Election Watch Update - Mar 6

The election watch was on hiatus on Tuesday on account of personal commitments. Apologies! Today’s election watch will include news coverage from Tuesday as well.

Dunya reports that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s secretary will be meeting with Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to formally request the military’s help in overseeing the elections. General Kayani will also be briefed on ‘sensitive’ polling stations.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is the frontrunner for the next election, followed by the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, according to a report produced by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency and Gallup Pakistan. [PDF]

Ex-PPP leader Nawab Lashkari Raisani has officially joined the PML-N, in what the Express Tribune describes as a ‘virtual elimination’ of the PPP in Balochistan. Other than Raisani, 22 senior and mid-level PPP leaders from the province have joined the PML-N. A former MNA from the Kohistan district, Malik Saeed Ahmed Khan, and his son Misri Khan also joined the PML-N.

The PML-N has started assessing constituencies and candidates for 110 National Assembly seats in Punjab, the party’s stronghold.

The party also says it is discussing caretaker prime minister nominees with opposition parties, but there appear to be issues with one of the PML-N’s proposed names. The PML-N’s list reportedly comprises retired judges Nasir Aslam Zahid, Ajmal Mian and Shakirullah Jan.

Naheed Khan, Benazir Bhutto’s former secretary who has been on the outs with the PPP for several years, has asked the ECP to register the Pakistan Peoples Party. The PPP is currently registered with the ECP as the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians. According to The News, “In the letter pad of the PPP on which Naheed Khan submitted the application for the registration of the PPP as political party with the Election Commission of Pakistan has mentioned Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as Rehbar Chairman, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto as Rehnuma Chairperson and late Begum Nusrat Bhutto as a Madar-e-Jamhuriyat.” The PPP that is currently led by Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has been termed an association by President Zardari’s lawyer in Lahore High Court proceedings.

The PPP has reportedly agreed on seat adjustments with a party representing the movement to make the Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a separate province.

Awami National Party leader Engineer Hizbullah Gandapur has joined the PPP.

The ECP says legislators who are found guilty of submitting fake educational degrees will not be barred from contesting the elections, because the ECP does not have the power to disqualify members on these grounds.

The National Database and Registration Authority will help verify whether candidates for the elections have a Pakistan Origin Card that is given to dual national citizens or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis, collect details of candidates and their dependents to check their travel patterns and also run a check of them based on the tax net. The Federal Board of Revenue will verify the amount of tax paid by candidates and their tax returns.  

The ECP has asked political parties to apply for election symbols by March 15.

The government and the opposition have agreed to dissolve the Punjab Assembly by March 16 – the day the National Assembly’s tenure ends – in order to have elections for the Punjab Assembly and other provincial assemblies and the National Assembly on the same day. The Punjab Assembly’s tenure ends on April 8.

The Law Ministry is set to meet the ECP to discuss the commission’s proposed amendments for rules for the elections and to convey politicians’ concerns.

Commentary:

Umair Javed looks at urban voting patterns in Pakistan and the need to move away from clan-based assessments and predictions of electoral wins. – Five Rupees