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spending from Rs1 million to Rs2m for a Provincial Assembly constituen­cy election and from Rs1.5 million to Rs4 million for candidates of the National Assembly. Sheikh Numan laughs at the numbers prescribed by the law. “I had to spend Rs5 million for a councilor election in 2016. You can imagine the cost of the election for a National Assembly election.” When asked to estimate how much was spent on the recent Gujranwala rally, he cannot quite say. “Look, the venue and decorating the city cost us Rs50 million. When you calculate the procession­s coming from the rest of Punjab, we can see Rs500 million being spent altogether.” Beyond local government and donors, but nearly impossible owing to the cash factor. There is no clear bifurcatio­n in resources raised by candidates and parties. The important thing is that lots of people chip in the workers and caterers. What is also important is that the local economy gets moving because of these rallies. “Politics is both good news and bad news for the economy,” says veteran political reporter Mubasher Bukhari. “I’ve been covering politics since the 90s, and have seen money dished out at the grassroots.” Now, with the PDM on a packed schedule of demonstrat­ions, the different venues of these rallies will all be bracing for the economic impact. Under the schedule, PDM’s rallies of Gujranwala and Karachi took place on October 16 and on October 18. The third rally will be held in Quetta on October 25, and the fourth rally on November 22 in Peshawar. The last rally of the month will be held in Multan on November 30. be held in Lahore on December 13, and this Larkana on December 27, on the death anniversar­y of Benazir Bhutto. Naturally, the rallies in Punjab will be spearheade­d by the PML-N, the ones in Sindh by the PPP, and the ones in KP by the Awami National Party (ANP) and the JUI-F. But despite the warrying regions and different local political dynamics, the way these rallies are arranged will by and large remain the same. Along with these PDM rallies, other political events will also take place. The PML-N has planned party conference­s all over the country, and elections in Gilgit-Baltistan will also draw leaders and crowds. As the political environmen­t continues to get charged, money and public contacts will be on full display. In the coming days, more and more chartered planes, bulletproo­f four-wheelers, common buses, mini buses and - tems will add to the spending. “When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed gatherings in Punjab, everything was done by the local municipali­ty. It arranged and decorated the public venue, the stage was prepared by Sarkari people. Public vehicles were used to ferry people. Public gathering.” Those living in Karachi have seen the frequent usage of municipali­ty resources for public rallies by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, says journalist Rehan Naqvi. “We’ve seen the trucks owned by local government bodies carrying people to the rally venue, which is often Jinnah Avenue. Karachi University buses are also misused in the rallies. Public vehicles are used at will.” Dynamics of political spending “Elections and political shows are money are invested in it,” says economist divulge the real details of the spending.” There is not much disagreeme­nt about this less than transparen­t spending. “A political rally being held by a ruling party will have invested public resources into it, while an opposition-led rally will have investment from private pockets,” says Mubasher Bukhari. While the PML-N holds no provincial government, the PPP does have control of Sindh, which is why it is important at least for them to be transparen­t about where the funding for these rallies is coming from. Back in the 2018 elections, vague and conservati­ve estimates guessed the amount of money spent on campaignin­g and rallies to be somewhere around Rs440 billion. The projection was made on the basis of consolidat­ed estimates of funding from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), federal and provincial government­s, security establishm­ent, donors, political parties, candidates and their supporters. A political campaign, spearheade­d by 11 mainstream parties, is likely to generate spending in billions too. In the campaign, the lion share of a public gathering is borne by the host party. The Gujranwala public show was all a PML-N show, whereas the October 18 rally in Karachi was completely arranged by the ruling PPP. Similarly, the Quetta rally’s bill will be paid by the Mahmood Khan Achakzai Pakhtunkhw­a MilliAwami Party. The Peshawar rally will be hosted by the Awami National Party. The economy of public gathering A public rally where the crowd is in the thousands cost millions to the organizers. PPP Muzaffarga­rh leader Malik Azam says he has arranged the mammoth jalsas for Benazir Bhutto in the 1990s, and the last one he organized was on December 25, 2007, two days before her assassinat­ion in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi. The last gathering was arranged with the contributi­on of PPP candidates for national and provincial assembly seats. was in hundreds of thousands. Every candidate was tasked with bringing 10 buses of people besides other vehicles. A lot of money - 2020 is naturally a lot more than it was back Bhutto-Zardari in Khangarh in 2018 cost the candidates a lot of money. “We’ve seen a lot of rallies done with rented crowds. That increases the rally does not have to think about. Benazir was a crowd puller, and now Bilawal is as well.” In the case of renting a crowd, money comes from those segments who have amassed wealth and they think it is a sort of investment on their career or business through rent, a crowd and big rallies. A good chunk of black wealth surfaces and circulates in the times of political agitation and electionee­ring, says a market analyst. Those providing services for a public rally never question the payer about the means or the mode of payment. Political workers say they pay cash to the service providers instead of through money transfers through banks. A public rally by a ruling party A s mentioned earlier, it makes a difference whether the party holding a rally is in power or out of it. This is not necessaril­y because corners are being cut or public money being embezzled, but because if a party is in power, they can use government structures in place to help move their plans for a demonstrat­ion along more smoothly, and possibly even at a lower cost. When the PML-N was in power from 2013 to 2018, it held rallies across Punjab, often to counter Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) popular public mobilisati­on campaign. It used public resources lavishly, says PTI leader from Okara Ashraf Sohna. PDM 24

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