Election Watch Update - Jan 27

The Jamaat-e-Islami and other political parties protested outside the regional Election Commission office in Karachi on Saturday, as two police officers on duty with the commission were killed. Following their lead, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has announced that opposition parties will protest their dissatisfaction with verification of voters’ lists in Karachi outside parliament. Party chief Nawaz Sharif has asked the party’s Sindh leadership to “’highlight the issues” with the verification process. According to Dunya, the PML-N is also planning to not participate in the February 18 by-elections in Sindh. The Express Tribune reports that Sharif has accepted a proposal to move the Supreme Court on voter verification in Karachi.

Sharif is continuing his drive to form electoral alliances with political groups in Sindh, and has delegated the party’s Sindh head Ghous Ali Shah to take the lead on this. The PML-N has been in negotiations with political parties for a considerable period of time, and has absorbed the Mumtaz Bhutto-led Sindh National Front within its ranks to bolster its standing in the province. Historically, the Pakistan Peoples Party has been dominant in the Sindh province. Over the past couple of years, Sharif has attempted to build inroads in Sindh, bringing in Mumtaz Bhutto and other vocal and influential Sindh politicians on board, as well as holding rallies in several districts.

The Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party and Awami Tehreek, two Sindh nationalist groups, will contest the elections in alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional.

PML-F leader Pir Pagara’s circle has denied reports that he was offered to be the caretaker prime minister, and claim that the leader would not accept the offer.

A parliamentary commission has approved a draft of a constitutional amendment bill that would pave the way for the creation of a new province called ‘Bahawalpur Southern Punjab’. The provincial assembly of the province will include 123 members and it will be represented by 59 members in the National Assembly. The bill will be presented in the parliament next week.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain said in a statement issued by his party that the southern Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces – whose creation the PPP has been backing – should be created before the general elections. The party also said it would field candidates from every constituency in Punjab.

Pakistan Railways is reportedly recruiting employees, claiming it has received no orders from the Election Commission on halting recruitment prior to the elections.

Quote of the day:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader and ex-Engro CEO Asad Umar asking PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, who is currently on religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, to “pray for the country while u are there brother...particularly for a peaceful election campaign...”

Commentary:

Sohail Warraich, on his show Mere Mutabiq, notes that the joining of political heavyweights and other moves gearing up for the elections, as well as the Supreme Court’s statement on transparent and timely elections, disproves conspiracies that there would be a two-year caretaker government. He also believes Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri will not be able to wield any political power before the elections, but will be influential as a pressure group after the elections. – Geo TV

Analyst Arif Rafiq speculates that this year’s elections could “bring in a center-right coalition led by the PML-N” which has its share of “electable and competent politicians”. Rafiq also provides a background into agreements between the PPP and the PML-N and the current government’s challenges with governance. – The Diplomat