Manifestos have become merely a requirement to contest elections. The common man would rarely ever read a manifesto and slogans like “Roti Kapra Makan” or “Naya Pakistan” have proved to be enough.
Dr. Kalsoom Sumra
The heading of this critique says it all – the bitter reality about the importance of manifestos in the realm of Pakistani politics. Manifestos reflect beliefs — aims and policies of political parties thus offering an agenda to the nation to pursue if elected. Presently, the presentation of manifestos is merely done to fulfill the legal formality of Pakistan Election Commission. The manifestos which have been prepared are without much deliberation and homework. Salient features of foreign policy, issues related to national security/terrorism are not even touched upon. Manifestos are printed in a few hundred / thousands in numbers, then presented in a press conference to media and later dumped in stores for rates to consume.
A nation needs to be fed, educated and brought up to the level of economical sustainability, free from clutches’ of tribal / feudal system prior to understanding what manifestos of political parties are meant to aspire in real / developed / western democracies.
The overview of the manifestos given by Pakistan’s political parties in the last five decades indicates only generalized issues of common masses. The only slogan of Roti, Kapra Aur Makan by PPP manifest of 1970 attained wider publicity in musses and remained popular till 2008 Elections. The elections of 1970 though partially won by PPP in West Pakistan were over this slogan. Later events proved that even PPP of Bhutto was unable to achieve any goal given in the manifesto. The alleged rigged election of 1977 brought masses in streets was on the name of ‘Tehreek-i-Nizam-i-Mustafa’, which brought down the Bhutto regime.
The customary approach was followed by political parties in 90’s largely based on Bhutto and Anti-Bhutto slogans thus giving no heed to real issues confronted by the country. The came the coup of Mushraff in 1999 and the next ten years of Pakistan were taken to the refurbishment of political process again to normal.
The elections of 2008 won by PPP of Asif Zardari were mere because of sympathy vote as a result of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and not because of any political manifest of PPP. It was only after the strong introduction of IK factor in politics from 2011 onwards that has highlighted the importance of real issues like corruption, injustices, economic disparities and a different outlook to the menace of terrorism. A nation of about 220 Millions consist of about 40% illiterate / under the poverty line has no stakes in going through the details of manifestos presented or otherwise by political parties.
The social culture, moral fiber, dynamics of Urban vis a vis rural areas, the dominance of feudal system in most parts of rural Sindh / Balochistan, the poor economic state of masses in growing inflation are just a few burning issues which reflect the seriousness of our masses to any of the manifestos. Even for Elections 2018, only PPP, MMA and fewer small political parties have presented their manifestos largely touching upon the generalized issues in order to present it being a formality.
The Pakistani nation is likely to remain oblivious to such a basic par-requisite of any meaningful political process unless masses are literate/mature enough to question the political leadership for what is being promised and what is later fulfilled in their tenure of the government
The Pakistani nation being very emotional in nature, votes on the basis of personality-oriented politics and the less privileged masses will not be weighing the written promises and later manifestation demonstrated by these political leaders.
Anyone imaging that this change will come into play by repeating political process every five years is in total oblivion of the facts. A nation needs to be fed, educated and brought up to the level of economical sustainability, free from clutches’ of tribal/feudal system prior to understanding what manifestos of political parties are meant to aspire in real/developed/western democracies. Let us all be aware or do our best to spread awareness so that at least some minority may understand the predicament.
Dr. Kalsoom Sumra is currently working as Assistant Professor at Center for Policy Studies, COMSATS University Islamabad Pakistan. Her current research interests focus on Local Government, New Public Management & Urban Governance, Public Policy, Social Equity, Fairness and Sustainable Management, Social Responsibility, Public Services Ethics. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.