Election Watch Update - Jan 26

Note: Reports of political activity in Pakistan were minimal over the past day since Friday was a religious holiday.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s confidante Owais Muzaffar ‘Tappi’ is reportedly planning to contest the next elections from a Sindh Assembly seat (PS-72 Jamshoro-II). Muzaffar, who is often referred to as the president’s adopted brother, has been an extremely influential figure in Sindh politics and government dealings. According to Dunya, Muzaffar has been advised to contest elections and play a formal role. The Peoples Amn Committee – a banned group that was once closely affiliated with the PPP – blames Muzaffar for turning the PPP against it and accused him of financial impropriety.

PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan’s wife Bushra Aitzaz will be contesting elections from Lahore (NA-124 Lahore-VII). Ahsan was elected on that seat in the 2002 general elections.

The Friday Times reports that President Zardari will be spending a week in Lahore to oversee the PPP’s election plans for Punjab. 

Information Minister and PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar’s demand to remove governors before the elections and replace them with apolitical ones is against the constitution. He also said Nisar and party leader Nawaz Sharif were not on the same page.

The PPP held internal elections on Saturday. Makhdoom Amin Fahim was elected party president and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was elected general secretary.

In 2008, Fahim was largely considered to be a shoo-in for the prime minister’s position, but President Zardari nominated Yousaf Raza Gilani in a surprise move. Fahim, sidelined and stung, began openly criticizing the government but later made amends and was made a cabinet member.

A US Embassy cable (later released by WikiLeaks) noted at the time:

“The way in which Zardari chose Yousef Gillani as the PPP's choice for Prime Minister illustrates his current leadership style. During a press conference three days after Benazir's death, Zardari indicated publicly that Amin Faheem would be the PPP's choice for Prime Minister. After party consultations, however, Zardari decided that Faheem was a bad choice. He told Ambassador that Faheem had spent most of the campaign in Dubai (with his latest 22 year-old wife) and was simply too lazy to be Prime Minister. Others suggest that the class difference between them -- Faheem's family is socially and spiritually above Zardari's -- also played into the equation. Zardari appeared unconcerned over considerable inter-party and public criticism of his decision to delay an announcement of his choice for PM. Even after he privately had chosen Gillani, Zardari continued to consult PPP members from the National Assembly and the provinces and delayed the announcement until the last minute. In the meantime, he sent emissaries to convince Faheem's friends to desert him; some suggested he planted negative press stories about Faheem.” 

Commentary:

Najam Sethi writes about Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s demands and says that the need is for a national consensus on the caretaker government and ensuring that the Election Commission of Pakistan is empowered. – The Friday Times