Elections 101 - The Big Three

In this latest edition of the Election 101 series we are going to take a quick look at the three major political parties in Pakistan that are vying to achieve power in the upcoming 2018 elections this July. Along with a brief history of each political party, we also include links to their websites, manifestos, and social media pages so that readers can quickly get access to the policies and positions these parties have on various issues. Up until 2013, Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were the only two major national parties in Pakistan. However, a third electoral force has emerged since the 2013 elections in the shape of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that has made elections in Pakistan a three-way race. While each party currently has regional strongholds (PML in Punjab, PPP in Sindh, and PTI in KPK), they are all truly national parties in their own right as they have contested and won elections in all four provinces of Pakistan.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)

Founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, PPP proclaims to be the oldest democratic party in Pakistan. The party was formed to create a fair and just democracy, eliminate feudalism, and apply the ideas of socialism to Pakistan.

Pakistan People’s Party rose to popularity under the tutelage of its first chairman and founder, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was President of Pakistan from 1971-1973 and its Prime Minister from 1973 till 1977. After Bhutto’s demise, the party reins were handed over to his daughter Benazir Bhutto who became Prime Minister 1988 to 1990 and 1993 to 1996. Benazir was assassinated in 2007, with the party reins moving over to her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Asif Ali Zardari served as the President from 2008 to 2013.

Overall, the PPP has been in power five times, most recently from 2008 to 2013 where PPP’s coalition government with MQM, ANP, and JUI(F) became the first civilian government to complete a full term in Pakistan. Notable achievements of this party include launching the Benazir Income Support Programme, which aims to reduce poverty through unconditional cash transfers. PPP’s stronghold remains in Sindh and as of 2013, it is the largest opposition party in the National Assembly (the party ran in the 2013 election under the name PPP-Parliamentarian).

People to know:

  • Asif Ali Zardari - President

  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - Chairman

  • Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah - Leader of Opposition in National Assembly

  • Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari - Secretary General

  • Haider Zaman Qureshi - Secretary Finance

Read more at the links below:

Pakistan Muslim League (PML) & Select Factions

Founded in 1962 by President Ayub Khan, PML generally represents conservatism in Pakistan. PML and its factions have dominated the political landscape along with PPP ever since Pakistan’s first national election in 1970. During its history, the party has broken into several factions, some of which are more prominent in the political landscape than others. Examples of these factions are below.

Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N)

PML-N broke away from PML in 1998 and was the largest opposition party after the 2008 election. The party then won the most seats and the most votes in the 2013 National Election. PML-N supports a market economy and has a business/ private sector friendly ideology. They oppose labour unions and have historically focused on infrastructure projects, privatization, and industrialization. PML-N’s stronghold is in Punjab, where they have held majority in the provincial government 6 times.

The most prominent leader of the PML is Mian Nawaz Sharif, who has served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on three occasions: 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017. On all three occasions, he wasn’t able to complete his term. The last term ended with the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualifying him from holding public office for life.

PML counts major infrastructure projects as its legacy of achievements, including building the motorway, testing nuclear weapons, establishing public transportation systems and building roads, schools, hospitals and universities.

People to know:

  • Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif - President of PML-N and three-time Prime Minister of Pakistan

  • Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif - Chief Minister of Punjab

  • Maryam Nawaz - Daughter of Nawaz Sharif

  • Shahid Khaqan Abbasi - Prime Minister of Pakistan post Nawaz Sharif’s removal in 2017

  • Iqbal Zafar Jhagra - Secretary General

  • Raja Zafar ul Haq - Chairman

Read more at the links below:

Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid e Azam (PML-Q)

PML-Q broke out of PML-N in the early 2000s and were the majority party in the government from 2002 to 2007. PML-Q was led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time. The party was backed by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002. PML-Q has two seats in the parliament that was elected in 2013, but several party members have defected to PML-N and PTI.

Read more at the links below:

Pakistan Muslim League - Functional (PML-F)

PML-F was founded in 1965 by Fatima Jinnah, post her defeat by Ayub Khan in the presidential election. The party is associated with Pir Pagara, Syed Shah Mardan Shah-II, a Sindhi religious figure. PML-F won 6 seats in the National Assembly in 2013, after which the party joined the government of Nawaz Sharif.

Read more at the links below:

Pakistan Muslim League - Junejo (PML-J)

PML-J was founded in 1998 by Muhammad Khan Junejo, Prime Minister of Pakistan under President Zia-ul-Haq. The party merged with PML-Q in 2004.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

PTI was founded in 1996 by former national cricket team captain Imran Khan. Several of its senior members come from other political parties such as PML-Q and PPP. PTI stands for a self-reliant economy, freedom from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness, and injustice. It emphasizes religious tolerance and the rights of minorities and women. PTI advocates for a naya or new Pakistan and focuses on anti-corruption policies to that end. The party won less than 1% of the popular vote in 2002, boycotted the 2008 election, and then rose as a major player in 2013.

PTI won more votes and almost as many seats in the National Assembly as dominant party PPP. The party’s stronghold is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where it is the majority in the provincial government as of 2013’s national election.

PTI has strongly protested the results of the 2013 elections, culminating in a sit-in in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, that lasted 126 days in 2014. PTI has found support among the educated class as well as younger voters who are looking for a change in leadership and direction for the country.

People to know:

  • Imran Khan - Chairman

  • Shah Mehmood Qureshi - National Organiser

  • Jahangir Khan Tareen - Central Organiser

  • Dr Shireen Mazari - Spokesperson to Chairman and chief Whip of PTI

Read more at the links below:

In future posts, we'll share profiles of the many other political parties, beyond the big three, that also take part in General Elections. Stay tuned and be sure to give us your feedback and thoughts.

#PoliticalParties #Elections101

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