The recent Herald/SDPI survey on how Pakistanis are thinking about political parties and issues one year after the 2013 elections has many provocative findings. For instance, it claims that if elections are held tomorrow, then ‘33 percent of people surveyed’ would vote for PTI, 19 percent for the PPP and a mere 17 percent for PMLN. The ethnicity breakdowns are even more interesting; with 45 percent of Punjabis saying they would vote for PTI versus 25 percent for the PML-N and 5 percent for the PPP. The primary issue which concerns people is the energy crisis (64 percent) – over which the Minister for Water and Power, Khwaja Asif, remarked that only God could help control the issue. Therefore it is no wonder the population surveyed is thinking they need another party in power; one that does not leave the man-made mess of the energy crisis in God’s hands alone.

So much for popular politics! However, beyond the headlines about how PTI would form a government if the elections were held tomorrow, what this survey really exposes is the rather cruel, awkward and politically incorrect difference between the ‘homo rationalis’ sitting in Punjab versus the ‘homo patiens’ sitting in Sindh. Punjabis – the survey tells us - are not happy with their ruling government; energy (57 percent), inflation (50 percent) and corruption (48 percent) are the topmost issues on their agitated minds. Furthermore, 28 percent of Punjabis cite corruption as having increased; quite logically, 43 percent of them have declared they would vote for another party to rule if elections were held tomorrow.

Let’s contrast that with Sindh? We hear stories of blue planet’s most overpriced second hand APC’s coming in from Serbia, of Inspector Generals of Police and City Police Chiefs being sacked or set aside for supposedly doing good work. And we watch visuals of gourmet feasts being organized for the chief minister during the Tharparkar famine crisis. The survey tells us that 39 percent of the homo patiens sitting in Sindh think the current Sindh government has not handled a single issue well and 72 percent quoted corruption as the most important concern followed by poverty at 62 percent and energy at 61 percent. Yet, 55 percent of them say that if an election is held tomorrow they will vote for the PPP again, 20 percent for the MQM and 5 percent for the PML-F. Interesting sense of loyalty, isn’t it?

What explains this? There is a whole body of research that points out that individuals who are from lower socio-economic backgrounds, with less access to educational and health facilities, with less control over negative life experiences over time and with greater sense of personal insecurity may make ‘poorer ‘decisions. If we contrast the socio-economic indicators in the two provinces we can begin to see some hard evidence that may lend some support to this politically incorrect claim. The Gini coefficient – which measures the distribution of income – shows sharper inequality of wealth in Sindh at 0.4 against Punjab at 0.3; Sindh has over 30 percent of its residents in the lowest wealth quintile as opposed to 13 percent for Punjab. Urbanization in Punjab is creating many small towns and cities all over the province whilst in Sindh, it is concentrated in a couple of large cities- Karachi alone accounts for 60 percent of Sindh’s urban population.

But these statistics only represent the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper and the findings are far more disturbing. In Sindh, only 29% of children have had their basic vaccinations as compared to 65% in Punjab; 40% of Sindhi children are suffering from mal-nutrition; only 61% of the population has access to proper sanitation as compared to 78% in Punjab. In Sindh, only 57% population was aware of Lady Health Workers, a program that was launched under the Second Benazir Bhutto government in 1994 and helps to provide essential primary health care services that can range from child vaccinations to family planning services; in Punjab 78% knew about it. And if you had heard of Shahbaz Sharif sleepless for ghost schools, then rest assure that Sindh has the largest number of ghost schools in Pakistan at 6,164.

These statistics taken from the latest Pakistan demographic household survey along with the Herald/SDPI survey should give politicians, civil society and the media much to chew on, and ponder about. In the case of the PPP, despite their degrees from Oxbridge and Harvard, perhaps the status quo has always suited them. It does mean that the beacon of hope for the Sindhi people falls in the hands of the opposition parties, MQM, PML-F, PTI and others, to work on these socioeconomic factors for their own political gains. In Punjab, however, whilst no doubt a bitter pill to chew for the PML-N, it seems that better socio-economic indicators make for more aware citizens who may choose to exercise their rights and vote an unsatisfactory party out of power. However, a silver lining amongst these sullen clouds is that if any other government did not deliver on what the people wanted from them – they too would suffer the same fate.

 Najma Minhas, an economist by training, is Director Governance & Policy Advisors.

Np@gapa.com.pk

@GapaAdvisors