This week's poll, not surprisingly, revolves around the much-anticipated Pakistani elections, just four days away. Given the current political atmosphere in the country, I thought it only timely that this week's poll asked, "Pakistani or not, who would YOU vote for in the upcoming Feb. 18th elections?" However, who are the participating political parties? I felt that readers could only make an informed decision if they know more about the main parties contesting the elections, although several notable ones are boycotting this year's polls. In fact, the number of political parties participating in the general elections has dropped drastically, with only 45 fielding candidates in 2008 compared to 77 in 2002. According to the Daily Times, this is the lowerst number to contest since 1998. Therefore, here are brief points I've compiled (some good sources: http://elections.com.pk/index.php or http://www.geo.tv/election
Pakistan People's Party (PPP): A mainstream secular political party of the recently assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto. The party was found in 1967, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Pakistani President and Beanzir's father, became the PPP's first chairman. The PPP's creed is: "Islam is our faith; democracy is our politics; socialism is our economy; all power to the people." It is a relatively liberal political party. Although its center is in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh, the PPP also enjoys considerable support in Punjab. The party is currently co-chaired by Benazir's son, Bilawal Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. The expected PM candidate is Amin Fahim, and notable party figure Aitzaz Ahsan is boycotting the elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) is a party formed in 2002 by the PPP for the purpose of complying with electoral rules governing Pakistani parties.
Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N): Originally the Pakistan Muslim League, the PML-N was established in 1993. It is a mainstream political party headed by former PM Nawaz Sharif, although the party president is his brother, Shahbaz Sharif. Javed Hashimi is also a notable party leader. The PML's power base has traditionally been in Punjab, although since the party has splintered PML-N's center is reportedly in Lahore. Although some leaders were sent into exile or were put in jail, the party won 9.4% of the popular vote in the 2002 elections, as well as 14 out of 272 members.
Pakistan Muslim League- Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q): The PML-Q was originally a faction that broke away from the PML-N in 2001. It was reportedly established "in defiance" of Nawaz Sharif and his family's monopoly over the party. The PML-Q is considered the biggest supporter of the Musharraf regime, and is likewise backed by the current government. As a result of growing anti-Musharraf sentiment, the party has lost a lot of its popular support. Its power center is reportedly in the Gujarat region of Pakistan. The current party president is Chaudhry Shaujaat Hussain., and it is widely considered a centrist-conservative party.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI): Meaning, Pakistan Movement for Justice, PTI's slogan is, "Justice, Humanity, and Self-Esteem." The party is headed by former cricketer Imran Khan, who has put forward a three-point solution to Pakistan's issues: (1) an independent election commission, (2) an independent judiciary, and (3) an independent accountability bureau. PTI reportedly enjoys the support of Pakistan's middle class and is popular among the youth. Despite this growing popularity, however, the PTI is boycotting the 2008 elections.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA): The MMA is a coalition of Islamist political parties in Pakistan, united against the current Musharraf government. It is the ruling party of the NWFP (Northwest Frontier Province) and reportedly enjoys support in Balochistan, and includes both the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (the largest party in the coalition). The MMA is fiercely anti-American, anti-Musharraf, and seeks to enforce Shari'a law in the country. There has been reported tensions between the JI and the JUI, and, although the JI (and much of the MMA) is boycotting the 2008 polls, the JUI (specifically the JUI-F) is running in the elections.
Awami National Party (ANP): The ANP is a leftist secular party that is largely supported by the country's Pashtuns (Pathans), mainly in the NWFP, Punjab, and Balochistan. The party's current president is Asfandyar Wali Khan.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM): Founded and currently led by Altaf Hussein, the MQM is the only political party that grew out of a student organization representing the Urdu-speaking people of the University of Karachi (essentially the Muhajir people, who migrated to Pakistan after independence). The student movement eventually evolved into an influential political party in Sindh province. According to the aforementioned election website, "MQM is infamous for its frequent involvement in terrorist activities although its leaders routinely deny such accusations."
Again, if anyone has anything to add, please let me know - I don't claim to be an expert on Pakistani political parties, but I thought a guide would be useful nonetheless. A great resource for monitoring the elections and for the actual CANDIDATES is: http://www.pw.org.pk.