Friday, January 30, 2015

The Third PMLN Government is in Disarray

January 30, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi
 With a plethora of visibly intractable problems staring in its countenance, the PMLN government seems to be sinking in a stultifying quagmire. The fundamental snag is not the intention of the PMLN leaders but the paucity of the vision and acute lack of befitting strategies to address the grave issues that have engulfed Pakistan from the day this country was born. The poet has stunningly portrayed that bizarre situation in the following couplet;
“If the first brick laid by the builder is uneven, the wall would remain sloppy no matter it rises to the ultimate layer of the heaven”

The resignation of Punjab governor Chaudhry Ghulam Sarwar and his outspoken statement outlining why he resigned is ominous for both federal and Punjab government of PMLN. It is a bolt from blue that would further erode the credibility of PMLN, particularly Nawaz Sharif as a redeemer prime minister and his brother Shahbaz Sharif as a visionary chief minister of Punjab province.

While expressing his resolve to live and die in Pakistan, the prominent business tycoon from England seems to be totally disillusioned with governance despite being very close to the Sharif family. He talked of the helplessness of a governor against the overbearing clout of the land mafia, oppression, injustice and crimes against children and women without any visible remedies on the part of the government to resolve those evils.

This resignation of a high profile PMLN cohort is perhaps a vivid indication that all is not well with the internal cohesion of the PMLN. There could be further walk outs undermining the monolithic facade of this party that took over the government for the unprecedented third time.
Yet there was another stunning statement by Sardar Zulfikar Ali Khoso a former governor of Punjab who lambasted the Sharif brothers to be ruling like clan leaders with zero tolerance even for an in-party constructive criticism.

The nearly two years (in June 2015) of PMLN in office has not been landmark nor studded with any breakthroughs for the people of Pakistan. Making of highways alone here and there is not going to bring about a momentous transformation that Pakistan is in dire need of. One could hazard a conjecture that PMLN cannot complete its full term of office that would come to a close in May 2018.
The two prolonged dharnas ( sit in) by Imran Khan and Allama Tahirul Qadri in Islamabad and the Lahore brazen shooting of citizens by the Punjab police outside Dr Qadri’s house has diminished the original luster of the new governments in Punjab and at center.

President Obama‘s phenomenal visit to India and the reinforcement of all encompassing partnership had turned Pakistan into a political dwarf in the sub-continent concerning Afghanistan. The United States mentions India and Afghanistan as partners with regard to the future of that war torn country but omits Pakistan that brought victory to United States and the west against an historic and equally strong foe Russia.

As such domestically and externally Pakistan looks like a gambler or stakeholder losing on all fronts. If that is the output and performance of the incumbent administration then it should be ready for a premature send off as has happened to it on two previous occasions. If the same debased political culture of thuggery, exploitation and brazen mismanagement and glaring nepotism is spawned and remains in place without any tangible changes in the society then the people would be justified for change of the leadership.

 The pioneering political leadership after 1947 could not make a constitution for long. The conduct of the political parities was as if Pakistan was a banana republic. As such the governments formed were blown away one after another like hay till martial law was clamped first by Iskander Mirza in 1958 and then perpetuated the same year by his nemesis and successor Field Marshall Ayub Khan. Compared to that, India at the very outset formulated a constitution. Martial Law was never imposed in India by the military Junta.

The truncation of Pakistan in 1971 was another deadly blow to Pakistan and what happened afterwards is known to all of us. Military ruled Pakistan for pretty 33 years. The period from 1947 to the martial law of 1958 can be described as an era of political anarchy and that was the prime time for firming up the new state of Pakistan on democratic and constitutional foundations.

The Afghan war fought in 80s against Soviet Union by Islamic fighters at the behest of United States and European bloc created a Frankenstein of religious crusaders. After capturing power in Afghanistan, these religious outfits later started casting their prying eyes on Pakistan with a malicious design to also make it an Islamic caliphate. For that insidious goal they have been wrecking it with diabolic crimes, brutal insurgencies and unremitting terrorism.

The offensive in North Waziristan against the Taliban, the terrorists in Karachi and the establishment of military courts has been initiated from the army and not by the PMLN government. Rather the government was reluctant in favor of such actions.  The fiendish religious militancy a la Taliban and horrific separatist movement in Baluchistan by renegade Baluchis cannot be bridled so soon.

Domestically life in Pakistan has become critically unsafe because of trigger happy criminals stalking everywhere. The economy is in bad shape. The morale of the people is at the lowest ebb. The civic services are in a mess. The life of the inhabitants is deplorably degrading. Horse driven carts, rickshaws, open drains with stinking water, congested housing, inadequate and abysmal health and education services, the wholesale adulteration, widespread pollution of smoke and noise. 

There are ubiquitous robberies, rampant street  crimes, kidnapping and rape, no water no electricity, no safe, comfortable or reliable transportation and heaps of rotting trash all over the country with nauseating stink. Moral corruption and sex business heightening as in countries like Thailand for easy money among the poor sections of the society.  

In comparison, the elite particularly the elected representatives wallow in wealth, travel in well protected plush cars and lord over the army of servants, live in palatial mansions and have millions and billions of local and foreign currencies stashed in banks both local and foreign. These elite classes, the aristocrats and feudal lords own mills and fabulous contracts of huge services, supply and construction. They are immune from the law. There is a wide gulf between rich and poor, high and low in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We adore and worship dead saints and amass money by playing up their divine powers.

If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is earnest and perceives the gravity of the situation and the shortcomings in his party’s governance, he should move fast for the structural and revolutionary reforms without further delay and wastage of time. If he still remains indolent and unmoved then a military takeover is around the corner that may take over the power in partnership with a technocrats’ government and that set up is going to be a long haul. General Raheel Shareef have already established his praiseworthy credentials and there are calls from MQM and various sections of the society for army to step in for reining in the mushrooming crimes, endemic anarchy, slow decision making and deeply entrenched vested interests.

If prime minister wants to refurbish his dwindling image and erase the impression of poor performance he should post haste, enact the following reforms. I am laying down the crash program for reforms for the government to pursue with utmost seriousness and speed to save the day when it would be thrown out of the power citadel and this time no friendly broker may come to their rescue. Here is the reforms package:

·    1. Full time ministers should be appointed in the ministries kept by the prime minister himself. Ad-hoc advisory appointments must be discontinued forthwith.
·    2.The batches of federal and provincial ministers should be sent along with their senior officials, to United States or to the European countries to watch and learn the art of governance and mechanism of running the institutions efficiently and diligently. Such institutions can be judiciary, police civic and municipal departments, education, health Taxation, transportation, railways road network and so on.
·    3. Without further loss of time at least sixteen provinces should be created, splintering the existing four elephantine provinces keeping in view their ethnic compositions and the size. For instance Punjab can be broken into more provinces than others. Same yardstick can be applied to other provinces. Siraiki and Hazara provinces can be created on the basis of ethnic contiguity.
·    4. Army and intelligence network should be mobilized to launch a countrywide blitz against criminals of all hues and flush them out either physically or award of heavy sentences through speedy military courts. Lawlessness in any form has to be brutally eliminated.
·    5. All the religious announcements or amendments made under pressure from religious outfits in the constitution by ZA Bhutto or later by Ziaul-Haq should be rescinded and rolled back to ensure religious freedom as enshrined in the constitutions of the civilized countries around the world.
·   6. Feudalism, a despicable legacy of the British colonialism and a morbid institution of enslaving the peasants must be abolished without further delay. The land thus acquired should be distributed among the tillers and bonded farm labor.
·    7. A civic revolution aimed at easing and making the lives of citizens decent must be launched by adopting the plans and the modus-operandi from civically developed countries like United States The establishment of universally prevalent local bodies’ model of “city and county” governments is the dire need to civically beautify Pakistan. A batch of technocrats or civic experts should be sent aboard to study the mechanism of the local government there and the way they manage their cities and rural areas providing civic and   municipal amenities like public transportation, picking up of trash, providing round the clock water and similar utilizes.
·   8.Slums in the cities have to be expunged. It means the municipal institutions should precondition the construction of new houses with a road in front of each house. Each house has to be separate and without any joint boundary wall. For joint living, condominiums and apartment complexes can be built and run by the reputed corporations with provision of facilities.  The commercial areas should be separately built from the residential neighborhoods. The example of such model of housing is in Islamabad. The old cities can be slowly converted modern on the pattern of Islamabad. That would facilitate smooth traffic and environmental neatness.  
·   11. A high powered independent commission with judicial powers should be constituted to scan the ill-gotten wealth and source of earnings of the high ups in every domain of life. Those not paying taxes or concealing their wealth without accountability must be given speedy condign punishments.
·     12. Another commission should look into the grave issue as to why the mega projects like generation of electricity and making of dams, quarrying coal mines make no headway and finally are abandoned or left in lurch. Those who have hindered these national projects for personal interests or at the behest of the foreign parties must be exposed and jailed. This commission should also devise the strategy to ensure in-built accountability and transparency in private and public institutions. Rules in public dealing departments must be simplified and graft punishable without delay.
·     13. Religion and state needs to be separated for a modern, stable and prosperous Pakistan.
Religious cartels, spiritual fiefdoms and sectarian outfits must be kept under strict watch to ensure religious harmony.  Those violating the laid down rules should be banned and their top notches should be penalized.