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General Elections of Pakistan-2018

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With just less than two months left for general elections, something new are emerging on daily basis providing new touches to economic and political system of Pakistan.

Some time, it looks that elections are going to be delayed and sometime it comes in front that no delay is going to happen. In spite of this Supreme Court, Election commission and Interim Government are looking firm that elections would be held on 25th July 2018.

In this scenario one ray of hope for young generation i.e. Imran Khan has come up with his popular U-Turn attitude in nomination of interim CM in KPK and Punjab. Baluchistan Assembly has demanded for the postponement of elections and now Interim CM of Baluchistan is also supporting this demand.

However in spite of all this election process is moving forward with the blessing of election Commission and almost all political parties, as any delay can be indefinite bringing immense economic challenges. Most likely interim government cannot be in a position to sort out these challenges. For instance interim government is proposing to knock at the door of IMF so as to settle current account deficit but without bringing other reforms it can misfire.

These activities show that what democratic system means, as it always exposes those forces and persons who are incapable and inefficient for the nation. These people feel it better to go with their rotten point of view with rotten system. However in case of Pakistan this question remains to be seen that whether we have gone to implement our system according to 1973 constitution with upper to lower structures i.e. local bodies system and with effective and unbiased accountability system

So the time has arrived for the test that how far we would be able to have general election in time and in highly fair manner to go for a capable government. However with electable politics now crept inside of PTI and other parties in fragmented form it looks probable that for people nothing would change significant after July 28. So we can see a lash of another struggle after July 28.

Since the General Elections are set to be held next month hence lot of surveys has started to creep in.

The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) Islamabad headed by Ahmed Bilal Mehboob has termed the pre-poll process in the country ‘unfair’ in its pre-election assessment report.

In a statement, the organization said the score on pre-poll fairness perception was at 51.5 per cent on a scale of 100. The study, conducted from April 2017 to March 2018, rests findings through 11 parameters, where two parameters fell in the “highly unfair” scale.
The study found that parameters pertaining to level field provided by the Elections Commission of Pakistan received the highest scores.

Perception of credibility of electoral rolls has received the highest score of 67.3 per cent while independence, neutrality and effectiveness of ECP received 65.3 per cent.

Meanwhile “perception of fairness and adherence to laws and rules relating to the electoral constituencies delimitation process has also received a high score of 64 per. Lack of ability of the president and governors to influence elections received score of 61.8 per cent while lack of ability of local government’s influence on elections was found at 57.8 per cent.

The parameter on maintenance of law and order to allow political activities on a level playing field has also received a score of 57.8% that indicates that compared to the pre-electoral environment leading to 2013 General Election where parties were unable to hold public rallies; the scenario has been relatively stable leading up to General Election 2018.”
With this historical baggage of using state institutions for manipulating elections, the allegations of the PML-N and its allies that they are being victimized by state institutions cannot be summarily dismissed.

There seems to be an emerging worrisome pattern of efforts to influence the coming general election for achieving a particular target.

We should remember that nobody knew for sure at the time that blatant rigging was taking place in 1988 and 1990, and that state institutions and senior state functionaries were employed to undertake such dishonorable acts as supporting some and harming other political parties.

Hence there is a strong need to be vigilant to make sure that no one is allowed to steal the 2018 general election despite all the hard and fine work done by a number of institutions to prepare for a free, fair and credible election.

Now as far as election results are concerned different surveys have started coming in with different forecasts. According to Gallup Pakistan PML N is on lead with 36% score in March 2018 with its rise to 38% in May 2018. PTI is on second with 24 % score in March 2018 with its rise to 25 % in May 2018. PPP is at number 3 with 17% score in March 2018 with its fall to 15% in May 2018.

On provincial side PML N is on lead in Punjab with score of 50%. In Sind PPP is on lead with a score of 44%. In KPK PTI is on lead with a score of 47%. In Baluchistan JUI F is on lead with a score of 22%.

On person to person Nawaz Sharif vs. Imran Khan 49% support Nawaz Sharif whereas 46% support Imran Khan according to surveys

For judging the government performance ended on 31st May 2018, the projected poverty rate seems to have gone down. Poverty at the $1.90 international poverty line is estimated at 4.9 percent in FY18, down from 6.1 in FY13 when latest actual figures are available. Over the same period, a 12 percent reduction in poverty is also projected for the $3.2 poverty line, while a lower improvement (4 percent) is projected at the $5.5 poverty line.

However according to World Bank, Pakistan remains one of the lowest performers in the South Asia Region on human development indicators, especially in education and stunting. The Net Enrollment Rates in education have been increasing in Pakistan but still lag behind other South Asia countries. Infant and under five mortality rates represent a similar story.

Gender disparities persist in education, health and all economic sectors. Pakistan has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the region. Nutrition also remains a significant cross-cutting challenge, as 44% of children under five are stunted. The spending on health, nutrition, and education, now totaling 3 percent of GDP, significantly lower than most other countries. Increased allocation will only be possible after increasing government revenues.

The tax-to-GDP ratio, at 12.4 percent, is one of the lowest in the world and it is still half of what it could be for Pakistan. Continued reforms to broaden the tax base and increase revenues will therefore need to remain a priority.

Service delivery is the responsibility of subnational governments, whose capacity varies, but the federal Government needs to play an assertive stewardship role as increased financing has to be accompanied by meaningful improvements in quality of services. A strategy to greatly improve development outcomes would therefore need to combine efforts to increase the level of public spending as well as improving its quality, with a focus on provincial level capacity.

Over the past couple of years, greater decision-making authority has been assigned to provincial governments. The Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment has devolved a number of key functions to the provinces. In total, functions in 17 federal ministries have been devolved, including Agriculture, Education, Environment, and Health.

In addition, a greater share of revenues has been passed to the provinces through the National Finance Commission Award (NFC) in order to enable them to perform these functions. As expected, the devolution has posed institutional and capacity challenges at the provincial level, and meeting these challenges will require concerted efforts to enhance sub-national capacity and institutional development, which varies across provinces.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (London) has recently put out its new Country Report for Pakistan, and despite criticism of the state of the economy, the report does not predict fair tidings for opposition political parties. The EIU predicts that risks to political stability will remain high in the run-up to the elections. “We expect the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) to be reelected on the back of a strong showing in Punjab, the most populous province,” the report says.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, “A widening current account deficit and persistent budget shortfalls pose the biggest risks to macroeconomic stability in 2018-22,” which would be the term of the next government.

So with this backdrop let us hope to see some better time to arrive in the coming two months and by the end of July this year.

Chairman Centre of Advisory Services for Islamic Banking and Finance (CAIF), former Head of FSCD SBP, former Head of Research Arif Habib Investments and Member IFSB Task Force for development of Islamic Money Market, former Member of Access to Justice Fund Supreme Court of Pakistan.