Election Watch Update - Feb 26

Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani says he wants elections to be held throughout the country, including in Balochistan. He said the military had stopped any interference in the elections in 2008 and would continue to do so.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) have agreed to look at a way of collaborating for the next elections. According to Dawn, the move is to keep the JUI-F engaged, as well as to balance the party’s perceived tilt towards the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and its head Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who has been widely touted as a contender for caretaker prime minister. Nawaz Sharif told reporters on Monday that it was important that elections were held in a free and transparent manner. Sharif is visiting Karachi today to meet with the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional head Pir Pagara and formalize the PML-N’s involvement in an alliance of Sindh nationalist groups and political parties.

The Majlis Wahdat-al-Muslimeen, a Shia group that has recently played an active role in organizing protests across the country, has registered itself for the elections and plans to ‘directly and indirectly’ contest 100 National Assembly and provincial assembly seats. The MWM will contest elections in Shia-dominated areas in Chakwal, Talagang, Jhelum, Sheikhupura, Sargodha, Chiniot, Layyah and Bhakkar in Punjab and in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It will not support Sheikh Waqas Akram (NA-89 Jhang-IV) – a vocal legislator against the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba – and will field its own candidate, and may also support Faisal Karim Kundi of the PPP (NA-24) in Dera Ismail Khan.

Awami National Party MNA Pir Dilawar Shah (NA-14 Kohat) and his brother Pir Adil Shah joined the PPP on Monday. ANP MPA Mian Nisar Gul (PK-40 Karak-I) also quit the party and is expected to join the JUI-F.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid MNA Riaz Fatyana announced he was quitting his party. Express reports that he resigned because the PML-Q did not make him a minister. Fatyana was elected from NA-94 Toba Tek Singh-III.

Women from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, led by a leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, protested in Peshawar on Monday to be given representation in parliament.

50,000 observers will monitor elections across the country, according to an ECP official. Closed circuit television cameras will also be installed at polling stations and a call centre will be set up to report violations of election regulations.

A special parliamentary committee will meet with the Chief Election Commissioner on Thursday to convey legislators’ concerns on the ECP’s drive to verify educational degrees.

The ECP clarified that according to the Political Parties Order, dual national citizens were not allowed to hold positions in political parties. The ECP was hearing a petition on Tahir-ul-Qadri – who has a Canadian passport – being the leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which has launched its policies on energy, the economy and education, will announce policies on trade and foreign affairs, as well as for people with physical disabilities, before March 15.

British Deputy High Commissioner Francis Campbell met with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Karachi on Monday and said Britain supported democracy in Pakistan.

Commentary:

Shamila N. Chaudhary explains the process of choosing a caretaker government in Pakistan and its importance for the country’s economic stability in the short term. – Foreign Policy

Dr Maleeha Lodhi also analyses what the caretaker government needs to do for the economy, saying it will ‘save the country from an economic meltdown’. – The News

Feisal Naqvi looks at recent reports of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s alliance with the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan/Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and notes that “buying votes with Shia blood is bad politics”. – The Express Tribune