It's time to analyse the promises made by the top winners in the election manifestos

Oct 21 - 27, 2002


Let's start with a popular song of yesteryears, "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden." Promises are easy to make but hard to fulfil, particularly when they are as abstract and general as the ones made by political parties, big and small, in the Election 2002.

The silent majority broke its silence to give a loud verdict. It has made many a political pundits, who under-estimated the deep anti-US sentiment at the grass roots, eat their words. The Elections have helped Muthadda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of five religious parties, win 45 seats in the National Assembly and top seats in NWFP and Balochistan provincial assemblies.

Despite the top third winner in the National Assembly, the MMA now enjoys an immense influence as it puts it in a commanding position either to be a part of coalition government amidst a fractured mandate which has deprived any one party enough seats to form a government by itself. Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has emerged as the second top winner in National Assembly and has bagged most seats in the province of Sindh, which falls much short of simple majority to form a government.

On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-e-Azam group, has emerged as the top winner in the National Assembly bagging 77 of the total 272 seats. It has also won most seats in Punjab province 128 out of total 297. Like PPPP, PML (Q) would not be able to form a government without the help of other party/parties.

The fractured mandate, and the differences among the top three winning parties PML (Q), PPPP and MMA thus makes the situation highly uncertain about who would form the government in the center and Punjab. The situation appears less uncertain in NWFP and Balochistan where MMA would have a less difficult time to form a coalition government in NWFP MMA has won 48 of the total 99 seats while in Balochistan it has won 13 of the total 51 seats.

The emergence of MMA as top winner in NWFP and Balochistan and third top winner in the Centre puts it in a commanding position as a powerbroker with influences at both the Centre and two out of the four provinces.

It's time not to look at the outcome of the election, which brought a large number of candidates from the religious parties, from tinted glasses of outsiders who are trying to read it from their own vested perspectives. Undermining the mandate will not only be undemocratic but may also be disastrous. If the West has any qualms it's its problem, no more no less. Moreover, failure to accept the verdict would further polarize an already polarized people.

It's time to analyse the promises made by the top winners in the election manifestos of 2002 irrespective of fact that much of it talk about abstracts such as poverty alleviation, national interest, foreign investment, employment, sovereignty, etc., etc.

Let's look at the salient features of the election manifestos of the parties who have bagged the top cities allowing them to influence the policy making whether they form the government or happen to sit in opposition, a strong platform to influence the law making process.

The top winner in the National Assembly, the PML (Q), called by its opponents as the King's Party, has been particularly vocal about cohesion between the government and armed forces. One of its election promises also include providing farm inputs at subsidized rates to the farmers, obviously as an attempt to lure the egalitarian community in the bread basket of the country Punjab, where the party is based. However, the party remains strangely silent about the alleviation of poverty, an issue which is addressed by almost all of its other opponents.

The election manifesto 2002 of the PPPP pledge to strive for an egalitarian Pakistan obviously to attract the masses in a country which still remains an agriculture economy to a great extent. PPPP's manifesto also include electoral reform package earlier released by it and religious tolerance saying that beliefs of an individual had little to do with the business of the state. The manifesto also talk about eradicating the poverty by increasing social sector budget and the annual development plan. It also deals with issues such as retirement of debts and creating the employment opportunities.

The election manifesto of MMA promised enforcing the Islamic laws and systems in the country and the end of US influence in the region. It also promised to check the rising inflation level and to create job opportunities with stress on education and health sectors.

The election Manifesto 2002 "Pledge with Pakistan" of the PML (Nawaz), the government replaced by President Pervez Musharraf three years ago, pledges to block military takeovers in future. It also vows to put country on the path of democracy, self-reliance, prosperity, economic development and elimination of poverty. In addition, it also promise debating the defence budget, excluding the classified, in the parliament and to limit the powers of the Military Intelligence to security and counter-terrorism. It also promised to abolish the elitist education system by creating equal opportunities, universal primary enrollment by 2005, launching a movement to raise literacy rate to 75% by 2010 and to spend 4% of GNP allocated for education by 2007. PML (N) has won 13 seats in the National Assembly.

Muthahidda Quami Movement has bagged 13 seats in the National Assembly and 31 seats in Sindh Assembly, which makes it second top winner after PPPP in the province. MQM's manifesto calls for a new constitution to award greater provincial autonomy according to 1940 Lahore Resolution. It also calls for an independent and non-aligned foreign policy, allocating 5% of the GNP for education and 4% for health, compulsory education up to 10th grade and free education up to the primary level, 100% literacy rate in urban areas within 5 years and cent per cent literacy in 10 years.