Complacency of the ruling elite

PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif recently gave a call for fresh elections. He asked the nation to stand up to the government and not allow anyone to play with their mandate. Mr Sharif was of the view that the problems being faced by Pakistan could only be resolved if elections were held immediately. Prime Minister Gilani rejected Mr Sharif’s call for early elections and said that the next elections would be held on time. The timing of Mr Sharif’s demand is interesting. For quite some time, members of the PML-N had been demanding mid-term polls but Mian sahib kept ignoring these demands and was quite content with letting this government complete its term. So why has Nawaz Sharif changed his mind now? There could be a few factors. One of them is that the PML-N’s popularity in Punjab has suffered greatly due to its mismanagement and misgovernance. If Mr Sharif thinks this is a good a time to go back to the electorate, he is in for a surprise. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government has not performed well ever since it came to power in Punjab. Their so-called pro-people projects like Sasti Roti Scheme have proved to be anything but helpful for the public. Instead, these projects only led to more corruption and became a burden on the provincial exchequer. If the PML-N wants to go for an election again, it may not turn out to be an advantageous move because the party hardly has an organisation outside central Punjab. Mian sahib’s call thus seems more like a pressure tactic. Whether this will put the government under any pressure seems unlikely given Prime Minister Gilani’s nonchalant attitude.

Mr Gilani said that all the state institutions were working within the ambit of the constitution and were following democratic norms and processes, so he was unaware of what Mr Sharif was pointing at. The PPP-led coalition government should complete its tenure but that does not mean it can afford to be complacent. The PPP keeps trotting out its achievements, i..e. the 18th Amendment and NFC Award, which are great achievements indeed, but the government should not sit sanguine and pretend that everything is hunky-dory. Nobody wishes to tilt against democracy but a democratic dispensation also has to deliver. In a country like Pakistan, people lose patience with democratic governments when they fail to deliver. The government needs a wakeup call. Unemployment has risen considerably under this regime while inflation has broken the back of the masses. The global recession and terrorism have contributed to many of these problems but the government has not done much to address the issues of concern to the masses. This reflects poorly on the PPP and its ability to deliver.

As far as institutions are concerned, the ongoing tussle between the executive and the judiciary is cause for concern. The government might be on good terms with the military since it is doing its bidding in virtually all matters, but this can hardly be taken to mean that every institution is working within its parameters. By not challenging the military’s control over the country’s foreign and security policies, especially when the civilian politicians had a chance post-Osama bin Laden’s death, the government has not done the country or itself any favour. By trying only to safeguard its interests, taken to mean mere completion of its term, the PPP is increasingly disappointing the electorate. Thus the prime minister’s complacency is certainly misplaced. In order to restore the faith of the masses in democracy, the PPP must work harder towards reforms and good governance. Pakistan needs stability, not another uniformed ‘saviour’ who might take advantage of the current malaise.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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