The people of Pakistan have spoken, vehemently favouring the democratic path they have set out before themselves to follow. Undeterred by the Taliban's threat of mass killing across the length and breadth of the country and calmly braving the sporadic acts of terror, they came out in hordes to vote for their chosen parties, to whom they entrusted the recovery of Pakistan from the economic, social and ethical decline to which it has fallen victim. Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, especially during the past five years of misrule and self-enrichment, the people gave a resounding verdict in favour of new governance. For all the security measures that had been taken to forestall acts of terrorism, the Taliban did manage to strike at several places that caused the loss of 50 precious lives.
The nation gave a hearty welcome to the PML-N for entering the corridors of power, trouncing its rivals squarely! PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif's victory speech was an admirable attempt at displaying political maturity. He and Mian Shahbaz Sharif sought to repair ties with other parties, saying no vilification during the election campaign would sully the atmosphere and invited all those elected to help evolve an agenda of national reconstruction. Now, the ball is in the opposition's court. With a clear majority in hand, a scenario that had previously been ruled out by almost the whole band of media analysts projecting results, it should be possible to go ahead and put into effect the vision the PML-N has for Pakistan.
According to Indian media, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has telephoned Mian Nawaz Sharif to offer his felicitations to Mian Nawaz on his party’s resounding success and, at the same time, invited him to visit India. Earlier, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid had expressed the hope that under his regime relations with his country would improve. We must say quite firmly and unambiguously here that, under no circumstances, should Kashmir be sidelined to promote other facets of cooperation. Kashmir's future must be decided in line with the wishes of the people. That is all that Pakistan asks. Once resolved, it would be easier to raise the superstructure of a solid bilateral relationship, on sound footings, on the basis of sovereign equality.
PML-N is coming into power at a strikingly critical juncture in the country’s history when it is being buffeted by formidable challenges, both internal and external. A difficult task faces them, but they must remember that as the PPPP was delivered a stinging insult on election day, so will be the case with Mian Nawaz and his party, should he fails to deliver. What he wished for, he has received; but with a heavy mandate, there will be no coalitions to blame and no excuses to lean on if the government's performance does not live up to expectations. The monster of loadshedding, and its concomitant evils, lays in wait for the PML-N government. Industrial closures, millions of workers laid off, poverty and hunger, inflationary pressures as exports fall and foreign exchange reserves dip, not to mention indignity and injustice are but a few of the key challenges. Short, medium and long term policies, energising all installed generating capacity and full recovery from consumers to pay the expenses to constructing big reservoirs like Kalabagh Dam, would have to be adopted. Restoration of the power supply will regenerate economy and take care of the above problems. No less daunting is the menace of terrorism. A well-thought-out strategy has to be devised. Talks will be of no avail and a clear-cut course of fighting out the danger would have to be followed. Dealing with all federating units in an equal and fair basis would regenerate the spirit of nationhood, now missing in the mess of parochial sentiments that, sadly, myopic rulers’ policies had created. Growing fiscal deficit and mounting foreign loans would need stringent measures like austerity and higher tax collection by widening the tax net. As these issues are on the mend, others would appear to be child’s play. An internally strong Pakistan would be better able to face the future. As it is, the country is in dire straits and has elected a government with a heavy mandate and even heavier hopes pinned on them. God forbid that they should disappoint.