Challenges for the new govt

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PML N President Nawaz Shairf has taken charge of the office for the third time. First time in the political history of Pakistan it has happened that a politician returns to the office of the prime minister for third time – thanks to eighteen amendment through which way was paved for the third time prime ministership. As per the original text of 1973 constitution a person could become prime minister only twice. But when both Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto signed proverbial Charter of Democracy (C0D) in London, it was decided, among other things, to allow third time prime ministership.

Nawaz Sharif and his government shall be faced with many a challenge ranging from simmering power crises; law and order; drones; relations with the neighboring countries especially Afghanistan and Iran; governance issues; Taliban phenomenon; revival of economy; civil military relations and so on and so forth. But I think, the real challenge will come from former military dictator Pervez Musharraf whose fate now hangs in the hands of Sharif brothers.

As reports suggest Nawaz Shairf is ‘under pressure’ from the US and Saudi Arabia to let Musharraf go and that is why Mian Saheb has adopted rather softer approach towards him despite the fact that Pervez Musharraf had meted out very harsh treatment to Sharif brothers and even to their family. Anyhow, from Sharifs side the Musharraf chapter seems to have been closed. Let bygones be bygones, perhaps.

Nevertheless, the real question that of course will be a source of concern for Sharifs is that how people would react to their reconciliatory approach towards Pervez Musharraf because the entire focuss of Sharifs has been on the point that they were forced out of Pakistan by a military dictator against their will. On countless occasions they had dubbed Musharraf as a usurper and the one who had violated the Constitution of Pakistan therefore deserved to be tried under Article 6. Now, if they swerve at this point from their original stand, will that be acceptable to people of Pakistan and especially those who had voted for PML N simply because they wanted N to proceed against Musharraf for violating the constitution? Musharraf case in fact would determine future of the PML N government, especially if he (Musharraf) is allowed to leave Pakistan. So Musharraf issue shall ostensibly be a hard nut to crack for Sharif government, in any case.

Then, economy of Pakistan is already at its worst. Reserves have already been drained while no immediate financial aid is coming any time soon. IMF is expected to intervene, as it does, whenever political governments are in place, however the hard conditions that are likely to be imposed by the monetary agency, may add to problems of the money-starved nascent government. The immediate and quick-fix solution would have been collection of taxes from those who are not in the habit of paying taxes, but it seems the government is in no mood to embark on this route because in that case it will have to swoop down on some of its own stalwarts and the big-wig from other political parties. Unfortunately when it comes to cracking down on tax evaders, all of them, no matter which party they belong to, join hands. That is why we have so far not been able to develop a culture of across the board accountability.

I often say, corruption happens to be the mother of all ills here in Pakistan. British writer Emma Dunken writes in her book ‘Breaking the Curfew’ that Pakistan is a country where corruption is systematic. She made these observations during the second tenure of Benazir Bhutto almost 20 years ago ironically that observation still holds valid even after passage of two decades – and it is likely to remain valid for another two decades if corrective measures are not taken.

PML N has sizeable mandate to take on these challenges head-on and people have given them votes with this hope that they will break the status-quo. These challenges are undoubtedly huge but as it goes where there is will, there is way. Nothing is impossible for a willing horse and I think PML N has too many willing horses around who really want to do something for this country. As former Chilean president Alberto Fujimori once said traditional democracies will end up in a garbage heap, therefore efforts should be made to introduce true democracy in which the biggest stake holders are people of Pakistan.

The PML N leadership is duly aware of challenges they are going to face in the coming days and even in their election campaigns it had vowed to address all those challenges. Actions should speak louder than words. Now it is right time that the PML N leadership takes practical steps to turn their words into a stark reality. If they deliver, nobody would have objections even if they stay in power another five years. Pakistan people are undergoing really hard times these days. There is no respite to their woes. The government ought to announce immediate relief for them by reducing fuel as well as prices of daily use items that would surely give them some quick relief.

PML N would ostensibly like to complete five years term this time, which is possibly only when it has good relations with the military. One likes it or not, military is an important stake holder in Pakistan’s politics therefore it will have to be taken on board, at least on key issues. Appointment of foreign and defence ministers, with the consultation of military, is by and large considered a right step in the right direction.