Winds of Change
It is good that the PML (N) and ruling coalition have realized that their room to maneuver is becoming limited and Shahbaz Sharif is ready to come to the negotiation table with Imran Khan for early elections. The former prime minister seems determined that elections be held at the earliest possible and the nation should not be kept in a limbo. The stand taken by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari added to the frustration though it was a self-serving ploy. He desired that election reforms take place before the actual elections. His underlying purpose, apparently, was to not let his grip on the Sindh government go, at least till the end of its present constitutional term, so that maximum advantage could be milked by the Sindh politicians and bureaucracy. In any event, the coalition government, functioning without an opposition, since over a 100 PTI members had resigned from the National Assembly, legislated to suit its own wishes. It doctored NAB laws to its convenience, prevented overseas Pakistanis from voting and stopped induction of electronic voting machines (EVM). The failure of talks between the IMF and the government drove it to increase POL prices by PKR 30 per litre and further fan pubic unpopularity. It was after this that the government got its much-needed injection from the IMF. However, if early elections are called, where will the caretaker government get the almost PKR 50 million to conduct the elections?
The nation is reeling under the enormous hike in fuel prices and targeted subsidies are being seriously considered. Khan and his government were on the verge of finalizing a purchase deal for oil and wheat with Russia at 30 percent less price but he was ousted from power. The Shahbaz government could have pursued this to ease the common man’s pocket but it did not.
If elections are on the horizon and a caretaker government is jockeyed into power soon, perhaps it will use the next 3 or four months to prepare the nation for elections and also to make a course-correction, which means some progress will be made in the nation’s forward traction. However, there are basic glitches that must be tackled. Instead of focusing on the ‘here and now’, they would need to fashion a long-term vision and national policy. Electronic voting machines need to be brought back into the picture while overseas Pakistanis must be given voting rights. After all, their remittances make up for more than half of Pakistan’s earnings and they deserve as much respect and recognition, if not more, as do Pakistanis living on native soil. As for NAB laws, in their present amended form, they seem to be encouraging corruption. People who commit white-collar crimes need to be ‘nabbed’ more strictly. Pakistan being in line for more doles from the IMF, must revisit its economic structure and devise a national strategy that takes it towards economic independence. It must tighten its belt and instead of pursuing a quasi policy against import of expensive luxury goods, it must indoctrinate the people to adopt a simpler lifestyle. This can commence from the caretakers and lead into the next elected government. Pakistanis need to break away from the so-called democratic leadership they have been following for decades.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal
President & Editor in Chief