Election Watch Update - Feb 18

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Farooq H. Naek says elections will be held in the second week of May. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai – whose name has surfaced as a potential caretaker prime minister – was the only politician to attend a lunch hosted at the Presidency in honor of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, sparking speculation that Achakzai may secure the nomination.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, believes that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement quitting the government is a ‘joke’. Khan believes that the MQM is conspiring with the Pakistan Peoples Party so it can have a say in the caretaker government, and has said that he would oppose the MQM switching sides. Khan also hit out at the ECP for ‘defaming’ legislators, after its recent move of asking legislators to verify their education degrees.

PPP leader Khursheed Shah denied the MQM’s allegations that the party was supporting criminal groups. The Pakistan Muslim League-Functional has asked the MQM to support its candidate, MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi, as opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly and call for the withdrawal of the Sindh Peoples Local Government Act.

Reports surfaced on Sunday that Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh had resigned, which were denied by the government. However, The News reports that Shaikh wants the caretaker government to come into place immediately.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the PPP has not contacted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf over the caretaker government. The PML-N, as the largest opposition party, will reportedly talk to the PTI.  The PTI has also asked the Chief Election Commissioner to take notice of a Sindh government scheme to distribute 27,500 plots, and said this was pre-poll rigging. The ECP has banned the government from recruiting new employees and diverting development funds to constituencies.

The Express Tribune has published a number of result projections for the elections, and looks at what investors and business analysts have to say about the next government’s economic strategy. It also analyses the depreciation of the rupee and a potential crisis with Pakistan’s balance of payments. Political parties have also produced strategies for how to deal with the energy crisis, but are not ready to provide voters with answers on how long planned reforms will take.

An analysis by the Free and Fair Election Network shows the PPP leading in election campaign posters and other publicity material put up on public buildings in 14 districts of Sindh and Punjab. It has recommended that “the district administrations acknowledge the partiality involved in allowing parties to use public offices for politicking, get a mechanism in place to monitor public offices across the district and get parties on board with the idea and ensure that public offices remain free of party campaign materials.”

Voting is underway in by-elections for two Sindh Assembly seats (PS-73 Jamshoro-Dadu and PS-84 Thatta-I) and one Punjab Assembly seat (PP-239 Vehari-VIII).

The PML-N has asked its members to apply for tickets for the election by March 5.

The National Assembly’s last session begins today and ends on March 16.