Election promises

All three documents lacked details, others are downright unworkable within current economic, political circumstances.

All three major parties released their election manifestos last week. Unfortunately, if we are to learn anything from their past performance, it is safe to assume that all three documents were written with fingers crossed, as some claims lacked details on how to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘z’, and others are downright unworkable within the current economic and political circumstances.

Several points in the PTI manifesto, though interesting, were not necessarily vote-getters — shortening assembly and senate tenures by one-year each are among them. The party also wants to make the PM directly elected, which seems to be a workaround to a presidential system, or a way to avoid an embarrassing confidence vote. It is also impractical, as a PM without the support of the legislature is the dictionary definition of ‘lame duck’. Direct Senate elections are, however, a commendable goal, especially given the open knowledge of the dubious dealings that go into seating most of the upper house under the current system. Other more realistic proposals included police and law enforcement reforms and some economic proposals, though determined critics will be able to punch holes even in these.

But the PML-N manifesto was somehow even weaker. The focus was mostly on economic survival, but little mention of a path to prosperity, or the fact that even the stated goals would require further foreign borrowing. Improved healthcare, encouraging economic growth, and ending the debt crisis all require money, of which we have none. Meanwhile, cutting utility prices are promises that are bound to be broken, as they largely depend on external factors beyond any government’s control.

The PPP chose to focus on completing its 2008 agenda centrepiece — devolution under the 18th Amendment. However, items such as reforms to the “national security complex”, certainly raise eyebrows, though how workable they are is a huge question. It is also worth noting that, even if they do make it to the treasury benches, the PPP are not likely to lead the next government, making most of their manifesto negotiable.

Read more