The PML-Q’s Negative Campaigning

The back page of today’s Khabrain, a leading Pakistan daily, features an interesting political advertisement from Musharraf’s faction of the Muslim League party (PML-Q). [Topi tip: Ali]

The ad paints rival Nawaz Sharif as an agenda-less political opportunist who leans in the direction the political wind blows at the time.

Sharif, once a Zia ul-Haq protege, is shown on the right praying at his grave next to Zia’s son. Below, he’s quoted as saying, “I will complete General Zia ul-Haq’s mission.” On the left, he’s shown at the grave of Benazir Bhutto (an archenemy of Zia), praying alongside senior PML-N leader Javed Hashmi. Below, he’s quoted as saying, “I will complete Benazir Bhutto’s mission.”

Since Sharif’s return to Pakistan, the PML-Q has tried to paint him as a follower, first of Benazir Bhutto (with insinuations against his masculinity) and now the PPP in general. PML-Q President Shujaat Hussain descibed him as part of the PPP’s “B-team.

The bold red text on the bottom of the advertisement asks (presumably both Nawaz Sharif and the reader), “What is your mission?”

The PML-Q has turned to negative campaigning because it has little positive to run on.  Once emboldened by a huge, deficit-running election-year budget, the achievements variably associated with it are vanishing.  Pakistan is in the midst of one of its worst political and security crisis ever.  Additionally, the country faces serious energy and wheat shortages. Surprisingly, Pervaiz Elahi–likely the PML-Q’s prime ministerial candidate/leader in the National Assembly) has blamed all this on none other than former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a party member.

The party has reportedly changed its strategy, focusing on winning Punjab and not the national elections.  Both the PPP and PML-N will siphon off votes from the PML-Q, which has most recently governed Punjab.  It has tried to play the ethnic/provincial card by casting the PPP as a Sindhi party and the post-Bhutto assassination violence as against non-Sindhis.  But Nawaz Sharif is its major threat in the province, Pakistan’s largest and source of over 50% of its National Assembly seats.  Hence the effort to cast him as a flake and Sindhi tool.

The Collected Sayings of Shujaat Hussain
The Chaudhry cousins have dished out quite a bit of negative sound bites. Below are some selected gems from Shujaat Hussain (more to come):

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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