Broken promises

Published November 8, 2023

AN election manifesto is perhaps the most important document that political parties use to make an ideological connection with voters. It lists priorities and policies that political parties intend to execute in pursuit of their broader economic, cultural and political vision if voted into power. Once the elections are over, the voters might use the manifesto to remind party leaders of the promises they had made to the electorate, and hold them accountable for their sins of omission and commission. But such is the fickle nature of Pakistani politics that almost every party’s manifesto contains empty rhetoric, and is published more as a formality than to spell out concrete plans they actually intend to implement. No wonder a policy note released by the state-run Pakistan Institute of Development Economics has found past election manifestos of the PPP, PTI and PML-N inadequate, and missing out on crucial macroeconomic, constitutional and social issues. That means the political parties do not have “any concrete blueprint to work on if they are voted into power”, which underlines their myopic approach to governance as well as their ad hocism and subjugation to vested interests that undermine Pakistan’s long-term development.

Likewise, an analysis of the social media discourse of the leaders of these parties from 2018 to 2022 shows that they seldom discuss substantive issues and party positions on issues of significance as outlined in their election manifestos. Their entire political discourse revolves around their family legacies, personal grievances and frivolous criticism of the rulers of the day. Therefore, it is not surprising that a growing number of people are becoming disillusioned with politics in general and the electoral exercise in particular. Hence, Pide researchers have rightly advised political parties to align their discourse with their pre-election commitment to voters. The upcoming polls afford an excellent opportunity to political parties and their respective leaders to restore their credibility in the eyes of the voters by informing the latter, through their election programmes, as to what solution they have to Pakistan’s multiple and overlapping economic, constitutional and social issues, and how they intend to implement them. Confronted with perhaps the country’s gravest financial, political and social crises, the voters deserve a chance to make an informed choice regarding the party they think is best suited to lead the country out of the present mess.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2023

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