Punjab is the Pakistan`s second largest province and the most populous province. Many villagers in Punjab cast their ballot to display their feudal adherence rather than to convey a political opinion. Of the 272 National Assembly seats, 148 are in Punjab province; hence Punjab can be described as power-centre of Pakistan. Punjab is inhabited by large middle-class conscious of what each political party has to offer. The province has been ruled mostly by Sharif brothers. And here, the vote of feudal landowners matters significantly. The key issues in Punjab are:
Power crisis: Up to 20 hours of load-shedding a day is being reported across the province. The power crisis has not only made the lives of people of Punjab miserable but also crippled industries across the province.
Militancy: Pakistan has witnessed a number of attacks linked to various Punjab-based Islamic militant groups. Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Sipah-i-Sabha Pakistan and Sunni Muslim Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are some of the Pakistan-based groups, which have wreaked havoc inside and outside Pakistan. It is to be noted that the province has 2,911 sensitive and 2,617 most sensitive polling stations, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Violence against minorities: Campaigns of threats and violence against Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and other minority groups are prevalent in Punjab province. There have been demands for reviewing or repealing Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law, which affects minorities. Pakistan’s “Blasphemy Law” makes the death penalty effectively mandatory for blasphemy. Christians could prove to be a key swing vote in central Punjab. The party favouring as well as displaying religious pluralism have fair chances of grabbing a good vote bank in this province.
Inflation: Punjab has the most fertile lands, but inflation is staggering. Flour, wheat, oil and sugar prices are spiralling, making inflation a key issue ahead of the upcoming polls.
Sindh is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. The province’s dominance on hydrocarbon resources makes it even more significant. Sindh is the second largest province in Pakistan population-wise and the third largest geographically-wise. Home to Thar coalfields, Sindh has the Pakistan`s largest coal reserves. Moreover, the province produces more than 70 percent of the country’s natural gas. Pakistan is struggling with a worsening energy crisis; it has become a national issue. The Thar Coalfields in Sindh Province can be the perfect solution for the crisis facing Pakistan. But the political parties have, since its discovery more than 20 years ago, have failed to develop it to help the country, which is in dark. The new government has a huge responsibility to tackle power crisis issue in an efficient manner.
Other key issues in Sindh are:
Corruption: The traditional stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is facing unparalleled corruption in almost every sphere, right from education to irrigation. The PPP’s outdated tenets of roti, kapra aur makan are not expected to sway the Sindhis anymore. Other political parties have a great chance to turn the tables in their favour.
Violence against Hindus: Hindus live in all the four provinces in Pakistan, but a majority of them are settled in the Sindh province. The problems Hindus face in Sindh are conversion, kidnapping, rape, face neglect in job offers. Increasing violence has led to migration of a number of Sindh Hindus to India.
Terrorism: A monthly report published by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies states that Karachi, the capital of Sindh, was the worst-affected region of Pakistan as far as casualties caused by terrorist attacks in March. Notably, Sindh has 3,621 sensitive and 4,629 most sensitive polling stations, according to Election Commission of Pakistan.
Unemployment: Despite the fact that Sindh is an energy-rich province, more people were unemployed in Sindh as compared to Punjab, which can be credited to poor law-and-order situation and economic recession in Pakistan.
Water scarcity: The scarcity of both irrigation and drinking water in many parts of Sindh is quite worrisome. It has sparked protests by farmers and others in the past. According to researchers, water crisis in Sindh is not much due to general water shortage but because of poor mismanagement of the water resources by those in power.
For Balochs election may not be the answer to the problems they face, but remaining out of the federal franchise may do them no good either.
After boycotting the elections of 2008, Baloch parties and leaders have learnt that it seems more positive to take part in the electoral process and then hope for justice for their strife-torn province, Balochistan.
The installation of a reputed Baloch, Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso as the caretaker Prime Minister of the nation has also gone a step further in instilling confidence about the system in the tribal leaders of the state.
By taking a step towards electoral congress, the restive province is surely headed in the direction of joining the national mainstream. But the situation in the province doesn`t evoke much hope for those vouching for peace and justice.
Extremist forces like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have tooth-and-nail opposed Pakistan`s subvention in the state. They recently gunned down Mohammad Ziaullah, the District Election Commissioner of Balochistan`s capital, Quetta; and The Nation quoted their spokesperson as saying that, “We will not let Pakistan hold elections in Balochistan.”
Guerillas of Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA) may also try to disrupt electoral rallies and the election process, the newspaper feels.
Sectarian and ethnic clashes, violence by political henchmen and extremism has been the bane of Balochs who feel a sense of dissatisfaction emanating from the fact that the natural resources of their states are not used for their good.
Among tall leaders from the state, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, President of Balochistan National Party (BNP), is seen as the champion of the Baloch`s causes. He is seen widely considered the most favorite candidate for the top slot of Balochistan government after the elections. Mengal`s recent return to Pakistan after a self-imposed exile is being seen as a step that could serve Balochistan fight better for its rights.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas
When Asif Ali Zardari recently urged the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to come out to vote and choose their leader, he knew it wasn’t an impossible ask, but a rather improbable one.
The reason for that being that the area has languished due to the prevalent and rank lawlessness.
FATA is majorly inhabited by the Pashtun tribe which is semi-autonomous and has close relations with the Afghan Taliban.
Chiefly pastoral, the region is a hub for opium cultivation and peddling. The average literacy rate (which is lower than the rest of Pakistan) is also a major reason for the under-development in the area.
The candidates in fray here have affiliations with Pak political parties, but fight as independents because the Political Parties Act of Pakistan has not been extended to the region.
Aspersions are also being cast n the fairness of the election in question. Alleging rigging and favoritism, JUI-F leader Qari Jehad Shah has recently demanded that the election commission of Pakistan and the interim government replace the administrative officers of the region. .
And his worries were pertinent as some former tribal parliamentarians, who also had good relations with the incumbent governor Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Shaukat Ullah Khan, were reported by agencies to have used their influence in keeping intact some bureaucrats for their vested interests.
Religious groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami too have expressed concerns over the fairness of the electoral process, and their leader Siraj Ul Haq asked the EC to take note of some bureaucrats embroiled in pre-poll rigging.
The Political Agent (PA) of the region has also been widely accused of mismanagement and lawlessness in the area.
But the people of FATA who are wary of security concerns that hinder the electoral process, will have to muster exemplary courage to step out to vote for the change in law and order that has so far eluded them.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, has 25 districts and is mainly inhabited by Pashtuns. One of the four provinces of Pakistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is situated to the west and south while Afghanistan borders the province on the north-west.
The province voted to be a part of Pakistan in 1947 after India’s partition and has been a part of the country ever since.
The region has been regularly dominated by incidents of militant violence. The attacks by Taliban militants have been taking place frequently with the militants issuing threats in the upcoming Pakistani general elections as well.
The Taliban has declared that it will launch an offensive against political parties which have secular agendas. Apart from attacks on independent candidates, the campaign offices and election meetings of the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already been targeted by the Taliban.
The attacks have deterred several candidates from campaigning in various areas of the province.
Sectarian violence is another concern in the province with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates being active in the area. The Shia sect is a minority in the area and is often targeted by militants. There have been several attacks targeting a particular sect, including the recent suicide bombing outside Hangu mosque.
The name of the area was changed from North West Frontier province to present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took place in 2010. The step led to massive protests by the local Hazara population who then raised their demand for a separate province.
The province has been a constant source of friction between Pakistan and Afghanistan as both the countries have made their claims over the area.
The tension between the two countries escalated when Afghanistan’s loya jirga (mass meetings to decide issues of national importance) refused to recognize the Duran Line as the border.
The Durand Line is the 1893 British-mandated border demarcating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and FATA in Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Pakistan, in its entirety, is confronted by three pivotal issues: namely corruption, power outages and terrorism. These three dark shadows loom large over the entire country and the federal capital Islamabad is no different.
Also, Islamabad is governed in a way, which makes it easier to pass the buck from the local government to the bureaucracy and vice versa. The elected representatives hardly have a say in the developmental plans and it is the bureaucracy that manages the governance. Islamabad has no representative in Provincial Assembly and lacks a local government system.
Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) are the main administrative authorities, who look after the urban and the rural development plans respectively.
Though, Islamabad has the highest literacy rate in Pakistan and boasts of some high ranked universities, the capital is haunted by severe infrastructural loopholes.
A proper transport system is not in place, even in the urban areas of the capital. The rural areas on the other hand, suffer many lacks of amenities like that of clean potable water and sanitation system. Housing facilities and road infrastructure are also blameworthy.
Besides transport, security is another issue that keeps ringing alarm bell in the minds of voters. Given the recent attacks on the political candidates and the latest blast at an election rally in Kurram region of Central Pakistan that killed more than 20, voters will have to think twice before venturing out for casting votes.
The two constituencies of Islamabad – NA-48 and NA-49, were won by PML-N members, Anjum Aqeel Khan and Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry respectively in 2008 elections. But the developmental plans for the capital city seem to be stuck in limbo, with the elected ones blaming PPP-endorsed bureaucrats for the drawbacks.
Besides the scourge of terrorism and corruption, Islamabad confronts a governance problem, which needs to be rectified at the earliest. Also, power outages continue to plague the capital city as much as other parts of Pakistan.