This is the season of manifestos; that time in the electoral cycle when they are printed out on machines across the country and read out amidst much fanfare to audiences. The fact that these documents are rarely heard of again once this phase passes is of course a different matter. It is also questionable as to what degree people look at party manifestos when making voting decisions. A survey on this would potentially make for some rather fascinating reading. As we approach an especially fascinating election, the question of how people vote in Pakistan is an issue being taken up by many analysts.
All this aside, the MQM has been the latest party to release its manifesto. The party’s convener Dr Farooq Sattar announced the party’s list of pledges and policies before an audience at Lal Qila Ground in Karachi. Like previous MQM manifestos, this one too is cohesive and well-structured – more so than many other similar documents with a focus on poetic language. The MQM, as it has done in the past as well, has placed a strong emphasis on education, promising to raise the budget for it from the current 2.2 percent of GDP to five percent. It has also spoken of mainstreaming madressahs and making education uniform. The budget for health care too would rise, a national policy to combat terrorism devised, income from agriculture taxed, the local bodies system changed to restore city governments, women given equal representation and minority groups protected. In the context of militancy, the matter of illicit arms is also mentioned. There can be little quarrel with the contents of the manifesto. As in the case of every other party, implementation though is the real issue. Questions could also be asked on whether the issues of Karachi have been discussed in sufficient detail by a party that wields so much influence in that city.