The PPP Parliamentarians launched its election manifesto on Thursday in Islamabad, in a joint press conference by party President Makhdum Amin Fahim and leading lights of the government. That made it clear the PPP will not be contesting under its own banner, as one of its Co-Chairmen, Asif Zardari is President, and thus prevented both by superior court judgements and the Election Commission of Pakistan’s Code of Conduct  from electoral activity. However, as the PPP Parliamentarians will not only fight the election but also accepts the tenure coming to an end as its own, it is perhaps reflective of a certain failure of imagination that it intends to take the ‘roti kapra aur makaan’ slogan it used in the 1970 election when it contested for the first time, into an election occurring 42 years later. It highlights the paucity of the PPP’s achievements in these three fields in the tenure just completed. This failure could well lead the voter to wonder whether the PPP has any intention of solving these problems.

However, there is a more basic issue, afflicting the people, which the PPP government did virtually nothing to redress, and which its manifesto does not address directly: loadshedding and the pledge to add 12,000MW of electricity by the end of the next tenure by way of gas, coal, hydel and renewable energy. However, the manifesto fails to mention the Kalabagh Dam, just as the PML-N manifesto revealed earlier had not done. Without addressing the underlying cause of all the economic malaise afflicting the country, the various pledges made by the PPP, such as legislation to give labour representatives seats in the legislatures, to spend 4.5 percent of GDP on education by term-end, to provide a youth employment initiative called the People’s Employment Programme, will not solve anything, even if implemented.

The PPP has the disadvantage of previous tenures in office. It is a disadvantage from the point of view of the manifesto because it is a party with a known track record. That shows that the party did not take its manifesto pledges seriously, and does not really expect realistically to fulfill them. Judging by that standard, the PPP manifesto does not give an idea of why exactly a PPP government should be re-elected and if it was, how it would be different from the five years passed. Or, heaven forfend, is one to look forward to just more of the same?