Strong Contenders & Weak Manifestos!

With less than a month left in election 2013, Pakistanis witness some of the most invigorating and creative election campaigns by its major contenders. With Pakistan People’s Party being judged on the basis of its last 5 years in power, the competition of manifestos, promises, speeches and processions boils down to PML-N & PTI.

Whereas on one hand we see viral social media campaigns, on the other we observe billions being spent on hiring musicians and winning loyalties through television commercials.

But amidst of all this, we see another change! We observe that everything from policy to manifesto, & campaigns are focused on the youth. These youngsters ranging from 18-35 years of age are the centre of attention for politicians grappling over seats for power and privilege. Provoking these youngsters and boosting their high energies, is an easy task, as most of them are too naïve to understand political intricacies.

We see this naivety in the causes they attribute to Pakistan’s economic decline and the reasons they choose to select a party. According to a survey youth voices on political economy 2013, around 54% of the youth rated ‘corruption’ as our biggest obstacle in gaining economic prosperity. So to lure these young minds, our politicians are whole heartedly working on policies against corruption.

Similarly, parties entice them by narrating tales of freedom, where Pakistan will not be under the control of foreign and especially U.S. elements. Another important term being used is ‘Justice’. PTI demands justice against debt defaulters & PMLN demands justice against PPP’s corrupt leaders.

The third most important tactic used to attract attention is to tell people about how everyone will pay taxes and they will increase the tax base with a magic wand. As the youth complains against load-shedding so these manifestos are filled with energy crises and policies to cover it within a few years or even months.

All these claims might be appealing but are not a solution to some of the most scathing real life problems. The truth is that Pakistan has some chronic issues feeding on its already torn economy.

The first and foremost issue is of Pakistan’s ever growing population coupled with poverty and social issues. Pakistan’s population growth is the second highest in the Muslim world with projections rating it to be around 258 million by 2030. This is a number of enormous value especially with reference to future fiscal growth and consumption. To counter this problem a comprehensive plan was needed but it was an issue forgone by parties perhaps to abstain from the wrath of religious political bodies.

Another important point to note is, that half of the above given population figure is estimated to be of females. Around 60% of the women headed households are ranked to be below poverty line. Moreover, Pakistan was ranked at a 134 out of 135 countries in the global gender gap index. This means that almost half of the population is lagging behind economically, politically, educationally and hence, pulling down the economy of Pakistan as a whole. While PTI has decided to give 33% representation to women in all political decisions, PML-N has completely ignored the gender issue with some old promises given a page length in its manifesto.  PTI’s policy has also not given any substantial program to counter poverty prevalent in lower class women of Pakistan.

Lastly, the strongest force working against Pakistan’s economy is nothing but terrorism and the war we are indulged in. This war has not only wounded our citizens physically and mentally but also financially. Including the direct and indirect costs of war which includes uncertainty, infrastructure lost, FDI, exports etc. overall we have lost around 5037 Billion rupees so far till 2011. This is not an ignorable figure which actually amounts to more than 1/3rd of our total public debt. And this doesn’t include many other factors e.g. brain drain, incurring expenditures, local security conditions & lives of innocent citizens!

Now, what’s PTI’s or PML-N’s stance over these issues?  While PTI leaders showed some mettle during the Quetta protests, PML-N has decided to remain silent over these controversial topics. The security policy should be to eradicate these forces right away; PTI has decided to appease them with some favorable conditions.

Summing up the given arguments, we can observe that our current top contenders and their policies are not giving coverage to what should be treated as ‘critical’ problems. Chanting about corruption & accountability is important but it’s not what’s most vital to our economic deterioration. Corruption is widespread where even the top most developed countries’ bureaucracy is considered corrupt by its citizens. What’s important is that we make sure something important is not ignored just because our ‘youth’ and voters don’t consider it important. Issues like population, women empowerment, terrorism, war against terror and its widespread ramifications must be considered as major issues of our economy along with energy crises and corruption.