Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the President of the Pakistan
Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, was
highlighted in the November 12th edition of the Daily Dawn.
In the article, he brought attention to the crucial issue of the
lack of interest in party charters within Pakistan’s political
parties under the title of “Charter Calling.” Additionally, he
drew parallels with the charters of two major political
parties in Britain. This effort is commendable and deserves
the attention of not only the leaders of Pakistan’s political parties but also the responsibility
of the custodians of Pakistan’s political landscape.
However, when referencing the British political system, we believe it is insufficient to focus
solely on the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, as ignoring the mention of the
Liberal Democrats would not provide a comprehensive analysis. The Liberal Democrats,
with their roots deeply embedded in British society, also play a significant role. Their
charter serves as an excellent example, which may be detailed in a future column.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob correctly identified the importance of charters in Pakistan’s
political system, emphasizing that during past elections, it has been more of a ceremonial
practice than a practical exercise. Political parties perceive that a significant portion of
voters does not pay much attention to reading electoral charters, making it challenging
for them to form opinions on whether to vote for a particular party. This may have been
true in previous elections, but with the rising middle class, the surge of social media, and
the increasing number of young voters, the dynamics of polling have started to change.
Unfortunately, the traditional politics of slogans, lofty promises, targeting opponents, and
discussing issues with voters only during elections do not satisfy the demands of the
electorate. Voters demand more engagement. It is regrettable that more than half of
registered voters choose not to cast their votes, as evidenced by an average 45% voter
turnout in the last eight elections, partially due to the traditional practices of mainstream
Looking ahead to the upcoming elections, with more than 21 million potential new voters,
the political parties’ knowledge about them and their preferences, mostly gathered from
social media, is limited. Carefully crafted and effectively communicated electoral
charters can bridge the gap between political parties and voters, especially among the
approximately 57 million young voters, constituting more than 45% of registered voters.
Therefore, political parties need to pay more attention to electoral charters.
To make an effective electoral charter, the following six considerations are crucial:
Bottom-Up Consultative Approach: Political parties in Pakistan often overlook the
involvement of lower-level organizations and workers in shaping their electoral charters.
Unlike this approach, the Conservative and Labour parties in Britain have established
policy forums from polling districts to national forums and validate them in annual party
Informed Decision-Making: The process of charter creation should be based on careful
research rather than mere desire. While political parties in Pakistan are increasingly
conducting public surveys, the focus should shift from assessing the popularity of different
leaders to understanding the electorate’s views on important issues.
Broad-based Consultation: Since time is limited for lower-level consultations for the 2024
elections, each party should ensure provincial consultations at a minimum while
representing each district. In this way, the province-wise consultations will contribute to a
more comprehensive national consultation.
Professionally Drafted: A well-prepared charter can eliminate the gap between political
parties and voters. Rather than being a wish list, the charter should be a professionally
crafted document focusing on actionable policies and programs.
Transparency and Accountability: The charter should not merely be a ceremonial
document but a guide for action. Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation should be
incorporated to ensure the implementation of the charter’s promises.
Utilizing Public Opinion: A carefully prepared questionnaire, based on informed opinions,
can significantly enhance the charter’s ability to identify key issues and address the
In order to address the challenges faced by a struggling country through means similar
to Pakistan, it is essential for parties to earnestly plan projects, policies, and programs
focusing on trade. Therefore, the parties should present their approved trade agreements
and funding considerations in the electoral manifesto. The Labour Party’s manifestos of
2017 and 2019 can serve as good models because they contain separate documents
detailing how promised programs will be funded. In the 2017 and 2019 Labour manifestos,
there were seven and 40-page annexes respectively titled ‘Funding the Future of Britain’
and ‘Financial Assistance for Real Change.’ Both funding documents were prepared by
a team headed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer – in our terminology, a Shadow
Minister of Finance if our politics had a Shadow Cabinet system.
Provincial Manifesto: Pakistan is a federal state with many ministries and divisions
allocated to provinces. A party cannot be in power simultaneously at the center and in
all provinces. Parties should prepare separate manifestos for the federal and each
provincial level. Jamaat-e-Islami recently revealed a separate electoral manifesto,
especially for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Other parties can consider doing the same.
The author emphasizes the need to establish a system in which parties, upon coming into
power, actively oversee the implementation of the manifesto’s objectives and explain
such a system in the manifesto. It is rightly stated that this action will instill greater
confidence in voters for a party that includes self-accountability in its manifesto. PML(N)’s
2013 manifesto included a brief chapter on manifesto implementation but was not acted
upon. PTI attempted to oversee the implementation of Imran Khan’s first 100-day agenda
in 2018 and shared results online, but the party abandoned this commendable initiative
before the end of the government’s first 100 days.
Key Issues Checklist: The manifesto should identify and propose possible solutions for
short-term, medium-term, and long-term critical issues. Currently, in addition to
combating terrorism, the focus should be on reforms in the energy sector, increasing
revenues and investments, and prioritizing the economy by focusing on efficiency in
government institutions. In the context of human development, improvements in the
justice system, maintaining effective local governments, conducting political dialogues
for harmony, and a balanced long-term focus on military relations with neighboring
countries should be prioritized.
We understand that while it is crucial to highlight the importance of the manifesto, it is
also necessary, in the current serious political situation in Pakistan, to give all political
parties, including PTI, which is currently the most popular party despite all forms of political
coercion, malpractices, and extra-constitutional interventions, an equal opportunity to
participate in the electoral process. Pakistan’s electoral system should be cleansed of any
bias, and the electoral process should be made transparent. If only Pakistan’s writers
could mention that there is no tradition in Britain of preparing political manifestos here, no
agency plays a role in elections, be it the wheat and cement agency. The people’s
opinion determines the verdict. If only Pakistan could follow suit.
In conclusion, the process of creating an electoral charter should be more than a wish-
driven endeavor; it should be grounded in thorough research. While political parties are
increasingly conducting surveys, the emphasis should shift from assessing leaders’
popularity to understanding the electorate’s views on critical issues. A well-prepared
charter can close the gap between political parties and voters, fostering a more
engaged and informed electorate.
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