congestion and more the dramatic political rise of Imran Khan, the country's beloved former cricket captain, who emerged as a major threat to the PML-N in late 2011 by holding an enormous rally for his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Sharif's home turf.

About 100,000 people took part in the Lahore "jalsa", creating speculation that what Khan calls a political tsunami would sweep Pakistani politics and break the corrupt, dynastic rule of the two established parties.


At the party's manifesto launch in Lahore last Friday, Sharif promised to turn Pakistan into an "Asian tiger", with new infrastructure and a government with "zero tolerance for corruption".

"Our political philosophy revolves around economic progress," the two-time former prime minister said. "If a country is economically strong, it is able to solve all the problems, whether law and order or political extremism."

The period of hyperactivity appears to have paid off, with the PML-N now the favourite to win the largest number of seats after Pakistanis go to the polls in the first half of May, even if an outright majority is probably beyond it. The party enjoys a substantial lead in the latest opinion polls.

Most analysts believe Khan will be lucky to get 20 of the 342 seats in parliament. "He peaked too early and gave the PML-N time to rejuvenate its base," said Cyril Almeida, a newspaper columnist. "People go to his rallies because he is a rock star in Pakistan. He doesn't have the party machine to actually turn out the voters and bring them to the polling booth on election day."...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report on British Council sponsored survey of Pak youth:

Government, parliament and political parties are all held in overwhelming contempt by Pakistanis aged 18-29, while the army and religious organisations are the two most popular institutions in the country. The survey of 5,271 young people is a sobering reminder of the challenges posed by Pakistan's peculiar demographics, where 46% of the population is aged between 15-29.

The troubled nation's vast youth bulge has been seen as a cause for optimism by some observers, with hopes pinned on a wave of young people pouring into the workforce in the coming decades that should trigger dramatic economic growth and development.

But the report warns that Pakistan faces a demographic disaster if it fails to use its young people. Talent was wasted by an "education emergency", a poor climate for business investors and high unemployment – half of the "next generation" does not work, according to the report.

"Pakistan could be one of the first countries ever to grow old before it has grown rich," it said, pointing out that the country will start to age by mid-century.

It also makes depressing reading for the politicians gearing up for general elections on 11 May, when more than 30% of the electorate is aged 18 to 29.

The survey found 94% thought the country was going in the wrong direction, with much of the blame laid at the door of the civilian institutions that have run the country since power was seized back from the army in 2008.

It said 71% had an unfavourable opinion of the government, 67% of parliament and 69% viewed political parties unfavourably. By contrast, 77% of young people approve of the army, while 74% were favourable inclined towards religious organisations.

Only 29% of young people believe democracy is the best political system for Pakistan. Military rule would be preferred by 32% and Sharia law by 38%.

With 13m new votes up for grabs among an army of first-time voters, there is a "transformational opportunity for any party that succeeds in motivating young voters to go to the polls", the report said. However, only 40% are certain to vote.

Imran Khan, cricket star turned politician, hoping to pull off the unlikely coup of going from zero seats in parliament to enough to lead the next government, is banking heavily on young people who flock to his mega rallies.

The survey shows the primary youth concerns are economic, with people worrying about soaring inflation, a jobs crisis and poverty.

Because fewer than half of young women are expecting to vote, the report branded housewives a "potential game-changer" if more of them could be inspired to take part in elections.

"Basically the ideal candidate to get the housebound women out is Margaret Thatcher in burqa," said Fasi Zaka, a columnist who was a member of the taskforce that helped produce the report for the British Council.

"They are fundamentally worried about their economic position and they are conservative, they want someone that talks about values."

According to the report, moderates and liberals are a minority among Pakistan's youth, with two-thirds of women and 64% of men describing themselves as religious or conservative.

Some commentators fear the most likely result of the election will be a hung parliament, or a shaky coalition led by one of the two established parties, that would struggle to deliver the economic growth and jobs that young people crave.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post report on PPP campaign still led by late Benazir Bhutto:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The most popular politician in Pakistan's largest party won’t be staging any rallies or participating in debates as May’s historic national election nears.

The reason: She's dead.

Yet Benazir Bhutto, assassinated more than five years ago, is still the standard-bearer of the Pakistan People's Party. In its TV commercials and banners, she has been pushed to the forefront of the party’s uphill campaign to return to power in Parliament after a widely criticized five-year term.

Hers is the face of the party on its official manifesto. She looms over smaller photos of her widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, and their son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who lead the party but are rarely seen in public.

The PPP’s campaign in the run-up to the May 11 vote has been proscribed by security concerns. The Pakistani Taliban, which asserted responsibility for Bhutto’s death, has warned the secular party that its candidates and rallies will be attacked. In recent weeks, the militants have killed several leaders and workers in the parties that formed the PPP government’s ruling coalition.

That may be part of the reason that Bhutto, who served twice as prime minister and was Pakistan’s only woman premier, has become a constant presence in the race.
Bhutto Zardari, 24, is too young to run for a seat in the May 11 election — the minimum age in Pakistan is 25.

In a video released Tuesday, the party heir reassured voters that he “wanted to launch the election campaign in the streets of my country alongside my workers,” but he said it was too dangerous.

“Once again the enemies of peace and prosperity are standing in front of us,” Bhutto Zardari said.

So the party is left with only ghosts to burnish its image.

In campaign ads and on placards, Benazir Bhutto is always clad in a fashionable head scarf — in some photos merely casting a serene gaze, in others raising an arm forcefully, as if at an eternal rally. The latter image has been paired with one of her son giving a victory sign.

In placards hung around the capital, Islamabad, touting one of the party’s National Assembly candidates, Bhutto takes the top position — usually reserved for living candidates for prime minister in other parties’ signs.

The PPP’s signage and literature also rarely fail to invoke the memory of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who founded the party and later served as Pakistan’s premier and president.

Both of them are bestowed the title “shaheed,” or martyr, whenever mentioned in party speeches and materials.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was deposed in a 1977 military coup and hanged two years later. Today his stolid visage is also an election-season staple, as the party makes a direct photographic appeal to his legacy as a socialist reformer.

“You would hear people say, ‘I will vote for his grave, even, because of what he did for me,’ ” said Usman Khalid, a former Pakistani army brigadier general who resigned to protest Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution.

Khalid, 78, runs a one-man Pakistani political party — based in Britain and existing on paper only — and comments on events. He said he knew both Benazir Bhutto and her father and understands the point of the current ads.

“She has got a cult status, and the Bhutto name has got a cult status,” he said. “Martyrdom and martyrs matter.”

As the old PPP slogan goes: “Bhutto is still alive today and Bhutto will still be alive tomorrow.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on politics of patronage in Pakistan:

Yousaf Raza Gilani, a former prime minister, built his political popularity on his status as a makhdoom, the guardian of one of Multan’s many ornate, centuries-old Sufi shrines. But in this contest, Mr. Gilani is counting on something more temporal to tempt voters: the city’s impressive array of new highway overpasses, bridges and sewerage networks, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, that he built during his time in office.

“People want to see what we have done for them,” said Mr. Gilani, who is campaigning on behalf of his three sons and brother, who are candidates for Parliament, as he steered his sport utility vehicle through a crowd of supporters. “They want deeds, not intentions.”

Patronage has long been the bedrock of politics in Pakistan, where votes are dictated less by the strategic issues that concern Western allies — combating the Taliban, rescuing an ailing economy or shaping policy toward Afghanistan — and more by immediate concerns about legal protection and government handouts.

Voters, particularly in rural areas, view their representatives in Parliament principally as big bosses who can deliver protection: influencing the police and dealing with aggressive, corrupt land officials, or working to route jobs or multimillion-dollar projects to their districts. Mr. Gilani’s Pakistan Peoples Party, which led the last government, is counting heavily on that record to shore up its crumbling popularity.
On the national stage, Mr. Khan’s rise is changing the immediate political equation for old-school power brokers. But at the local level in Pakistan, within individual constituencies, true change can be hard to deliver.

Mr. Gilani, 60, is an archetypal patronage politician. He had a mixed record during his four-year stint as prime minister, which ended in June, overseeing a sharp economic decline and chronic electricity shortages. Even so, Mr. Gilani told a Pakistani journalist recently, while in office he devoted at least one hour of every day to the affairs of his constituents.

As a result, Multan has been transformed, residents say. The city is ribboned with new roads and expressways, while a modern airport, capable of accommodating wide-body jets, is near completion. The railway station has been overhauled, some neighborhoods have new sewerage, and young students have been awarded generous scholarships.

A giant billboard outside Mr. Gilani’s house lists his achievements: 34 major development projects, costing more than $280 million, all financed by Pakistani taxpayers. “Multan has become like Paris for us,” said Muhammad Bilal, a 28-year-old laborer and enthusiastic Gilani supporter, at a rally last week.

As Mr. Gilani bumped down a country lane on the way to that rally, he pointed to a line of female faces peeking over a wall: all beneficiaries of a government aid plan he helped establish that pays $10 a month to poor women, he said.

“This is a backward area,” said the former prime minister, a soft-spoken and amiable man, just before supporters showered him with rose petals. “People have issues regarding their personal needs.”

To critics like Mr. Khan, this extreme version of pork-barrel politics represents the rot in government: the cornerstone of an unfair system riddled with graft and nepotism. But political scientists say it may be unavoidable in a country with limited resources and a weak government.

“The debate is misplaced,” said Asad Sayeed of the Collective for Social Science Research, in Karachi. “To do away with the demand for patronage politics, you would need to rebuild the entire state.” ...

Riaz Haq said...


PML (N) may end up with the largest number of seats but it probably will not be able to put together a coalition.

This will likely open up an opportunity for the PPP to form the next govt. So there's very little chance of better governance in the next 5 years.

Imran Khan (PTI) will most likely sit in the opposition with 30-40 seats....a substantial number to be able to influence laws and policies.

Athar O. said...

you're saying there that PPP will win the largest number of seats. And PML-N will find it hard winning a majority in Punjab. Don't think so. I think your predictions are way off on other fronts as well. PPP will keep Southern Pubjab - Not likely to be True. ANP will keep KPK - Not likely to be True either.

Riaz Haq said...

Athar O: "you're saying there that PPP will win the largest number of seats. And PML-N will find it hard winning a majority in Punjab. Don't think so. I think your predictions are way off on other fronts as well. PPP will keep Southern Pubjab - Not likely to be True. ANP will keep KPK - Not likely to be True either."

This blog post and the TV show were recorded in Aug 2012 before the Taliban started to selectively attack PPP, ANP, and MQM. Since then, ANP's chances have significantly diminished but PPP and MQM still remain strong in their respective strongholds. The PPP-MQM-ANP bloc can still prevail and form the next govt because the right-wing (PML N, JI, JUI, and I include PTI in that as well) in Pakistan is deeply divided with each party fielding candidates against others.

Riaz Haq said...

I congratulate PML (N) on its victory and I welcome the emergence of PTI as a third force in Pakistani politics. It has come from nowhere to become the second largest party in National Assembly and the new governing party in KP. It has the potential to transform the future of Pakistan if PTI does well in governing KP and forces change at the center to bring in much needed reforms. It's a big test of PTI and and a great hope for Pakistan.