Pakistan: Need for Focus on Policy

The need for policy
Ahsan Butt, Dawn, Jan 31, 2011

TodayIF General Kayani keeps his promise to not upend the democratic process in the next 24 months, Pakistani political parties will be in uncharted territory.

It will be the first time in our country’s history that the national and provincial assemblies will have completed their terms; the first time that our political parties will have participated in two consecutive (relatively) free and fair elections. To say this would be an important milestone is an understatement.

Of course such a development would bring its own set of challenges for these parties. Mainly, it would ensure that voters have parties’ recent records in mind, with nowhere to hide. Historically, this has not been the case. Our parties have generally mobilised vote banks either on the basis of patronage, or a sense of victimisation by highlighting real and perceived crimes against them.

Politicking as collective martyrs will still be a popular tactic in the 2013 elections, but it may not work as well as it did in years past. Unaligned voters will have more prosaic concerns: what have you actually done in the last five years? Pakistanis’ collective memories may be short, but not that short. To address these challenges our parties have to make actual policymaking and governance more salient in their campaigning. They must talk about actual on-the-ground solutions to on-the-ground problems.

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