5-Strategic Communications to derail elections…
By: Qamar Bashir
The interim government has orchestrated a coordinated effort to obstruct or delay the impending elections through a multifaceted strategic communication strategy. This intricate approach, executed subtly, revolves around five pivotal narratives: prioritizing financial and economic stability over electoral processes, justifying the interim government’s continuity citing security concerns, leveraging adverse weather conditions to advocate for postponement, associating the pursuit of justice for the 9th May incident with election timing, and crucially, emphasizing that aggrieved parties won’t accept election outcomes, potentially plunging the country into chaos. This narrative underscores the rationale for postponing elections until all parties consent to accept the election results, portraying it as a crucial step towards averting potential unrest and chaos.
From a Public Relations perspective, each narrative serves as a strategic tool to shift focus away from the electoral process, weaving a complex web of reasoning to legitimize the government’s intent to circumvent or postpone the elections in favor of its continuation.
Communication Strategy 1 begins by addressing the severity of the financial and economic situation in Pakistan. Emphasize the challenges, such as debt burden, inflation, and economic instability, impacting the daily lives of citizens. Stress the crucial need for stability to ensure the well-being and prosperity of the nation. Present a bleak picture of what might happen without immediate corrective measures. Illustrate the interim government’s proactive steps and policies taken to stabilize the economy. Highlight achievements and ongoing efforts to mitigate the crisis, emphasizing that they are promising but need time to yield positive results. Frame it as a sacrifice for a stable and prosperous future. Emphasizing the need for unity and cooperation, suggesting that delaying elections is a collective decision for the greater benefit of Pakistan.
Leveraging Communication Channels by utilizing television, radio, newspapers, and social media to disseminate the message widely and consistently. Arrange speeches by influential figures to reinforce the narrative of financial emergency and the necessity of stability. Using Slogan: “Ensuring Stability, Securing Tomorrow: Let Our Economy Flourish First!” Visual Imagery: Infographics, charts showing economic indicators improving, visuals depicting stability leading to prosperity.
The SC campaign-2 begins by prioritizing citizens’ safety above electoral processes, emphasizing the broader regional implications of Pakistan’s security situation. The postponement of elections is positioned as a measure to safeguard citizens’ lives, reinforcing that public safety remains paramount. Continuous engagement through regular updates and open dialogues with stakeholders, including security forces and international partners to ensure transparency, address concerns, and gather support for this crucial strategy.
Various media platforms are used extensively—television, radio, newspapers, and social media—to disseminate a consistent message about the critical need for stability. Key influential figures are engaged to deliver speeches reinforcing the narrative. Visual aids, including infographics showcasing pressing security challenges. It vividly depicts Pakistan’s volatile security landscape, emphasizing the gravity of significant domestic, regional, and international security threats with the slogan “Terrorism and Instability.” The campaign advocates for a “Security First Approach,” stressing that conducting elections amid such turmoil risks citizen safety and democratic integrity. It aims to showcase the interim government’s unwavering commitment to national security, highlighting ongoing efforts to combat terrorism and restore stability.
Strategic Communication-3. The Campaign Title: “Prioritizing Public Safety: Postponement Due to Severe Weather Conditions”. The Key Message: “Postponing Elections for Public Safety Amid Harsh Winter Weather”. Illustrating the severity of the ongoing winter weather across the country, emphasizing its adverse impact on public safety and accessibility to polling stations. Emphasize that the extreme weather conditions will deprive a significant portion of the population from exercising their fundamental right to vote. Frame the decision to postpone elections as a necessary step to prioritize the safety and well-being of citizens. Highlight the dangers posed by severe weather, such as transportation hazards, potential accidents, and health risks, making it unsafe for citizens to travel to polling stations. Emphasize the government’s duty to ensure citizens’ safety and well-being above all else. Position the postponement as a temporary delay, ensuring that citizens will have the opportunity to exercise their voting rights when weather conditions improve. To achieve the results, utilize television, radio, newspapers, and social media to ensure a consistent and clear message about the weather-related challenges and the decision’s necessity for public safety. Keep the public informed about weather improvements and any developments regarding rescheduling elections. Sample Slogan: “Safety First: Weathering the Storm for a Fair Election Tomorrow!. Visual Imagery: Visuals portraying harsh winter weather conditions, safety precautions, and images illustrating citizens’ difficulties in reaching polling stations.
Strategic Communication-4 begins with the campaign to delay elections until the culprits of the 9th May incident are brought to justice. Campaign Title: “Justice Before Democracy: Holding Accountable the Culprits of 9th May”. Key Message: “Postponing Elections for Justice: Prioritizing Accountability and National Reconciliation”. Communication Strategy: Shedding light on the significance of addressing the unresolved 9th May incident, emphasizing its impact on national reconciliation and stability. Appeal to the public sentiment for accountability, stressing that bringing culprits to justice is crucial for healing and moving forward as a nation. Frame the resolution of the 9th May incident as a precondition for holding fair and transparent elections. Highlight that accountability fosters national unity and reconciliation, laying the groundwork for a stronger democratic future. Utilize various media platforms, arrange speeches by influential figures, keep the public informed about progress made in addressing the 9th May incident, showcasing steps taken towards accountability. Sample Slogan: “Justice Prevails: Ensuring Accountability for a Stronger Democracy. Visual Imagery: Visuals depicting the pursuit of justice, accountability processes, and images illustrating national unity and reconciliation.
Communication Strategy-5 Title: “Ensuring Fairness: Postponing Elections for Inclusive Resolution’. Key Message: “Postponing Elections to Address Fairness Concerns: Prioritizing National Unity and Trust in the Democratic Process”. It begins with acknowledging concerns raised by political parties, particularly PTI, regarding fairness and transparency in the election process. Emphasize the necessity of creating an environment where all parties accept the election results to prevent post-election chaos. Position postponement as a means to ensure a more stable and consensus-driven electoral outcome. Leveraging Communication Channels Television, radio, newspapers, and social media—to communicate the rationale behind postponement and the commitment to fairness. Arrange discussions and forums for direct engagement with political parties to address concerns and seek collaborative solutions. Ensuring that decisions regarding the electoral process are made in the best interest of the nation. Sample Slogan: “Fairness Unites: Postponing for an Inclusive Electoral Process. Visual Imagery: Graphics symbolizing fairness, inclusivity, and unity among political parties, aiming for a harmonious electoral process.
These five strategies, while aimed at achieving certain objectives, raise concerns about their alignment with constitutional principles. It’s evident that our nation, already fragile, cannot endure another unconstitutional disruption, as any illegal actions to achieve these goals could result in dire consequences. Despite our history marked by martial laws and setbacks, there’s a recurring pattern where powerful forces often achieve their objectives by disregarding, manipulating, or violating the constitution without facing consequences.
The constitution provides for holding provincial assembly elections within 90 days of dissolution, yet despite court orders in September 2023, elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces were delayed with total impunity. The absence of fresh elections since the National Assembly’s dissolution in April 2023 raises questions about adherence to reasonable timeframes implied by constitutional provisions. Legal experts have raised concerns about the interim government’s decisions, suggesting they might overstep constitutional limitations. Issues surrounding the independence of the judiciary and media under the interim setup add complexity to the situation. The Supreme Court and the interim government are going to face off once again on the question of holding elections on 8th February.
The nation is keeping its fingers crossed. It’s critical to emphasize the importance of upholding the rule of law and respecting the decisions made by the Supreme Court. In any democratic society, institutions must function independently within their prescribed roles. If there’s a disagreement or concern about a decision, the appropriate and lawful approach is to address it through legal channels, such as filing appeals or presenting arguments in court that adhere to the legal framework and the constitution.
Attempting to circumvent or undermine the decisions of the Supreme Court through illegal or unconstitutional means can have severe consequences, not just for the democratic process but also for the stability and credibility of the country’s institutions.
By: Qamar Bashir
Press Secretary to the President (Rtd)
Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France
Former MD, SRBC
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