- William Collins
President Asif Zardari and his allies may not have much to show to the people of Pakistan as far as their performance is concerned, but several issues were handled by them with political sagacity that has allowed the government to almost complete its mandated term. While this is no mean achievement on its own, there are other reasons as well like establishing consensus on some constitutional amendments and resolving the issue of the distribution of resources through the National Finance Commission Award (NFC). Throughout its tenure, nevertheless, the government has faced serious challenges, especially the menace of terrorism that both the federal and provincial governments failed to eliminate despite their sincere efforts.
Another issue that has created serious problems for the federal government is its weak response to various corruption scandals and failure to act decisively against those who are responsible for it; this has, indeed, eroded its credibility. It has also failed to come up to the people’s expectations on the issues like gas and energy loadshedding and inflation, which has seriously dented the common man’s purchasing power.
The next problem that requires the government’s utmost attention is unemployment; it has led to frustration among the masses. It, however, must be remembered that both the federal and provincial governments are responsible for it and may suffer in the coming general elections. The question is: how will the PPP-led government overcome all its shortcomings before the polls to restore the people’s faith in it?
To achieve this goal, it is necessary that the ruling elite realises the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in Pakistan. In case it is able to establish it, it may be able to win the elections.
Needless to say, Pakistan occupies a geostrategic position of importance where maintaining peace will help create conducive conditions for economic prosperity and well being of a majority of people living in the region. Therefore, urgent measures are required to establish peace in the country. That can only be achieved if the process of political dialogue is initiated, engaging all those who are involved in hostile activities against our motherland. Against this backdrop, Pakistan has made a move in the right direction by engaging the US in a strategic dialogue, which had been suspended for nearly a year.
On this issue, the PPP and its coalition partners took the entire nation into confidence. It was for the first time that Parliament, military and even the political parties, who are not represented in the National Assembly, presented a united stand that culminated in the resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and the US.
The new rules of engagement are not only transparent, but also in Pakistan’s interest. It is expected that this initiative will culminate in a process where it will be possible to maintain peace in Afghanistan and also snub terrorist activities that still continue in some parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
While peace and harmony are expected to bring economic dividends for the country, it is equally important that the provincial governments make efforts to improve the law and order situation. Karachi, Pakistan’s financial hub, and certain areas of Punjab have become very dangerous in the recent past. Both the federal and provincial governments must realise that economic growth and foreign investment will only prosper, if they find political stability and peaceful environment for their operations.
At the moment, Pakistan is stuck in an economic quagmire where the growth rate is limping at about 2.7 percent per annum. It is essential to create conditions so that the economy grows at about 6 to 7 percent to improve the living standards of the people.
In addition, it is also important to mention that state institutions must adhere to their domains as defined in the Constitution; surely, the confrontation between the executive and the judiciary must be discouraged. Both the institutions comprise mature and good people and, therefore, are capable of understanding the gravity of the situation. If this continues, then all efforts made by the judiciary to dispense justice and the executive to improve the economy will not bear fruit.
Currently, the government seems to be focusing entirely on its political survival. However, the military has, so far, acted in a mature way. Perhaps, it will not be a silent spectator for a long time if the issues remain unresolved and a middle way is not found by those who matter in the country.
According to some analysts, the best possible solution is that the executive is provided with some breathing space by the superior judiciary and on its part, the executive dispels the idea that it is preparing to challenge the Supreme Court’s constitutional authority. Both should conduct their business in a manner that does not encroach upon the domain of other institutions. Only then, perhaps, peace and stability will return to the country that is absolutely essential if it is to move forward and improve the people’s lives.
n The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.