A look at the performance of the government
The PPP-led coalition is poised to complete its mandatory five-year tenure and the country looks well set to witness a smooth transition of power through ballot for the first time in its history, notwithstanding the fears being expressed for a possible delay in the elections by some quarters. Perhaps it is an appropriate time to have an incisive look at the achievements and failures of the government during this period; in other words to have a glance at its balance sheet.
The dilemma of the incumbent governments, particularly the democratic dispensations is that people expect miracles from them and resolution of the problems and challenges through quick fix solutions when there are no quick fix remedies to the convoluted and sometimes intractable inherited issues. The sitting governments invariably have the disadvantage of incumbency because their performances are not judged by a correlation between the inherited challenges and the efforts made to mitigate the debilitating effect of those challenges but by the net and essentially positive impact of the government initiatives on the lives of the people.
It is an irrefutable reality that the present PPP-led coalition government was installed after a decade-long rule by a dictator whose self-serving and flawed policies had plunged the country into a crucible of precipice and it faced formidable challenges like terrorism and religious extremism, an economy into a nosedive, burgeoning energy crisis, pummeled state institutions, a disfigured constitution, a perilous law and order situation as a collateral fallout of terrorism and a host of other distortions. In short, the country was in a complete mess. The incumbent government not only had to rake the mess created by the wrong policies of the dictator but also to put in place the initiatives that could promote the well being of the masses and mitigate their sufferings both in the short and long term.
The PPP made an auspicious beginning when it was able to have its prime minister elected unanimously by all the parties represented in the parliament, through its well orchestrated policy of political reconciliation in recognition of the fact that the challenges facing the country needed a collective effort to surmount them. These efforts received a setback when the short-lived bonhomie between PPP and PML-N brought about by the signing of CoD between Banazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif was replaced by the traditional animosity between the two parties. The split between them encouraged the elements inimical to democratic norms to make bizarre predictions about the collapse of the democratic system and even timelines were given in this regard. People witnessed an incessant and well orchestrated campaign to denigrate and discredit the government on unsubstantiated charges of corruption designed to give a cue to the predatory forces to make their move.
The NRO saga and a spate of manoeuvred petitions designed to keep the government entangled in the struggle for survival presented ominous portents. The intentions of the architects of this exercise were, ostensibly, not to allow the government to concentrate on resolving the inherited problems that affected the lives of the people. Even the political parties who have a big stake in the continuation of the democratic system resorted to certain moves that could have easily sent the system into a terrible tumble. Thanks to the reluctance of the praetorian powers to take the bait and more so the philosophy of politics of reconciliation practised by the ruling coalition, the system is trundling along.
It is evident from the foregoing that not only the inherited challenges were formidable but the government was also faced with a relentless hostility by the detractors of democratic norms and political opponents. To be honest, unruffled by these negatives and inspired by the spirit of reconciliation, the government did take commendable strides in some areas. The demon of terrorism has been checked in its tracks if not eliminated altogether; the impact of the energy crisis has been curtailed through the addition of 3500 MW into the system; a number of policy initiative in the economic arena have been taken like broadening the tax base and structural reforms that are likely to have healthy impact on the economy in the long run; an arduous and excruciating task of restoring the 1973 constitution has been accomplished through eighteenth amendment with the consensus of all parties, and nineteenth and twentieth amendments passed to resolve the convoluted and contentious issues with the same spirit.
The 7th NFC Award is an unparalleled achievement of the consensus politics that has removed the long outstanding grievances of the federating units in regards to their share from the divisible pool, to their entire satisfaction. The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner in agreement with the opposition is yet another success story of the government. Granting of self-rule to Gilgit-Baltistan, handling the Qadri saga with poise also speak volumes about the commitment to empowerment of the people and political acumen.
The legislations on domestic violence, harassment of women at workplace and depriving women of inheritance, are other revolutionary steps that will usher a positive change in the society as far as empowerment and emancipation of women is concerned, with all the accompanying economic benefits that the uninhibited participation of women in the economic activities will accrue to the overall national effort. It will also help in lifting the country’s profile with regard to human rights and gender equality. Another fact that needs to be accepted ungrudgingly is that the government has set a very healthy tradition by refraining from the politics of political vendetta. There have been no political prisoners in the country and no false cases, like in the past, were instituted against the opponents.
The government may not have been able to bring about much improvement on the economic front and completely beating back the debilitating problems of power crisis and law and order situation in the country, but it certainly has succeeded in taking epoch making steps in the political, economic and social arenas which have unleashed strong forces that surely will help democracy to take roots in the country by warding off the machinations of the anti-democracy entities and nurturing a silent social revolution. These measures could not have been possible in a hostile atmosphere that has prevailed during the last four years, but for the sagacity and political acumen exhibited by the ruling PPP in building consensus and broad based support for those measures. The balance sheet, therefore, is not as dismal as the detractors of the government would like to portray it.
The writer is an academic.