The new government has its task cut out for it
The PML-N has won the election with a thumping majority in free and fair polls. Many expect the party to build on and add to some of the good practices that emerged during the 2008-13 era, the most important being tolerance of criticism from political opponents, the media and the courts. The PML-N administration needs to be widely seen as a genuine representative of the federation rather than the government of a party concentrated in Punjab. This would help Nawaz Sharif gain the confidence of the smaller provinces where he badly needs to improve the party’s standing. To start with, the federal cabinet must have a fair representation from smaller provinces. The improvement in law and order should be on the top of the new government’s agenda. While in the opposition, the PML-N had maintained that the issue could be resolved through talks with the militants, the TTP in return had nominated Nawaz Sharif as a guarantor of peace. Now that the PML-N is in power, it should take the initiative to persuade the TTP and its affiliates to lay down arms. What one expects is that during the talks with the militants the PML-N would not barter away Quaid-e- Azam’s ideal of a modern, pluralistic, democratic and Islamic welfare state. It is also expected that talks would be held within the parameters of the constitution and law.
The PML-N should set new traditions to strengthen the system and give it a human face. For this it would have to be responsive to the common man’s plight, practice good governance and strengthen the rule of law. This is needed on the one hand to make Pakistan investor friendly and spawn indigenous business and industrial activity, and on the other to come up to the expectations of the educated youth who played a key role in the present elections. The economy is in bad shape. The voters expect from those in power to do their utmost to revive it. Equally important is to provide the common man his share in the fruits of development. Any growth which does not produce fairly sufficient number of jobs would only expand the gulf between the richest and the poorest and cause social upheaval. The new government must tackle the severe power shortages that are crippling national industry. The Gulf rivalries must not be allowed to abandon, or delay, the Pak-Iran gas pipeline.
One hopes Nawaz Sharif will align the present civil-military relations in line with the Constitution. The Army, as Nawaz only recently stated, has to be turned into one of the departments of the government in letter and spirit. Instead of arbitrary moves, however, this should be done by taking the parliament along.