Election Outlook: By SARFARAZ AHMED

Election Outlook - XXII: 'Creative destruction'?

Published on June 13, 2013The announcement-exactly one month after the May 11 vote-of Budget 2013-14 has provided the new government an opportunity to make its presence felt in an effective and meaningful manner and cause a strong effect on the situation, although it faces a range of formidable challenges on the economic front in particular. Read full story

China in Balochistan: Election Outlook - XXI

Published on June 10, 2013Seen from Pakistan's perspective, China's presence in Balochistan could be a game-changer or a newly introduced element that changes the existing situation in a highly significant way. Not only does the world's second largest economy's arguably quasi-ownership of Gwadar port throw up a challenge (in the mid-term) to all Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf-from Chabahar to Bandar Abbas and from Bushahar to Khurumshahar-and the UAE's premier port Dubai, but the possible construction of highways and railway tracks between Gwadar and Khunjrab/Karachi are developments that clearly indicate the advancement of Beijing's geostrategic interests in South Asia. Read full story

Election Outlook - XX: Contested images

Published on June 03, 2013Nawaz Sharif was perhaps listening inattentively but reflecting deeply when newly-elected MNAs were taking oath on the first day of inaugural session of the 14th National Assembly. He was in this house 14 years ago where he commanded an even greater majority. The heavy popular mandate then enabled him to nurse ambitions of becoming the first-ever Amirul Momineen in the history of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. While a lack of required numbers or support in the upper house of parliament forestalled his move, a combination of factors arising out of his hotheadedness and a successful ploy of some generals led to an abrupt end of his government and arrest. Although, it is not known whether or not he still struggles against the painful flashbacks of his ouster in 1999 and a botched attempt to end his exile in 2007, one can, however, apprehend the significance of Saturday's oath-taking scene from a different perspective: the possible presence of a sudden and disturbing but vivid memory of an event in the past, typically as the result of psychological trauma. Read full story

Institutions and economic performance: Election Outlook - XIX

Published on May 30, 2013There is a long list of economists-from Adam Smith to W Arthur Lewis and from Douglas C North to Niall Ferguson-who have strongly highlighted the importance of institution building for economic growth. Unlike others, Smith harboured no animosity against the Marxist dogma because of one simple fact that he died one century before Karl Marx wrote his Das Kapital. Harvard professor Ferguson, however, always chides- disdainfully or in a sceptically humorous manner- the practitioners of command or centralised economies for their sloppiness. He often makes derisively mocking remarks to draw some parallels between the manufacturing prowess of the countries following laissez faire principles and those identified as strong proponents of systems that employ central planning and use accounting system based on the labour hours expended production. In this respect, he often cites the examples of state-of-art Mercedes cars produced by the then West Germany and old-fashioned Trabant automobiles (a befitting answer to West Germany's VW Beetle) by the then East Germany with a view to driving his point home to his audience. Read full story

Election Outlook - XVIII: Equal distribution of misery

Published on May 27, 2013The equal distribution of electricity loadshedding across Pakistan has brought to one's mind Winston Churchill's famous words that 'the inherent virtue of socialism is its equal distribution of misery', although he had made these remarks in 1945 before the House of Commons for an absolutely different reason and in a profoundly different context. Read full story

Fiscal, monetary responses: Election Outlook - XVII

Published on May 24, 2013It is interesting to note that PML-N chief and prime minister-in-waiting Nawaz Sharif is inheriting relatively low policy discount rate and inflation numbers but a very high fiscal deficit. Five years ago, not only was the country still reeling from increased political instability caused by detention of judges, rising inflation and exogenous shocks such as sky-rocketing oil and food prices of 2007, the newly-elected PPP-PML coalition government that came into existence as a result of the February 18, 2008 vote had begun its journey in an environment vitiated by economic slowdown, a growing fiscal deficit, deepening trade and current account deficits and dangerously rising inflation. The policy response articulated by the then caretaker set-up headed by Mohammadmian Soomro as an interim successor of PML-Q government only added to the country's economic woes. Read full story

Election Outlook - XVI: The energy imperatives

Published on May 20, 2013"Nawaz Sharif jee, zara halaf jaldi lay lain. ....Qoum confused hai ke load shedding pe gaaliyaan kis ko dey." This text message is making rounds in the country, particularly in Lahore and Islamabad. Previously, such interesting jokes centered around the name of the then prime minister, "Raja Rental". His name has now been replaced with Nawaz Sharif's in almost all text messages sent by using SMS. Read full story

Where to from here? Election Outlook - XV

Published on May 17, 2013That the post-May 11 Pakistan finds itself in a situation in which the political players at each other's throats can't, or won't, move forward to end this dangerous, complex and critical difficulty is a stark reality. Issuing ultimatums and observing "black days" against perceived or real incidents of rigging in last week's profoundly flawed but truly majestic vote validate apprehensions that the post-election Pakistan in coming weeks and months may land in the throes of new cycles of demonstrations and violence stemming from a mixture of motives. Read full story

'A friendly match' Election Outlook - XIV

Published on May 15, 2013What is a friendly match? According to Wikipedia, a friendly game or an exhibition match is a sporting event "in which there is no competitive value of any significant kind to any competitor (such as tournament or season rankings, or prize money) regardless of the outcome of the competition". Read full story

A shot in the arm: Election Outlook - XIII

Published on May 14, 2013Standard & Poor's Ratings Services' comment on the 2013 general election in Pakistan is expected to provide the shot in the arm that the economy badly needs. This welcome development has taken place when the country's economy is finding it extremely difficult to navigate through choppy waters on account of a variety of factors. This international development has coincided with a highly significant domestic event: the Karachi Stock Exchange's benchmark 100-share index ends 1.65 percent, or 328.5 points, higher. Read full story

Election Outlook - XII: Ethnic cleavages

Published on May 13, 2013Sending flowers is a measure of how much you care. And, firing a broadside at somebody is a measure of how much you dislike or despise that person. It was, arguably, not a propitious time for MQM chief Altaf Husain to start a new brawl with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif through a congratulatory message to the `third-time prime minister' on his victory in the May 11 vote. Altaf's unsavoury remark based on the ideas and beliefs of one particular culture and using these to judge other cultures smacks of parochialism of a particular community. There were more ethnic and less political overtones to the point he was making. Read full story

Pakistan speaks up: Election Outlook - XI

Published on May 12, 2013That "Pakistan bolay gaa [Pakistan will speak up]" (an Aaj TV slogan for its election broadcasts) is now a stark reality that has found its best expression in a violent and flawed but truly majestic May 11 vote. The first democratic transition between two civilian governments after any general election is finally in sight. A new template of legitimacy was needed by democracy in Pakistan and it was provided by the people through their sweat and blood. People knew well that it was perhaps their last chance to reflect deep whether or not they are faced with a historic challenge or a 'now or never' option that required them to reaffirm their resolve that they wanted the direction of the country strictly in accordance with the very ideals of the Founding Fathers. Read full story

Election Outlook - X: Zardari is PPP and PPP is Zardari?

Published on May 10, 2013"Are you guys going to make this bald-headed man prime minister?" Reflecting deep, President Zardari is said to have posed this question to many stakeholders following a clear ascendancy in the electoral prospects of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif whom he still addresses-contemptuously and affectionately-as "ganja [bald-headed man]", although the Lahore-based prime ministerial-hopeful is no longer a ganja in the strictest sense of the word ever since he underwent a couple of hair transplant surgeries during his exile that ended in 2007. Read full story

Election Outlook - IX: Power politics

Published on May 06, 2013That electricity expansion always proves popular in the context of developing and least developed countries in particular is a strong reality that has found its best expression in a war-ravaged Afghanistan. According to a latest US Congressional research, for example, "severe power shortages in Kabul caused in part by the swelling Kabul's population to 4 million, have become fewer due to the Afghan government's agreements with several Central Asian neighbours to import electricity, as well as construction of new substations. Russia has refurbished some long dormant hydroelectric projects in Afghanistan that were suspended when Soviet troops withdrew in 1989. Kabul is generally lit up at night." Read full story

Election Outlook - VIII: Balochistan: blessed but blighted

Published on April 29, 2013"They've been committing a broad-daylight robbery on our resource," an agitating Nawab Akbar Bugti told this writer at his Dera Bugti residence with a growing sense of frustration and despondency over his woeful inability to help stop the "loot" and "plunder" by Islamabad of the natural gas discovered in his "fiefdom", Sui, in the 1950s. Characterised by a strong feeling of dejection and despair, Bugti's talk was now laced with venom dripping with sarcasm. Though there was nothing new in his "grievance", his bitter narrative had acquired a new meaning in the context of Balochistan unrest following the alleged rape of a doctor by an army officer in Sui. Read full story

'Bugging' Wali Bagh for ANP prospects: Election Outlook - VII

Published on April 26, 2013"Is he a Pakhtun?,"* an ailing 89-year-old Khan Abdul Wali Khan asked his son Sangeen Wali in Pashto as he began to inquire about the identity of this writer. Lying on his bed in his ancestral Wali Bagh residence, he repeated his question in a feeble voice, showing a strong feeling of anxiousness and perhaps dread. Sangeen now decided to parry his question by telling his father in English that the visitor was a journalist from Karachi. "He has read your book, Facts Are Sacred," Sangeen further told his father, adding that he had come with a view to seeking answers to certain questions about the book. Wali Khan Saheb got the answer and closed his eyes for a moment. Though he barely spoke, one thing that stood out clearly in that extremely brief conversation was the fact his mind was still quite fertile despite severe physical challenges caused by growing illness and old age; and he was still receptive to inquiries about history and politics although he had formally retired from politics years ago. Read full story

Hazards of the Hazara belt: Election Outlook - VI

Published on April 24, 2013Maintaining eye contact is widely considered a basic component of social interaction. Failing to do so suggests you're shy or rude, or you're suffering from a serious bout of boredom. It also indicates your struggle aimed at trying to hide something. Nawaz Sharif's supporters in the Hazara Division are a case in point. A large number of them, if not all, are displaying both bashfulness and timidity in answer to a question whether they've forgiven him for his decision on the change in the name of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010 that led to massive protests in the Hazara region by majority non-Pashtoon Hindko- and Gojri-speaking community, resulting in at least 10 deaths. Read full story

Election Outlook - V: Musharraf and his circumstances

Published on April 22, 2013"It's not Musharraf, it's the judiciary that is on trial," shouts a visibly grief-stricken lawyer at the buffet table of one of the crowded elitist clubs of Pakistan at the weekend. This lawyer, who has represented Musharraf in one of his cases in recent days, is in fact taking a jibe at another member for making a provocative comment on Musharraf's profound ordeal. Listening to this lawyer with rapt attention, those present around the table look at him appreciatively and approvingly, showing he has a positive opinion about the issue that has dragged the higher judiciary into an unfortunate controversy. Read full story

Election Outlook - IV: Punjab always matters

Published on April 15, 2013The proponents of various ethnolinguistic vitality models plausibly argue that 'the Punjabis are the most powerful economic group in Pakistan' and that `Punjab is the most populous and prosperous province of the country, notorious for its dominance in army and bureaucracy'. Read full story

Election Outlook - III: Musharraf: A spanner in the election works?

Published on March 29, 2013The question why former Pakistan's President and army chief Pervez Musharraf has abandoned best possible worldly comforts for the quagmire of country's politics largely remains unanswered despite his enthusiastic rhetoric and an evolving situation fraught with growing security threats and dangers ahead of the May 11 general election. That he's no fool or lunatic is a fact that has only deepened the mystery behind his return to the country weeks before the general election after his over four-year self-imposed exile abroad where he enjoyed "all comforts of life" and where he always lived with a feeling of sadness mixed with pleasure and affection when he thought of the happy times or his nearly decade-old rule in the past. Read full story

Election Outlook - II: Nawaz's prospects

Published on March 27, 2013There's no denying that Imran Khan's bid to upset Nawaz Sharif's applecart on May 11, 2013 will, at the very least, make the election exciting. Piqued by the rising fortunes of Imran Khan's PTI, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has every reason to articulate his strategy correctly, astutely and skillfully, demonstrating a great deal of political expediency. And the state of vexation caused by a perceived slight or indignity or a feeling of wounded pride seems to have ended with a massive PML-N show at Mansehra where Nawaz has sought to prove that he still maintains a strong foothold in a largely non-Pushtoon Hazara belt in KP-his traditional stronghold until he himself alienated it through his decision to accept the change in the name of the then North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Read full story

Election Outlook - I: A compromise solution?

Published on March 25, 2013What the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) needed, if not the major political parties that have bickered over the selection of caretaker prime minister endlessly, was a compromise candidate. Former Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, who has achieved unexpected ECP support and success, finally emerged to prominence; being previously little known. In other words, a dark horse has rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph. But he wasn't a real dark horse because the fight had narrowed down to two - between him and another former Judge Nasir Aslam Zahid - after Parliamentary Committee dropped the matter in the lap of ECP. Read full story

 






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