By definition, A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, and motives of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party, or even government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political, and social in nature, sometimes revolutionary, but may present an individual or collective elaboration of a party what is the plan forward, and how it will be achieved. Keeping that statement in mind, the objective of this write-up is to study and compare salient features of Pakistan’s major political party’s manifestos briefly.
Manifestos of political parties are those plans, programs, and broad policy directions that political parties commit to implementing in order to get the votes into power during general elections and implement the will of the people who voted for them.
The manifestos are released during the election year in Pakistan. It is a benchmark document that would eventually provide a basis for evaluating the party’s performance in the government. The electorates in democratic politics naturally expect a political party would present its manifesto to the people because they would like to look at the future programs and policies, that the party plans to implement if it is voted into power. People need to look into a formal plan and commitment through which they can look for voting which is not rhetoric but based on a formal commitment that a manifesto can bring. The way it is articulated by a manifesto committee of a political party and presented as a formal document would grant it the status of a party document that the party presents as its election pledges.
The manifestos are important in six ways:
- It specifies the ideological direction
- It helps to educate people about service deliverance and commitment to address public issues
- It is a measurement tool to evaluate the performance of a political party
- It facilitates party members about the program directions
- It helps to attract people to the party
- It dictates the aims and objectives of the party
- It promotes a program-specific relationship between parties and their constituents/electorates and discourages personality-oriented bond between the two
Manifestos provide explicit compilations of the ideas that political leadership envisions while accessing (via direct participation of the voters) the pulse of the public mindset, hence delivering what bothers voted them for. This process plays an important role in public consultation and participation (true democracy), thereby resulting in wider wisdom via subject experts of different areas of governance. When missed out or avoided public consultation, is merely a document of a select few, therefore not democracy but demagoguery.
A brief manifesto comparison has been made between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PMLN, and the PTI.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP):
The positive point of the PPP Manifesto is that the manifesto gives some clear path forward and implementation mechanisms in the below areas.
- Freedom from hunger and Health care
- Rights of Housing, water, and sanitation, etc.
- Social protection and poverty reduction
- Creating an inclusive society
- Opportunities for youth and Kids, high education programs, research and development, and loan-based programs to promote higher education.
- Very comprehensive agricultural program (Zarai Inqilab) along with water utilization plans.
- SOE policy, labor policy, and law enforcement reforms are good ways forward in this manifesto.
The drawbacks in the PPP manifesto are outlined as follows:
- Poor economic layout in terms of import and export policies
- Nothing is mentioned as the way forward for trade policy.
- Absolutely no path forward for energy reforms and Oil & Gas related policies.
- Information technology is an important element, but it is missing in the manifesto as long as way forward is concerned.
- Taxation plans are without any realistic approach.
- Unclear policy reforms and civil service reforms
- Sustainability and resilience are poorly manifested.
- The creation of south Punjab province is just a political stunt.
- PPP failed to outline a good security policy in the manifesto.
- PPP failed to outline an impressive foreign policy in the manifesto.
The positive points of the PMLN Manifesto are that the manifesto gives a clear path forward yet missing the implementation mechanism, in some areas.
- Inflation reduction plan
- SOE way forward plan
- The layout of trade policy is okay but missing how it will be done
- PMLN formalized a good education policy
- PMLN formalized a good health policy
- E-Government is one of the major plans PMLN has uniquely presented in the manifesto and has a detailed outlined plan for how it will be achieved. In fact, this is the area where PMLN has demonstrated good performance in the past.
- Good way forward for women’s rights, minorities, and sports.
- A very well-structured foreign policy
The clear drawbacks in the PMLN manifesto are outlined as follows.
- Energy fuel priority to imported coal without proper study about impact on the environment.
- The environmental policy is very poor and unclear.
- The food security plan lacks due diligence.
- Health policy needs further elaboration.
- Local government promises to be elaborated and fulfilled.
- Lack of wisdom in police reforms
- Lack of wisdom in the civil service reforms
- The science and technology sector is very poorly elaborated.
- Employment plan, speedy justice plan, and accountability need clarity and wisdom.
The positive points of the PTI Manifesto are that the manifesto gives only a couple of areas where the party was able to demonstrate progress and that is the health card (Sehat card), a few measures in education policy and information technology (IT).
The drawbacks in the PTI manifesto are outlined in all major areas and each area below is mentioned without any due diligence.
- Transform Governance
- Strengthen the Federation
- Inclusive Economic Growth
- Uplift Agriculture
- Build Dams and Conserve Water
- Revolutionize Social Services
Ensure Pakistan’s National Security
Dr. Ahsan R contributed to this report