Karachi, Feb 16 : The February 18 elections for the National Assembly and provincial legislatures in Pakistan would cost the national exchequer a record Rs.200 billion, according to projections by a team of journalists.
The sum includes expenses incurred by the federal and provincial governments, election commission, donors, political parties and candidates.
In the absence of any comparable consolidated figures of election-related spending during the 2002 elections, it was not possible to work out the exact increase in the aggregate expenditure. However, most analysts believe, and candidates admit in private conversation, that the expenditure this year is three times that made during the last election.
The spending increases are mainly due to a sharp rise in security costs this time around in view of a volatile political environment and threats of terrorist attacks. The cost has also gone up because the exercise is being conducted on modern lines in order to ensure transparency.
The double-digit inflation, private security arrangements and a new head of expenses related to the electronic media have all done their bit to a big hike in the budget.
According to the Dawn, the commercials made by the PML-Q for television channels sparked off a competition between political parties for air time. The electronic media's effectiveness in reaching out out to a largely illiterate populace compelled parties to turn to TV channels.
The survey showed that all political parties and candidates had, for obvious reasons, understated the expenses made by them. However, cautious estimates made on the basis of available data threw up a staggering figure of Rs.20 million as the average expenditure for a provincial assembly seat and Rs.50 million for a National Assembly seat.
In contrast, the Election Commission has stipulated a ceiling of Rs1.5 million for a National Assembly candidate and one million rupees for a provincial assembly contestant.
All attempts to trace the sources of financing or the modus operandi of different parties to manage their election budgets were in vain.