Election Watch Update - Jan 24

The Election Commission of Pakistan has produced a draft for electoral reforms that will need to be legislated by the parliament. These include an increase in fines – from Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 – for practices such as impersonation and bribing voters. Another proposal is for an official code of conduct, which would include a penalty for candidates who violate it. The ECP has also allotted the missile symbol to disgraced scientist Dr AQ Khan’s political party, the Tehrik-e-Tahafuzz-e-Pakistan.

The commission has asked for a supplementary grant of Rs5 billion ($52 million) for the elections. This includes Rs500 million for the army and Rs1 billion for printing ballot papers and other forms. Details of the estimated grant are available here [PDF]. The ECP is also asking the Ministry of Defence to ensure military personnel accompany all of its teams involved in verifying voters’ lists in Karachi.   

Politicians continue to switch parties ahead of the elections. On Wednesday, Ghous Bux Khan Mahar announced he was joining the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional. Mahar was earlier head of the Sindh chapter of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, which is led by veteran politician Chaudhry Shujaat. Mahar has been elected to the National Assembly thrice – from 1997-1999 on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ticket (NA-155) and from 2002-2007 and 2008-2013 as part of the PML-Q (NA-203 Shikarpur-II). He has been elected to the Sindh Assembly four times (1977, 1985, 1988 and 1993). In 1988 and 1993, he ran on a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket (PS-9 Shikarpur III) and has served as a federal and provincial minister. His last position in the federal cabinet was minister for privatization. His sons Arif Khan Mahar and  Shaharyar Khan Mahar also joined the PML-F on Wednesday. Shaharyar was part of the Sindh cabinet, but quit over differences with the Pakistan Peoples Party over the province’s local government ordinance.

Sardar Mohammad Saif-ud-din Khosa, who was elected to the National Assembly on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ticket (NA-173 Dera Ghazi Khan-III) joined the Pakistan Peoples Party on Wednesday. The move comes as the PPP tries to gain sure-shot candidates to be able to win seats in the Punjab province. Khosa’s father, Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, is a leader of the PML-N. The PPP has formed a four-member board – comprising former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur (a member of the National Assembly), Amin Fahim and Syed Khursheed Shah – that will select candidates for the elections.

Leaders of the PML-N and the Jamaat-e-Islami met to discuss the interim government that will take over after the current government finishes its term this March. The PML-Q held an internal meeting to discuss electoral alliances and ongoing negotiations with other political parties.

The Peshawar High Court has directed the provincial election commission to “draft a summary for amending rules in order to facilitate voters residing in camps for internally displaced persons.”

Members of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PML-N and the Sunni Tehreek amassed outside the Election Commission’s office to protest the commission’s decision to not go ahead with delimiting constituencies in Karachi. According to Ummat, the by-election in Karachi on February 18 may turn fairly contentious because PML-N’s Saleem Zia's candidacy will lead to a contest between the MQM and the PML-N.

Commentary:

Hamid Mir says that politicians in Islamabad are looking tired and dejected after five years in government, and have become sensitive to criticism from the media. Mir reflects on whether politicians – usually derided as being corrupt and thieves – are actually the real problem or is it dictators who have never been held accountable for their crimes? – Jang (Urdu)