Election Watch Update - Feb 9

The Supreme Court will hear Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s petition on the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday. Qadri is challenging the appointment of the chief election commissioner and provincial election commissioners on the grounds that these weren’t done in line with the constitution, however the Law Minister Farooq H. Naek has said that these were done correctly. Former law minister Babar Awan, who has fallen out with the Pakistan Peoples Party, supports Qadri’s stance, as do the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Sources tell The News that the Jamaat-e-Islami has approved retired justices Nasir Aslam Zahid and Shakirullah Jan’s names for caretaker prime minister, but has rejected Asma Jahangir.

A survey by Herald magazine and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute – featuring 1,283 respondents in 54 districts – found that 29% of voters who have been registered and have a party preference would vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party, followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (25%) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (20%).

The survey also shows that the PPP’s vote bank has declined significantly over the years, while the PML-N has remained stable.

55% of Sindhis polled said they would vote for the PPP, 44% of Hindko speakers support the PML-N and the PTI, 34% of Pashtuns support the PPP and 11% of Pashtuns support the Awami National Party.

The respondents identified poverty, corruption, the energy crisis, illiteracy and extremism as the biggest issues facing Pakistan.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said that the party would not allow elections to be postponed. He also alleged that Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri and the PTI were ‘part of a strategy to delay elections’. At a rally, PPP MNA Syed Zafar Ali Shah (NA-212 Naushehro Feroze-II) and former Sindh Assembly legislator and Zafar’s brother Dr Ahmed Ali Shah (PS-21 Naushehro Feroze-III) joined the PML-N. Dr Shah had to leave the Sindh Assembly over being a dual national citizen and Syed Zafar Ali Shah fielded his own candidate against the PPP’s in the by-election for the PS-21 seat.

Syed Bagh Ali Shah, a PPP leader described as being close to the Zardari family, also quit the party and joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional on Friday.

President Asif Ali Zardari reiterated on Friday that there would not be a delay in holding elections. Dunya reports that the National Assembly and provincial assemblies will be dissolved on March 14.

Negotiations on seat adjustments between the PPP and the PML-Q will continue on February 15 and all issues that could not be resolved by the negotiating teams will be dealt with by party chiefs President Zardari and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

The ECP will not be reversing its ban on recruitment for government jobs. Notices have been issued to eight government departments for allegedly violating the ban, which was put in place after reports emerged on the diversion of funds to constituencies as well as massive recruitments planned before the elections, two strategies that are often employed in the run-up to elections in Pakistan. The ECP’s directions are available here.

The National Database and Registration Authority has sent the ECP a Rs4.5 million bill for preparing electoral rolls.

A member of the National Assembly has reportedly asked the ECP to register a new political party and allot it the election symbol of a donkey; however the ECP says that it does not have this as a symbol but it does have a horse, whose image resembles the donkey considerably.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Michael Posner met Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on Friday and discussed election preparations. A statement issued afterwards read: “We look forward to timely, free, and fair elections that will result in the first civilian democratic transition in Pakistan’s history.”

Commentary:

Nusrat Javeed writes that a set of President Zardari’s friends are advising him to take a stronger stand against the judiciary, but the president has not listened to them and will make a decision after he meets with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. – The Express Tribune

Haroon-ur-Rasheed warns Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairperson against Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who joined the party last year and has served as a foreign minister. Qureshi was previously associated with the PPP and the PML-N. – Dunya (Urdu)