ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Patrons and Elections

Constituency Politics in Contemporary Pakistan

The by-election to Pakistan's National Assembly from the Multan constituency, which fell vacant after Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani was disqualifi ed by the Supreme Court, once again showed that the contemporary electoral theatre in the country is built on a political economy of patronage and deference, and held together by acts of collusion and coercion.

On 19 June 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan revoked Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani’s membership of the National Assembly and ­disqualified him as prime minister of ­Pakistan. The event marked the culmination of a protracted struggle between the executive and the judiciary over the former’s refusal to reopen corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman and president of Pakistan.1 Following the disqualification, political leaders from across the country gathered in Islamabad as the governing coalition – composed of the PPP, the Awami National Party (ANP), the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) – began deliberations on the next prime ministerial candidate. Within a week, their chosen candidate – the PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – secured a vote of confidence from the National ­Assembly and was sworn in as the new prime minister.

As prescribed under law, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued two ­notifications during this period of heightened political activity. The first to ­announce the disqualification of the erstwhile prime minister and the second to announce 19 July 2012 as the date for the by-election to the vacated National ­Assembly seat.2 In the southern city of Multan, Gilani’s hometown as well as the district of his constituency, a more localised flurry began. It was time to prepare for an election.

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