Governance- An Interim Report Card
Each election brings hope of a change for the better to the people of Pakistan but they are invariably disappointed. While the PPP government distinguished itself by its membersâ€™ massive corruption, the present set-up can only be characterized by its inactivity and paralysis. Unlike most other countries which have two dominant political parties, our change of guard hardly ever manifests a change of governance or strategy. The national debt and public misery continue to mount; the crises keep becoming graver and threats to national interest continue to aggravate, while the governmentsâ€™ responses to these challenges remain ambivalent.
The promised change by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) remains a promise without any evidence of it materializing in the near future. Most of the main players of PTI, both at the party and government level, have demonstrated the same lust for power as the ones that they wanted to replace. In addition to the governance paralysis in Khyber Pakhtun Khwa (KPK), it is the confusion in decision making which has disappointed the public more in KPK than even at the federal level. The PML(N) as a party and a governance philosophy was known to the people, who only expected an incremental improvement over their earlier performances. It was the anticipated PTI tsunami that has not even become a high tide, which has surprised not only its zealous supporters but also other politically-neutral citizens. However, the proverbial icing on the PTI performance cake is its stance vis-a-vis the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the murderous group that wants to take over Pakistan with its mindless and threatening violence. They want the state of Pakistan to surrender otherwise they would continue to destroy homes, shops and schools and kill its innocent women and children and members of its law enforcement and security forces. While they accuse the state of working against the interest of the nation, the TTP itself is being used by the enemies of Pakistan to weaken it and make it collapse. The TTP assumes that it can continue to kill important political leaders and their family members and expects the state to negotiate with them. However, if one, or some, of their activists are killed, it is considered a great set-back to the â€œpeace processâ€. And what are the conditions for negotiations? The state should cease fire, release all criminals, get the Americans to stop drone attacks and our armed forces should vacate certain areas that constitute the geographical territories of Pakistan. The victors in both the World Wars offered more dignity to the vanquished than the TTP is willing to cede to the state of Pakistan. Remember that the victors then were the economically and militarily-strong Allied Powers, and to whom are we being asked to surrender a band of terrorists, who have nothing to do with Islam or humanity for that matter and who number a couple of thousand bigots, armed with dogma, AK-47s, RPGs and improvised explosive devices(IEDs). While the stock of PTI continues to plummet, its adherents continue to hurl abuse and invective at rivals and critics. The fact is that TTP is under strain. It is losing sympathy amongst the public for its anti-Pakistan stance and the drones are taking their toll. Its leadershipâ€™s freedom of movement and consequent effectiveness is severely curtailed. One needs to study the strategy adopted by General David Petraeus in 2007-08 in Iraq to see how insurgency is tackled. The state of Pakistan can do it too. It just needs to match the guts of leadership of TTP.
The weak leadership at the national political level is the cause of all our problems. We are afraid of everyone: TTP, religious parties, Baloch nationalists, criminal gangs, own Army, the Judiciary, India, the U.S.A and local interest groups. In trying to please everyone, we please none which results in decision-making paralysis. Mr. Nawaz Sharif seems to be afraid of competent and educated Pakistanis too in addition to the above-mentioned groups. Important national entities are without a head. The decision to nominate the CJCSC and COAS were delayed unnecessarily. The PM continues to hold many ministerial portfolios, including the extremely important ones like Defence and Foreign Affairs. It is beyond comprehension why in our functional parliamentary system, a President cannot be a politically neutral person of intellect with a sense of history and politics and why must he be an inarticulate dummy that is just happy with the status and protocol provided to him or why on the other end of the spectrum, he be a dictator like Zia, Musharraf or Zardari. Political power is still concentrated within the family members or loyalists because others cannot perhaps be trusted. Over-centralization was the undoing of Pervez Musharraf. He is being held to account for specific actions of the government of the time, for which others should have been answerable. This is a lesson that eludes our leaders.
Despite the fact that a majority of Pakistanis think that PML(N) is more sincere to Pakistan than PPP ever was, yet some of the stances ( because they cannot be called policies) are very painful to the public. Our tendency to keep begging India for talks and to come play cricket with us is demeaning. Aman ki Aasha is a mirage that can be pursued by the Jang Group for their corporate interests but in reality it has changed nothing. A guest invited to oneâ€™s home or country will not speak ill of you while there, but these are made to appear as great achievements in the daily, The News. The Track II consultations have gone on forever without any gain for Pakistan. Why cannot India be taken on for stealing or polluting our river waters, or supporting insurgency and terrorism inside Pakistan? Why do we remain silent when it is admitted by Indian officials and citizens that incidents like the attacks on the Indian Parliament (2001) and Mumbai (2008) or the burning of Godhra train (2002) were not Pakistani-state sponsored? Why do we allow our TV channels to flood our airwaves with Indian content or the news of Indian film industry?
On the domestic front, inflation is the biggest pain inflicted on the public. Agreed, it is a consequence of the looting and destruction of the economy by the PPP and its coalition partners and high energy prices, but the inability of the government to have a fair and effective tax regime has resulted in budget shortfall, which has been bridged by printing currency notes. The landlords supporting PPP and the traders aligned with PML(N) refuse to pay taxes and no effort is being made to change that so the poverty continues to aggravate. Those who have been involved in corruption or scams still roam freely and, apparently, happily. The PM is more active on the foreign front apparently to invite investment into the country but that will remain a dream till terrorism subsides or the rule of law can protect all kinds of investment. Here you hand over your money to anyone with any intent; the likelihood is that you will never see it again. The state apparatus protects the thieves, extortionists, fraudsters and robbers. That is the reason our own businesses have moved abroad, so what is the PM doing overseas anyway. Thus, at the strategic level there is paralysis and this is disconcerting for the citizens.
At the tactical level, this government is doing better than the PPPâ€™s. Load-shedding is lesser, circular debt was paid off but is climbing again because the core causes have not been addressed, despite the Supreme Courtâ€™s pressure. The Railways is much lesser in the news as compared to when Mr. Bilour was managing it. PIA privatization is being pursued. Provincial governments are being allowed to work freely. In Karachi, criminals are being chased. Even minor things like road and motorway maintenance is being done. The Hajj has come and gone without major problems being reported. There are no scams reported of PML(N) ministers or legislators.
The public would like to see clear policies on terrorism, sectarianism, crime, corruption, accountability and taxation but more importantly that the same are implemented and begin yielding desired results. All Provincial Governments, except KPK, are dragging their feet on Local Bodiesâ€™ Elections because they donâ€™t want to share power and its related benefits with more people. We wait for a leader with charisma who can change the thinking of the public towards being better Pakistanis! People thought Imran Khan had the traits of such a leader but so far he has disappointed them.