Election Watch Update - Jan 28

According to a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s popularity ratings were at 32% in November, up from 28% in July-August. The PML-N is followed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (18%), Pakistan Peoples Party (14%), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (4%) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) (2% each). The survey shows a popularity boost for the PML-N in its home turf of Punjab, as well as in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Note: Results of the poll have been published by several media organizations. Since the results are not available online, a complete assessment of the data cannot be done.

Despite threats and widespread violence and targeted attacks in the province, Balochistan’s political parties are set to contest the 2013 elections, having sat out at the last one.

The PPP has reportedly refused to offer any support to former president Pervez Musharraf for his return to Pakistan or his ongoing court trials. According to Dunya, Musharraf wanted to come back to the country and be a part of the caretaker government, but the PPP has turned him down. Musharraf has said that he will return two months before the elections, but did not give a specific date.

PPP leaders have been told to prepare for polls in May and that “money will matter more than anything” in the elections. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s cousin Mumtaz Bhutto said he would run for the NA-207 Larkana-IV seat if the PPP fields President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur as a candidate. Talpur was elected to that seat in 2008. Mumtaz Bhutto is the leader of the Sindh National Front party, which merged with the PML-N last year.

Government representatives met Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri on Sunday to discuss the agreement signed with him on January 17 during his followers’ sit-in in Islamabad. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said, “We will try our best to announce a date for dissolution of national and provincial assemblies and holding of elections within 7-10 days.”

The PTI has announced that it will nominate someone for the caretaker prime minister position. Legally, the caretaker prime minister must be selected by the president in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition of the National Assembly. The current leader of the opposition, the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has been talking to all opposition parties – including those that are not represented in the assembly. It was reported last week that the PML-N will also discuss this with the PTI.

The issue of creating a province in southern Punjab has turned into a pre-election issue, as the PML-N claims that it is being used as a stunt for the elections. On Saturday, a parliamentary commission approved a draft bill for the creation of the province.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar reiterated on Sunday that the party wants a southern Punjab province to be created. He also alleged that allegations were being leveled against Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim as part of a “well thought out conspiracy.”

The PTI has opted to not join the PML-N led sit-in to express solidarity with the Election Commission of Pakistan. On the other hand, the Jamaat-e-Islami is advising the PML-N to ‘soften’ its stance towards the PTI.

Dunya reports that the Jamaat-e-Islami’s 40-point manifesto calls for an end to drone strikes, general sales tax and dependence on loans from the International Monetary Fund.

The ECP and military officials have decided to increase the number of army personnel on duty with ECP staffers conducting a verification of voters’ lists in Karachi.

Mansehra-based leaders of religious-political parties have opposed the nomination of Asma Jahangir as caretaker prime minister. She was reportedly on a shortlist of candidates prepared by the PML-N.

Commentary:

Shaheen Sehbai writes that noted lawyer and the former head of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir is most likely to be the caretaker prime minister. According to Sehbai, President Asif Ali Zardari feels Jahangir can lead a movement against the superior judiciary and the military. – The News