2018’s elections and the missing manifestos
With elections fast approaching, the three main political parties of the country, the Pakistan Muslim League — Noon (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are yet to come forward with their election manifestos.
The only political outfit that has presented its manifesto is the five party religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The MMA’s 12-point manifesto was unveiled at the start of June in Karachi. It aims to implement sharia law, provide employment and education opportunities to all and formulate an independent foreign policy.
Election manifestos are an important part of a political party’s campaign and they aim to inform the public about the party’s positions on many issues in a more detailed way. Moreover, parties use their manifestos as a campaigning tool to inform voters and capture a share of the undecided vote.
In developed democracies such as the United Kingdom and United States, manifestos are a critical part of the election campaign as they take positions on issues vital to the public. In the US, the current president Donald Trump launched his presidential bid with the slogan “Make America Great Again”. He also promised to tighten immigration laws and pledged to construct a wall at the US-Mexico border, among other harsh measures. Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric resulted in him becoming America’s 45th president.
Over the years, manifestos have lost their significance as the political culture of the country has deteriorated to extremely appalling levels where politicians routinely indulge in mudslinging, petty accusations, and abusive language, which is used in full public display without any apprehension
Over the years, manifestos have lost their significance as the political culture of the country has deteriorated to extremely appalling levels where politicians routinely indulge in mudslinging, petty accusations, and abusive language, which is used in full public display without any apprehension.
The genuine issues of the public remain undiscussed, such as the increase in religious extremism, water shortage and climate change related issues, Pakistan’s increasing isolation in the region and the immensely high levels of debt that the country has accrued.
The erosion of ideology-based politics and the rise of electable candidates among politicians have contributed to the general apathy and indifference that the public feels towards their leaders. Here politics is heavily reliant on personalities and due to a culture of hero-worship around certain political leaders, the manifestos are not given due importance.
Adding to this is the lack of a research-oriented culture; thorough attention to detail is missing when it comes to basic issues. A focused approach is needed to deal with many problems, something which we are direly lacking.
If we do a quick comparison of the manifestos from the 2013 general elections, it seems obvious that all major parties claimed that they would start nationwide health and education programs as well as begin fancy infrastructure projects, introduce structural reforms in a number of areas and erase all the problems that an average Pakistani will face. How much of that eloquent and well-written discourse translated into concrete actions on the ground is clearly evident.
The literacy rate of Pakistan has dropped from 60 percent to 58 percent, according to the Pakistan economic survey 2016-17. The government’s tall claims that it would reduce corruption have failed dismally as 35 percent of people have experienced an increase in levels of corruption, according to a 2017 Transparency International report.
Manifestos will only become relevant among the people when they see concrete steps being taken to address the essential problems that plague society. It is the duty of the political parties to deliver on the lofty promises that they make in their campaigns.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.