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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Pakistan's lacklustre campaign
Vendor in Lahore
Campaign only really got going in final stages

Campaigning for the polls in Pakistan finally picked up a few days ago - but only just.

President Musharraf's assurance last week that elections would be held as scheduled seems to have restored a measure of excitement to a campaign that had so far been dull and lacking in colour - at least in the Lyari district of Karachi.

Known as a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) stronghold for decades, campaigning here suddenly sprang to life.

Banners, posters and election symbols sprouted everywhere.

Ms Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto: Barred from standing by new rules

"In the last 10 days, Lyari has been the most spirited of all constituencies in Karachi," says Nadir Shah Adil, a journalist and a Lyari resident.

He says the people of Lyari are making up for lost time.

There were meetings at every corner, children and young people were out on the streets taking part in the election activities, and door-to-door campaigning went on throughout the night.

'Rejuvenation of democracy'

Although a PPP stronghold, it was the first time that candidates from rival parties were able to campaign freely without being stopped or harassed.

This is a far cry from the early stages of the election campaign when the disqualification of the stars of Pakistani politics from contesting the polls, and strict restrictions on public meetings, prevented electioneering from taking off.

Banners of Nawaz Sharif
Campaigning did pick up towards the end
Pakistan's leading political personalities - Benazir Bhutto of the PPP and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Mulsim League (Nawaz Group) - are not standing.

"Please don't disqualify BB (Benazir Bhutto) rom this election," wailed an old woman in Lyari after Ms Bhutto's nomination was thrown out.

"Who will I vote for now?"

While Ms Bhutto's papers were rejected, Mr Sharif withdrew his nomination - ostensibly as an act of solidarity with his one-time arch rival - though analysts said it was to avoid the embarrassment of his nomination meeting the same fate.

Dejection and a stunned political silence has prevailed in the country over the past weeks.

The political temperature has now risen a little, but for a country heading for democracy after three years of military rule, the overall election scenario has been grim. And even if the crowd-pullers had been around, restrictions on rallies and even on displaying banners and posters has virtually choked campaigning.

"The procedure for seeking permission to hold rallies has been lengthy and cumbersome," explains Dr Farooq Sattar, deputy convenor of the Muttaheda Qaumi Movement (MQM).

These measures on the part of the present government have ensured that political activity remains at a minimum.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Pakistan votes
A return to democracy after miltary rule?
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

08 Oct 02 | South Asia
04 Oct 02 | South Asia
02 Oct 02 | South Asia
01 Oct 02 | South Asia
30 Sep 02 | South Asia
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