Voters caught between aspirations and ambiguity in party manifestos

Islamabad: As the general elections loom, the three leading parties – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have launched ambitious manifestos to attract voters offering a range of reforms and policies, but crucially lack detailed strategies, particularly in addressing democratic reforms, the economic crisis, and internal security issues.

This situation has left voters in a quandary over which party to choose, as they seek one capable of steering the country through the complex and overlapping crises confronting it.

According to a comparative study of the manifestos undertaken by Islamabad Policy Institute, both PML-N and PPP have pledged to strengthen local governance. PML-N aims to amend constitutional articles impacted by past military regimes, while PPP focuses on the effective implementation of the 18th Constitutional amendment to smooth federal-provincial relations. However, both parties, along with the PTI, have not adequately addressed the issue of civil-military imbalance or the potential for creating new provinces.

PTI is pushing for a radical change in the legislative structure. The party proposes a Presidential-style Prime Minister and the direct election of the Prime Minister, aiming to reduce undue influence of the legislators.

In economic terms, all three parties have failed to present concrete strategies to navigate the economic crisis. Though their manifestos set lofty goals but the parties have shown a reluctance to commit to difficult decisions, such as negotiating a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) facility, removing subsidies, or privatizing state-owned enterprises. Despite acknowledging the need for economic revival, detailed plans for budget reassessment or resource redistribution are notably absent.

On the foreign policy front, the manifestos subtly admit to the limited role political parties play in shaping Pakistan’s international relations, opting instead to concentrate on geo-economics to foster trade and investment ties. However, regional engagement is expected to be influenced by security relationships with neighboring countries, and efforts to revisit policies towards India, Iran, and Afghanistan might confront domestic and external hurdles.

Regarding internal security, PTI has been silent, suggesting either a dependency on current security measures or a focus on other priorities. Both PPP and PML-N have recognized the need for external cooperation and border security but have not presented comprehensive strategies, revealing gaps in their approaches to the complex challenges of militancy and extremism.

The voters, IPI said, have been presented with distinct yet unclear pathways for the country’s future.

The manifestos of PML-N, PPP, and PTI exhibit a cautious narrative, balancing aspirations with the practicalities of electoral politics and governance challenges. Voters are, therefore. left to ponder these visions against Pakistan’s multifaceted challenges and the feasibility of the proposed solutions.

As Pakistan navigates through these turbulent times, IPI said, the outcome of the elections and the effectiveness of the chosen party’s policies will be pivotal in determining the country’s path forward amidst these multifaceted challenges.

IPI further noted that the manifestos were launched belatedly leaving little time for a real debate on policy agenda.