Pakistan’s political parties used manifestos more than before in the 2018 general elections. They tried to galvanize their supporters with a mix of vision statements and specific policy commitments. To effectively use manifestos for holding parties accountable to their promises is however a long way to go. This was the main conclusion of DRI’s dialogue with parties and civil society in Lahore on 12 September 2018.
Senior representatives of civil society, members of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab and the leadership of political parties from across the provincial capitals attended the event. They agreed that manifestos offer a potential to move political discourse away from personal disagreements towards discussing policy issues. Indeed, manifestos provide a benchmark that parties set for their own performance. Pakistan’s first religious minority National Assembly Member, Mahesh Kumar Malani, said that it was only the inclusion of minority rights in the manifesto of his party that had urged the members of his constituency to vote for him.
Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director of the Women In Struggle For Empowerment (WISE), added that the incorporation of human rights issues in the manifestos of the political parties is a positive sign. However, she also pointed out that merely mentioning the issues in the manifestos is not enough and policy action must follow.
Looking at the institutional dimension of human rights improvement, the Director General for Research and Parliamentary Affairs of the Punjab Assembly, Mr. Inayat Ullah Lakh, pointed out that putting manifesto commitments onto the parliamentary agenda faces its own obstacles. He explained how the Punjab Assembly’s previous committee on Human Rights could only meet when a matter was referred to it by the Speaker or the House, emphasizing the need for the Committees to set their own agenda and meetings like in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
This project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the EU