Pakistan Votes: The Elections 2018 blog
Your hub for real-time election news, analysis and opinion from across Dawn
Your hub for real-time election news, analysis and opinion from across Dawn
Our national leaders continue to blow us away with their fabulous wealth.
We have today a former adviser to the prime minister, Amir Muqam, as the subject of newsroom discussion.
Muqam, who is also the PML-N's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president, has declared Rs761.3 million worth of assets to the Election Commission of Pakistan. He has four cars, Rs20 million in prize bonds, Rs130 million worth of property in Swat, Shangla, Islamabad and Peshawar and — get this — is indebted for Rs10 million to his wife (who happens to own assets worth Rs1.23 BILLION).
Muqam is currently the subject of a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigation for allegedly accumulating wealth beyond his known sources of income.
If Muqam's wealth doesn't make you go weak in the knees, former PPP minister Arbab Alamgir (also from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has declared more than Rs3 billion in assets.
His wife, Asma Arbab, who was an adviser to the prime minister on States and Frontier Regions (Safron) during the last PPP government, is also a billionaire. Her total holdings are Rs4.035 billion. She owns five cars, compared to her husband's three.
The couple also jointly own 50pc stakes in four companies. Both are the subject of a NAB investigation for possessing assets beyond their known sources of income.
Ali Begum is shattering stereotypes in more ways than one.
It's not often that you see a woman contesting for a seat in the National Assembly from the remote and male-dominated erst-while tribal region of Kurram. Also unusual is for Pakistani citizens to return to serve their homeland after moving to and settling in a foreign country like the United States.
But 69-year-old Ali Begum has proudly done both and is now contesting for a seat from Upper Kurram's NA-46 constituency. Her competition: 23 male contenders. But that doesn't deter her one bit.
“I have good reputation and worked for the area. A woman is contesting elections against 23 males, but success will be mine,” says Ali Begum.
Ali Begum is hopeful that the 168,868 voters in the constituency ─ including 72,842 women ─ will vote for her and send the area's first female representative to the National Assembly.
Read more about the inspiration that is Begum Ali here.
The election tribunals have been bombarded with appeals against acceptance of certain high-profile candidates' nomination papers.
The PTI and PML-N are apparently leading the race in filing appeals and counter-appeals with Lahore becoming the hotbed of such petitions, raising the question whether some candidates are afraid of a contest.
PTI's Yasmeen Rashid, who lost Lahore's former NA-120 by-poll to Kulsoom Nawaz last year, has filed three appeals — against the acceptance of Maryam Nawaz, Ayaz Sadiq and Pervaiz Malik's nomination papers.
But Rashid is not alone in attempting to get her rivals disqualified as her own party leader Imran Khan's papers have been challenged in NA-131.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, who jumped ship from the PML-Q to PPP and is now in the PTI, has also had her papers challenged.
Given that bigwigs like Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen were disqualified by the Supreme Court in one year — on petitions by rival parties — could it be that candidates think their appeals stand a better chance now? We'll have to see how many pan out.
In a rare media appearance, Benazir Bhutto's younger sister Sanam Bhutto has urged voters to vote for her nephew Bilawal Bhutto in the upcoming elections.
"You must vote for Bilawal if you want Pakistan to progress in the right direction," Sanam says in a video shot in London.
Former president Pervez Musharraf, who had hoped to run in this election, has resigned as chairman of the All Pakistan Muslim League.
The move may be an indication of the end of his bid to contest the elections this year.
Some reports suggest the new party chairman, Mohammad Amjad, may be running for six seats.
Musharraf was banned from politics for life by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in 2013. He challenged the decision in the SC.
"We are of the considered view that a person who has got not a little respect for whole of the constitution how he will pass through narrow and small compass of articles 62 and 63." ─ PHC verdict
Earlier this month, the SC issued a directive allowing him to file his nomination papers only if he returned and was present in court on June 13 in Lahore, cautioning that the fate of the papers would be subject to the final decision in the present case.
But he failed to return and the SC withdrew its directive.
This here is a news story that has less the feel of news and seems more a made-up story. But we assure you it's all true.
In a nutshell, PML-N's late leader Makhdoom Syed Ali Raza's daughter and second widow, both of whom had feuded over the deceased's property, were set to extend their legal wrangle into electoral politics.
Both had secured tickets — one from PML-N, the other from PTI (we kid you not!) — and the stage for a gladiatorial battle in the PP-123 constituency was set.
Begum Saima Ali Raza, the step-mother, however, recently withdrew in her step-daughter's (Sonia Ali Raza) favour, defusing the climax somewhat. The extended version of this story still makes for one helluva reading.
This one is nothing out of the ordinary but should still tickle the fancy of election geeks who need to now details on votes, voters and constituencies, etc.
News is that Lahore district (5.39 million) has the highest number of voters in all of Pakistan, whereas Balochistan's Sherani district has the lowest (just 39,787).
To know what's in between, come this way.
Hamza Shahbaz will probably never be able to surpass his dad's political career due to a roadblock named Maryam Nawaz, but he is far far ahead in the father-son battle of net worths.
With assets totalling Rs411m to his name, Shahbaz jr is apparently eight times richer than his old man.
The fact and figure-filled story made front page news in today's Dawn.
Meanwhile, this guy may be on to something:
There's not much that PML-N scion Hamza Shahbaz does not own — with his declared net assets totalling over Rs411 million... except maybe a car of his own, if his statement of assets and liabilities is anything to go by.
Documents the PML-N leader has submitted along with his nomination papers show that he owns 11 pieces of non-agricultural land in Lahore worth over Rs136m. He also has shares in 21 companies, including sugar and textile mills, worth nearly Rs133m.
But while the numbers may be significant, they are not even half of those attributed to Hamza's cousin and possible PML-N heir Maryam Nawaz, who has a whopping Rs845m to her name.
But money matters aside, the documents have also reaffirmed something: Hamza is sticking to his claim that Ayesha Ahad Malik is not his wife (although he has two other wives).
As for PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, he is the owner of 670 kanals of agricultural land — worth only Rs35,000.
Know more about the assets owned by the father-son duo here.
Claiming that he has spent his "life and money" for the PML-N and occasionally went to jail for the party, Zaeem Qadri has decided that he wants to go solo after he was reportedly not awarded a ticket.
In a fiery press conference, the pugnacious PML-N loyalist announced that he will contest the upcoming elections from Lahore's NA-133 constituency independently. The main target of his presser was not the party, however; it was the Sharif scion Hamza Shahbaz.
Apparently airing a decade-worth of grievances against Hamza, Qadri alleged that all he (Hamza) has done in the past 10 years is raise an army of "employees, boot polishers and masseurs" in Punjab and he cannot put up with it any longer.
"I cannot polish Hamza Shahbaz's boots," Qadri declares.
"People know that you were nowhere to be seen in the last 10 years," he said while addressing the PML-N leader, and challenged him to face him in the poll. "My election is against you Hamza Shahbaz," he warned.
Get more of the heated press conference here.
Another day, yet another foot-in-mouth moment for a male politician when it comes to women. Are misogynistic men our only electoral options?
Imran Khan’s views on 'good' mothers and 'bad' mothers don’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s important to realise that there is no intrinsic, magical quality that determines mothers’ quality or influence upon their children.
Rather, it is the result of unpaid, unregulated and never-ending labour women perform in the home, through tasks considered the sole duty of the mother — ‘women’s work’.
Zuneera Shah, gender studies student at Harvard, calls out Khan's misplaced critique of feminism as a 'Western' import:
Such men continue to be in complete disbelief that us Pakistani women — who bear the painful brunt of the patriarchal onslaught every single day — could ever recognise, on their own, that the systems in place are never going to be in our favour.
Read more here.
Who are these “international powers that can try to influence the election” that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) mentioned last month? The Senate Standing Committee on Interior wants to know (and so does the rest of Pakistan).
On May 28, the ECP secretary had claimed before the committee on interior that, according to his assessments, attempts could be made at the international level to sabotage the upcoming general election and said that he was ready to share details in an in-camera setting.
“[The ECP secretary] had information that should be shared with the committee," pointed out Senator Javed Abbasi (more from him here). "We should hold an in-camera meeting to discuss the issue because it will give us an idea of which powers are against the elections and we will be able to play our role to address the issue."
The committee chairman agreed to hold the in-camera briefing and it was also decided to have intelligence agencies participate — the date for the briefing, however, has yet to be announced.
Constituency visits and engagement are important for candidates before a general election. So what do politicians do if their votebank asks tough questions?
Chief of the Leghari tribe in DG Khan, PML-N's former MPA Jamal Khan didn't know what was coming when he visited his constituency this week.
Residents gathered around the former lawmaker and 2018 hopeful, and one ardently asked: "Where have you been for the last five years?"
Jamal Khan did not answer the question (or any of the other questions the young man in the video asked) but instead said. "Do you know who has constructed this 45km road here?"
The young man didn't flinch, but asked the influential feudal once again if he has ever wondered why people in his area are so emotional and upset.
"You are showing so much attitude for your one mere vote?" Jamal Khan said in response, walking off as chaos ensued.
Props to this young man for holding the powerful to account.
No, it's not PTI Chief Imran Khan, as stated erroneously in today's Dawn (we all make mistakes).
Based on the information made public so far regarding assets of the candidates contesting elections:
PML-N heir apparent Maryam Nawaz is in the lead with a whopping Rs845 million to her name.
The second comfortably rich candidate is former president and co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari whose total value of assets is around Rs758.66m.
Find out here which (lucky) one of them received Rs40 million as gifts.
No one wants to be tried for treason, so why should former President (also dictator) Pervez Musharraf be any different?
“[Court order] barring the authorities from arresting me till my appearance before the august court has forced me to rethink my plans about return” — Pervez Musharraf
He also said: “There will be no benefit of my return to the country if I am arrested just after my appearance before the court."
And added: “The entire world knows that I am not a coward, but now I will wait for an appropriate time to return."
Don't hold your breath guys! Answer this poll question instead:
Considering that we very rarely see more than two or three big names vie for a single electoral seat, Karachi's NA-247, comprising Burns Road, Defence and Clifton, is certainly an anomaly.
A total of six notable names (and one relatively unknown) could be duking it out:
The Milli Muslim League (MML) is widely believed to be the political front of the banned Jamaatud Dawa and its attempts to register itself or contest by-elections have been thwarted at least thrice.
But this feisty bunch refuses to take the hint.
News is that they have finalised 80 candidates for the NA polls and 185 for provincial, and plan on pitting its candidates under the umbrella of a certain Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT).
In other words, the party formed to serve as cover for a banned organisation (JuD), which itself was a cover for another banned organisation (Lashkar-e-Taiba), has found a new party as cover. Whole lot of covers and fronts here.
Anyway, we may have a thousand disagreements with the MML and what it stands for but their fighting spirit deserves something, if not praise.
Just weeks ahead of the July 25 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has authorised a massive administrative reshuffle in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.
The commission has described the move as part of an effort to ensure transparent elections next month.
The changes proposed by the caretaker setup in the centre and provinces and okayed by the ECP are expansive: the transfers of 77 senior police officials have been approved in Punjab, of 33 deputy commissioners in Sindh and 64 assistant commissioners in Balochistan.
Curiously, while the details of the shakeup in the three provinces were released almost in succession, those relating to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have not been unveiled so far.
See details of the restructuring in provincial setups here.
So we're starting to get a vague idea of exactly how well-endowed (materially of course: the Election Commission gives short shrift to endowment of the intellectual variety) our political leaders really are, thanks to the self-declared, outdated-by-a-year asset declarations they have filed to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
According to this news item, Mr Asif Ali Zardari — a man not really known for his subtlety — owns six bulletproof luxury vehicles (we're talking three Land Cruisers, two BMWs and one Lexus); thousands of acres of agricultural land; dozens of properties in Pakistan, a single (?!) plot in Dubai; and millions of rupees worth of arms, horses and livestock. (Did we mention that he also has a UAE iqama?)
His self-declared net worth? Nearly Rs759 million — even though people are bound to have more than just a little trouble believing that.
His son, Bilawal, is far richer: a billionaire who owns two dozen properties within and outside Pakistan, has investments in Dubai (22 to be precise) and the UK (1), and owns the (ludicrously priced) Rs3m Bilawal House in Karachi. With all his wealth, however, Bilawal has never purchased a vehicle. (Also has a UAE iqama).
Speaking of the scions of our political elite, three-time 'first daughter' Maryam Nawaz has declared assets totalling Rs846m. She owns 1,506 kanals of agricultural land and had millions of rupees invested in multiple companies right before the start of the ongoing financial year, totaling Rs18,931,000.
Heard in the newsroom:
"Man, I want to be rich like Maryam."
Maryam had famously claimed in 2011 in an interview to Sana Bucha that neither she nor her brothers owned any properties outside or inside Pakistan. This matter was discussed in the Supreme Court last year during the Panama Papers case. Read about it here.
With all these high-flyers rolling in money, it is no wonder that the returning officer who accepted independent candidate Jibran Nasir's nomination papers was so suspicious of his modest wealth.
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