A SWOT analysis of Pakistan’s political parties

Published: April 21, 2013

MQM probably has the largest pool of educated candidates from middle class social strata and ANP has won over the Pakhtuns.

The following is an analysis of our political parties gauged on their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT):

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N)


PML-N has a strong following in Punjab – the largest and most powerful province in Pakistan. Furthermore, it has a great alignment with right wing groups and religious circles. Major cities of Punjab have seen tremendous development during the last five years.


PML-N has not been able to carry out any substantial development in remote areas and far off villages of Punjab. It has teamed up with same old faces that previously supported and strengthened a dictator’s government.


The poor performance of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) governments in the last five years has created a vacuum which can certainly be filled up by PML-N.


PML-N faces a possible setback in terms of their vote bank by the growing popularity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Punjab. They are also being labelled as a patron of extremist groups in the country, which has further dented their credibility as a progressive political party.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)


PPP has a strong bond with the rural populace of Sindh and a few pockets in urban centres. The legacy of Bhutto still stands strong today and PPP has been successfully cashing on to it. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is another project that won them accolades among the poor masses.


PPP has displayed the poorest performance ever in the history of Pakistan with a few high profile corruption cases against their mainstream leadership. Bilawal Zardari lacks leadership qualities and has no connection with the common workers (jiyalas) of PPP and currently enjoys all the support just because of his late mother Benazir Bhutto. Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is famous worldwide for his alleged corruption and his stay on the top slot has forced a lot of die hard workers and PPP stalwarts to distance themselves from the party.


PPP can utilise its popular support in rural Sindh and BISP project in order to secure a land sliding victory in the upcoming elections.


Being a liberal party, PPP is under constant threat by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)


Jamaat-e-Islami has a strong following among religious circles. Their network across the nation on a whole remains strong and effective. JI has stayed corruption free and their top tier leadership has managed to stay out of scandals with their simple way of life and religious inclination. Ex-mayor Naimatullah Khan gave Karachi a major uplift during his tenure which won JI a huge fan base.


JI’s pessimistic approach towards politics has strengthened their position as critics of the highest order, but there has been no constructive and productive role from their side towards forming a national government.


JI and its student wing Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) have great potential in mobilising students for national and religious causes. This street power if utilised effectively can be converted into votes in the next elections.


JI has lost all its ground in Karachi which was previously considered as a strong hold for them. Their stringent and stubborn approach has singled them out and now they have to struggle to regain their vote bank.

Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM)


MQM probably has the largest pool of educated candidates from middle class social strata. They have a strong and effective infrastructure and a defined code of conduct where all party workers including top tier leadership have to maintain strong discipline and follow orders regardless of their position within and outside the party hierarchy. Ex-mayor Mustafa Kamal, during his tenure, had done wonders for the city of Karachi which speaks volumes of the vision of MQM.


The founder of MQM Mr Altaf Hussain for various reasons has been living in self-exile which often results in a plethora of accusations and concerns shown by media and politicians from time to time. During their last tenure, their swapping of roles from government to opposition and opposition to government benches pointed towards confused policy making.


MQM manifesto if properly implemented can change the face of this country. Their stand against feudalism and extremism can bring about a revolution if they are given a chance to show their performance on the national front. Their pool of educated young men and women mostly from middle income group can contribute very effectively towards the progress of Pakistan.


TTP remains a constant threat to MQM due to their liberal stance.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)


Imran Khan’s philanthropy and success story of Shaukat Khanam Hospital is the main driving force behind PTI. He has successfully mobilized and brought the youth of Pakistan under PTI’s umbrella which was otherwise clueless and least concerned regarding the political future of the country.


PTI lacks discipline. The party has big names among its top tier leadership but they seem to be promoting their own personal agendas rather than spreading Imran Khan’s message. PTI workers have little patience and lack political insight.


PTI has never been tried and tested. They are fresh out of the bag and ready to bring a change. Elections 2013 give the party an excellent opportunity to bring into action all the promises that they have made.


PTI’s only threat is its own leaders who haven’t really enjoyed a clean and credible past.

Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q)


PML-Q enjoys massive support in rural Punjab. It has successfully tapped into the vacuum left behind when Nawaz Sharif was sent packing by Pervez Musharraf. Their alliance with PPP provided them another ruling stint and thus cementing their position in the electoral politics of Pakistan even though they started off as a king’s party.


In the last couple of years, PML-Q has experienced further disintegration into smaller groups and change of loyalties by their once strong party stalwarts.


PML-Q enjoys good working relationship with MQM and PPP. With a little seat adjustment in Sindh they can bag a sizable amount of votes both in Punjab and Sindh provided they tap in traditional strongholds of Sindhi nationalist groups.


The only threat to PML-Q is PML-N which has once again established itself as its strong opponent in Punjab.

Awami National Party (ANP)


ANP has quite successfully managed to win over the Pakhtuns of K-P and Sindh and in the last five years, the continued law and order situation in the urban centres specifically Karachi further polarised the situation on ethnic lines hence strengthening the traditional Pakhtun vote bank of ANP.


ANP’s exclusively Pakhtun-centric politics has restricted their voter base to traditional Pushto speaking communities and thus a limited vote bank.


This party can take electoral advantage of the rapidly growing Pakhtun presence in urban regions of Sindh and thus emerge as a strong political entity in the next elections


ANP is probably the only political party that has suffered the most in terms of assassinations of their leaders and workers by TTP for their liberal approach and communist ideology. They remain the TTP’s prime target.

Read more by Arsalan here.

Arsalan Faruqi

Arsalan Faruqi

An entrepreneur with a degree in computer engineering and an MBA from IBA Karachi. He tweets as @arsalanfaruqi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Asif Nawaz

    Good one. PTIs weakness doesn’t harm Pakistani policies or its bank balance, where as others have already harmed both. Now be a good and responsible youth, vote for PTIRecommend

  • Asjad

    A good read…the Threats to ANP,PPP,MQM shows how other parties are infavor of a taliban-like rule …hence for this simple reason my vote goes to the out going government !Recommend

  • Majid

    You said, PMLN has not done work in rural. Bro, you don’t have any knowledge how much support rural people are giving to PMLN. They will be flag bearer of PMLN in next elections Inshaa Allah. Recommend

  • Haroon

    Nice effort! Kudos!Recommend

  • saqib

    Good Analysis.. Best party seems to be MQM, Vote them. Recommend

  • http://www.mei-pareshan.com Ek tha Tiger

    Pakistan is already on it’s knees, facing serious Financial, Terrorism, illiteracy and corruption problems. Now, if anyone of you want Pakistan to get out of these problems then vote for PTI and if you don’t want to see Pakistan on the map then vote for these already tried and tested-corrupt to the inch of their hair-politicians who have been looting this country night and day for the past 64 years.Recommend

  • MatureMIND

    Vote for PML NRecommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Very good analysis. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com@summiyya summiyya

    awesome analysis……. really goood……Recommend

  • The Khan-Waterloo,Ontario

    I am going all the way from Canada to Pakistan to vote for PTI but even if PML N comes to power, i will be happy. Recommend

  • riz

    salaam. really good article. i’m agree with the writer pml-n didn’t do anything in rural areas. i also belong to punjab. in these out of 24 hours just 2 or 3 hours light came ain a whole day…..paniccc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    well done
    thumbs up for writer

  • Hashmat

    Vote for MQM the group of most educated and talented people, no family politics and truly represent middle class.Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    Where is APML? Recommend

  • Sarah

    finally a good unbiased article! seems MQM is the best ones.Recommend

  • http://Lahore Iram

    PTI seems the best Asad Umar , Waleed Iqbal are our future leaders so vote for it.Recommend

  • wafa

    largest pool of educated candidates from middle class social strata.

    Have a strong and effective infrastructure and a defined code of conduct where all party workers including top tier leadership have to maintain strong discipline and follow orders regardless of their position within and outside the party hierarchy.

    Ex-mayor Mustafa Kamal, during his tenure, had done wonders for the city of Karachi which speaks volumes of the vision of MQM.

    MQM manifesto if properly implemented can change the face of this country.

    Their stand against feudalism and extremism can bring about a revolution if they are given a chance to show their performance on the national front.

    All these points mentioned work in favor of a Progressive and Empowered Pakistan and all these has been vision downed by the same leader who is living away from his workers for 20+ years… the same Leader who does not want any SEAT or POSITION for himself because he believes in Empowering his people so i don’t see that as Weakness

    As for going in & out of government, when a party have a clear manifesto which can change the face of this country and when in government to do just that, but are stopped due to people involved in main stream corruption, then i guess a party which can make or break governments have right to get things straight for this Country. But they had Genius Zardari in front so were not able to do much this time.

    so i guess MQM tops your list with no strong weaknesses and great Strengths for making a Better PakistanRecommend

  • Maryam

    good analysis.. voting for PML (N) .Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Yousaf_Manzoor Falcon

    ET…thanks for not publishing my comment. I guess I might have been too honest!Recommend

  • Jibran T. Siddiqui

    When you’re doing a SWOT analysis, Threat does not necessarily mean THREAT. The threat section is just filled. Overall, a good analysis!Recommend

  • Imran

    Dear Author, kindly go search for & read a book before gracing us with further analytical stuff. Its called “SWOT For Beginners”.Recommend

  • farheen

    Great analysis; albeit a little flimsy
    Vote for PTI!Recommend

  • Marriam

    Very nice.. the one thing is certain every party hs some strength nd weaknesses.
    only PTI is supposed to be comparatively better thn any othr party.. if not this time, the disappointmented people wld hv to go for PTI nxt time.. Recommend

  • Whaa???

    The author’s views biased, ignorant and asinine; he clearly is an MQM supporter. The entire piece, especially the segment regarding the MQM was so contrived it almost made me throw up. The ANP is heavily disliked in the Pashtun areas (who don’t vote on the basis of ethnicity) because of the heavy levels of corruption during their government. Any votes they get will be mostly sympathetic. The PML-N has made huge strides in rural Sindh, Balochistan and southern KPK. Anyone who watches the news daily can tell you that. The PML-Q is washed up. They’ve lost alot of ground throughout the country and stand to gain nothing outside their traditional constituencies in Punjab. The JI and JUI-F (which you left out!) are riding a massive wave of renewed right-wing hysteria that’s gripped the country since the increase in drone attacks and the Raymond Davis incident. The PTI’s current top brass does not diverge in its views with Imran. The big-wig politicians walked out of the party a while ago. Plus most of their candidates have never been elected to office before and are experiencing political prominence for the first time. The PPP still has its traditional political strongholds, throughout the country, firmly in its grasp. You know very little about Pakistani national or regional politics. Next time if you’re gonna write a comparison of different political parties, I suggest you approach it from a neutral point of view.Recommend

  • Falcon

    I have to agree with @Whaa, the author is too soft on MQM and I had pointed that out in a detailed comment that was rejected by my generous friends at ET :)Recommend

  • Adil Uddin

    I would like to add few more points.



    1)They have not been able to gather massive votes outside of Upper and Central Punjab. People in other parts of Pakistan don’t consider Nawaz Sharif a better option.
    2)Their association with extremist outfits will cause a major setback


    Whatever Nawaz Sharif did with Supreme Court in 1997,it continues to haunt him and puts question over his credibility.



    Their lack of understanding when it comes to perspective of other ethnicities. They often resort to half truths and myths, plus over exaggerate certain things.


    Despite their positive points the party still couldn’t leave their identity as a Muhajir (Urdu Speaking) centric organization. They capitalized on ethnic clashes and feelings in the past and there are people who still couldn’t move on from their feelings of hate and anger. I personally have seen some individuals even amongst my own relatives, friends and family friends who support and vote for MQM and have got negative perception,feelings and thoughts about Punjab, Punjabis and other ethnicities. The better way for MQM in that case would be to reconcile with the fact that they too mislead their supporters. Plus they must confess/admit that they indeed took certain wrong steps due to which even many educated Urdu Speakings don’t like to associate with them and often look at other options such as APML and PTI.Recommend

  • omg

    @ all the people asking Tto vote for MQM

  • omg

    Why do you play around with our words so much? Recommend

  • http://Facebook Anam Waris

    A comprehensive piece of writing.After reading this article one can have a broader view of all political parties involving their strengths and weaknesses as well.I think PTI is the only deserving party as it’s weaknesses are personal and they can evolve gradually.Their leader is a charismatic personality with clear political agenda.So, be rational in deciding your vote recipient. Recommend

  • http://asaddurrani.wordpress.com Asad Durrani

    intehai dukh k sath kehna perta hai ke ap ke pooray article main bijli je buhran ka kahin zikr nahi jo ke ainda election main aik faisla kun kirdar ada kere ga

    Translation: with much grief I say that there is no mention of Energy Crisis, which is going to make deciding role in the upcoming election, in whole article of yours.


  • Zubair Naeem Paracha

    @saqib: One doesn’t have to give them vote. Recommend

  • a liberal

    Come on Guys do you think any one from the above really cares about Pakistan and paki nation. Don’t waste your timeRecommend

  • http://Www.eventsgeek.com Nabeel

    Vote for your favorite party on eventsgeek.comRecommend

  • ak

    There is no mention of the biggest weakness, the fact that all these parties have minimal women participation. Pakistan really needs to step up to this reality no progress whatsoever can be made without proper women representation at all levels. Recommend

  • http://www.dizzyinkarachi.com Maliha

    Nice job. Ever wonder why women participation is coming from rural areas? Where are the urban elites? this is a class problem, no?Recommend

  • Ali

    Nice Analysis with soft corner for MQM and ANP. vote for PTI. Pakistan Need nothing but a great leader indeed.Recommend