Climate action-related messaging is noticeably absent from the campaigns of major political parties for the upcoming general elections in Pakistan, scheduled for February 8, 2024. The only space where it is being discussed is within the manifestos of political parties. In this piece, we delve into the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) election manifestos comparing their 2018 and 2024 versions. We will scrutinize the promises made in the 2018 manifesto alongside the ones that were not only made but also violated.
In their 2018 manifesto, PPP pledged to introduce “Sustainability and Resilience” policies and investments across various sectors such as water, agriculture, health, and urban areas. The agriculture sector was a key focus of the manifesto with the PPP making several promises. These included:
- Deploying drip/sprinkler irrigation on over four million hectares by 2023
- Promoting high-yielding, drought-tolerant crops on more than one million hectares nationwide by 2023
- Advocating for climate SMART agriculture in policy, planning, and research and
- Strengthening water governance with a balanced approach
To verify the implementation of the first pledge, we looked at a six-year World Bank project in 2015 that concluded in 2021. The project assisted the Sindh government in installing drip irrigation systems on 26 farms encompassing a mere 109 hectares, falling short of the intended scope of installing it at 14,300 hectares of land in Sindh.
For the second promise, we looked at a national project funded by the Green Climate Fund running in Punjab and Sindh. In Sindh, previously governed by the PPP government, the Green Climate Fund focuses on making 80,000 farmers flood and drought-resilient through field training programmes in Badin, Sanghar, and Umerkot. An official associated with the project emphasised that its success depends on government replication in other districts.
For the third pledge, the Sindh government formulated the Sindh Agriculture Policy 2018- 2030 under the World Bank’s “Sindh Agriculture Project” in April 2018. The policy aimed to address adaptation, smart agriculture, climate change resilience, and early warning systems. However, experts who did not want to be named said the policy was never fully implemented. They said that the policy could have reduced the impact of the unprecedented floods of 2022 in the agriculture sector.
For the fourth promise, the PPP promised in its 2018 manifesto to promote the rationalisation of water use through legislation on pricing, bulk metering, conservation, and efficiency improvement measures across agricultural, industrial, commercial, and urban sectors. However, the only action it took was to change the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board to Karachi Water and Sewerage Corporation and announce plans for bulk metering water supply in the city through the corporation.
Infrastructure & housing promises
Next we will examine how the PPP fulfilled its 2018 manifesto promises on infrastructure and housing. The PPP pledged to climate-proof large infrastructure investments and ensure resilience to floods, droughts, and extreme weather. They said that their new infrastructure policy framework post-2018 elections would incorporate sustainability and resilience to climate action as an investment priority. “Pakistan’s main climate stressors will act alongside existing sources of risk and vulnerability – namely droughts, floods, and seawater intrusion,” the party manifesto added.
However, the party initiated the Malir Expressway, a project that faced backlash. The Asian Development Bank, one of the main financiers of the project, and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office pulled out their funding for the project, following complaints from indigenous farmers who cited environmental damages and the threat of displacement. The project is allegedly being constructed in the Malir Bed River to connect gated housing societies on the city’s periphery.
The PPP also violated its climate-proofing pledge by launching the Rs2.1 million Gulistan-e-Jauhar flyover and underpass project without conducting the legally mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and public hearing. The development projects that did undergo EIAs were declared either a farce or an embarrassment for the environment watchdog, Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), which was under the control of the PPP-led Sindh government. Moreover, the PPP-Sindh government’s environment department spent less than 10 percent of its allocated development budget in the last three terms.
The PPP dedicated a chapter in its 2018 manifesto to the right to housing and sustainable communities titled Apni Galian Apnay Ghar. The party expressed empathy for the most marginalised people who lived in constant fear of eviction and lacked access to basic infrastructure. “While the government is a major stakeholder in matters related to land, housing and community services, its authority is rarely used to guarantee secure and decent housing for all,” it added.
The party also acknowledged in the 2018 manifesto the “rapid conversion of farms and villages into commercial colonies” done at the expense of the poor who were evicted to make room for the better off. In other cases, “new communities of the poor have emerged, adding to the backlog of pending infrastructure and community services,” it further said.
The following reality cannot be overlooked which is 16,896 acres, comprising five dehs in District Malir, were handed over to Bahria Town Karachi, resulting in the demolition of numerous villages in 2015 and 2016. The Supreme Court found Bahria Town guilty of illegally grabbing thousands of acres of land from the Malir Development Authority (MDA) on May 4, 2018. In the same verdict, the court criticized the Sindh Board of Revenue and the MDA for aiding Bahria Town in this extensive land grab. The allegations leveled in the petitions before the court stated that the government land was worth much more than the private land it was exchanged for.
In 2019, the Supreme court settled the case by accepting Bahria Town’s offer to pay Rs450 billion more for the same land in seven years. The PPP-led Sindh government, which insisted it did not incur any losses throughout the case, told the court that it should receive the money from Bahria Town. The PPP had already written its 2018 manifesto when the Bahria Town case unfolded.
The PPP promised in its 2018 manifesto to go beyond regularizing existing communities and to improve the quality of life and sustainability in urban and rural areas. However, the party failed to deliver on its promise and instead caused climate injustice. The PPP displaced nearly 100,000 people to expand the city’s drains after record-breaking rain on August 27, 2020 when some nine inches fell in a few hours, breaking a 90-year record.
The authorities decided to widen three of the city’s main drains: Gujjar, Orangi and Mehmoodabad Nullah and demolished several katchi abadis around the drains without conducting an EIA or compensating the affected people despite the Supreme Court’s directions. The cruel irony is that the PPP-led provincial government asked the apex court to release the Bahria Town case money for their rehabilitation.
Climate-related manifesto 2024
The PPP’s 2024 manifesto titled “Chuno Nayi Soch Ko”/Choose New Thinking launched on January 27 shares some similarities with its 2018 manifesto concerning climate change. Such as:
- Reforms in Pakistan’s development priorities
- Focus on climate resilience, adaptation and energy transition
- Introduce a green new deal by ensuring upcoming energy solutions are clean, people friendly.
- Green energy parks harnessing solar power all across Pakistan. With this they said they will provide free power up to 300 units. (In the 2018 manifesto the party promised that “by 2023 wind and solar parks in Sindh will add at least 5,000 MWs to the national grid).
- Housing for the poor, the landless and the working class will be modeled on the ongoing Sindh Peoples Housing Programme for 2022 Flood Affectees. They said they would construct at least three million climate-resilient homes and women to get the legal titles of the property.
- Transition of power plants from using imported coal to domestic Thar Coal
- Plans to improve disaster management by creating a well-coordinated system. Communities will be prepared at the grassroots level, focusing on reducing risks and providing early warning systems and introducing initiatives aimed at promoting climate and environmental awareness at local, provincial, and federal levels, for cultivating a culture of sustainability. (A brief performance assessment: Over 16 years, they allocated more funds for a flyover and underpass project in a small Gulshan town in Karachi than for the entire PDMA budget of the climate-change-disaster prone province).
- Efforts would be directed towards the utilization of the Loss and Damage Fund to address climate-related losses and damages, especially after major climate events like the 2022 floods.
- Plans to tap into the carbon market. (The Delta Blue Carbon project of the PPP-led Sindh government generated USD 14.7 million worth of carbon credit revenue on November 18, 2022, by selling the carbon credits in the international voluntary market).
In its 2024 manifesto the major difference as compared to its previous manifesto is the mention of the apparently forward-looking Sindh Flood Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project, for which the provincial government has constituted a section 42 (not-for-profit) company Sindh People’s Housing for Flood Affectees. However, this project ignores the plight of landless farmers and communities living along the River Indus who face frequent floods. This is a longstanding issue in Sindh that remains unresolved. The project lacks mention of policy and legislation.
Bilawal Bhutto’s Role in Global Climate Diplomacy
It is pertinent to mention that at COP 27 in 2022, the PPP’s chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto, who was then the foreign minister, chaired the G77 bloc, successfully negotiating a new loss and damage fund – an achievement that garnered global headlines. The party’s chairman, the youngest among leaders of mainstream political parties in the country, passionately advocates for issues such as climate justice and the challenges confronting vulnerable communities due to climate change. However, climate change plays a relatively minor role in his election campaign.
Subedited by Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui
The story is a collaborative effort between The Citizenry and The Times of Karachi, in partnership with the Climate Action Center.