Election Watch Update - Mar 28

The Balochistan National Party-Mengal has formed a committee to finalize candidates for the elections and prepare a party manifesto. The ECP is reviewing the state of security and  holding talks with parties in the province in the hope that they will contest elections, and plans to meet with National Party Balochistan, Balochistan National Party-Awami, Balochistan National Party-Mengal Hazara Democratic Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI-F, JUI-N, PPP, PML-N, PTI, JI, ANP and PML-Q.

The Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, a coalition of six religious-political parties, has announced its candidates for the elections. These include Ahmed Ludhianvi, the head of the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly known as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan). Ludhianvi lost the NA-89 Jhang-IV seat to Sheikh Waqas Akram of the PML-Q, who has now joined the PML-N.

While the PPP has denied reports of a rift between President Asif Ali Zardari and his son, PPP head Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Dunya reports that Bilawal has gone to London after disagreements on how the party is managed. Dunya says that Bilawal could 'never adjust in the party' because of the people Zardari has surrounded himself with including his siblings, Faryal Talpur and Owais Muzaffar. The paper says that Sanam Bhutto, Bilawal's aunt and Benazir's sister, has been asked to fix the impasse and appeal to Bilawal to work with the party since contesting elections without a Bhutto at the helm will be a challenge for the PPP. Owais Muzaffar, widely believed to have served as a behind-the-scenes chief minister in Sindh in the last five years, will be contesting a Sindh Assembly seat from Thatta.

Dawn looks at the contest for the NA-24 and NA-25 seats in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank and the JUI-F’s hopes for a victory.

The military has approved a security plan for the 2013 elections. The ECP may ask the military to guard at least half of the polling stations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf plans to contest elections in Chitral and Karachi but offered vague details on which seats he would contest and his legal challenges.

Former Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who was leading a breakaway faction of the PML-Q, has renamed his party the Peoples Muslim League. Rahim will not be joining the PML-N /PML-F coalition of Sindh parties but says he would support the PML-N.  

The PML-N has asked candidates to directly file nomination papers to the ECP instead of waiting for the party to announce candidates. The MQM is also opting to have all potential candidates file directly to the ECP and will finalize candidates after they have gone through the ECP’s scrutiny process.

Dawn notes that the Chakwal constituencies are no longer a sure shot for the PML-N, as the PML-Q and the PTI now have a considerable amount of influence and electable candidates in the district.

The Mahar family in Nawabshah has decided not to back the PPP. Nawabshah is President Asif Ali Zardari’s constituency and one that the PPP is almost always guaranteed to win.

Despite threats to the ANP and a series of militant attacks on it in Karachi, the party will be contesting 14 National Assembly seats in the city.