Lofty promises

Published November 27, 2023

AS the conversation on the upcoming election picks up speed, it is hoped that political parties are in the crucial phase of crafting their election manifestos. However, if past poll exercises are any indicator, coming up with these documents might prove a mere formality rather than an insightful process for parties to engage in.

Parties seem to have stopped putting any effort into these important declarations, perhaps believing the voter will not read them before choosing who to vote for. But they need to realise that much has changed since the advent of social media and a large proportion of our young populace has been added to the voter list.

In fact, these youngsters make up 45pc of those eligible to vote. Voters in today’s age are informed and demand greater engagement. The only engagement they have seen, however, is verbal jousting on social media.

If their manifestos are crafted intelligently and communicated effectively — and there is real intent to follow through — parties would have a good chance at connecting with their voters.

There are several key areas parties should pay particular attention to when drafting their manifestos. Education remains a paramount concern. A disconnect can be seen between the tall claims made by the parties with regard to education and the actual implementation of their policies.

In 2018, parties including the PPP, PML-N and PTI, did recognise — at least on paper — the importance of education, and promised to increase budgetary allocations and student enrolment.

However, the lack of specifics and clear timelines led to underwhelming results. The handling of climate change is another critical area. Pakistan’s vulnerability is often highlighted, but the true issue is our lack of preparedness for climate-induced disasters. The floods of 2010 and after underscore this vulnerability.

Despite international commitments to climate agreements, the country lacks comprehensive national adaptation plans. Health policy, particularly during times of political change, has shown a tendency for discontinuity.

The evolution of the national health insurance system, impacted by political affiliations and changes in government, highlights the need for policy continuity and the importance of strengthening primary healthcare.

The explosive population growth in Pakistan, now the world’s fifth most populous nation, presents a dire challenge that is often overlooked in policy discourse. Rapid urbanisation, inadequate civic infrastructure, and social issues arising from an uncontrolled population increase demand immediate action.

This election cycle offers an opportunity for parties to demonstrate a clear understanding of these critical issues and a commitment to addressing them through actionable plans. The true test, however, will lie in the execution of these plans, ensuring that promises made today do not become the broken pledges of tomorrow.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2023

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