Too soon for the jury to be out


The honeymoon though is already wearing thin

In the backdrop of the fast moving pace of events in the country 45 days – a bare month and a half – the short period the PML-N government with Nawaz Sharif as prime minister has been in power looks more like a lifetime.

Already the new government is being judged not only on the basis of its performance (or lack of it), but also on the scale of promises and tall claims made by the PML-N leadership while in the opposition. The most worrisome tendency amongst the media pundits is the predominant sense of déjà vu.

It is patently unfair to judge a government that is still trying to set its bearings right, assuming power at the centre after a lapse of almost 14 years. Its detractors however claim that the party was ruling Punjab with Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister for the past five years and during this full term Nawaz Sharif as PML-N president remained ensconced in his Raiwind residence, with ample time to do his homework.

Apart from the usual rhetoric being churned out from the newly inducted officialdom, a perception is gaining ground that the PML-N leadership is ill-prepared and clueless about the direction it wants to take the country.

Platitudes that the Sharifs want to give a clean, lean and competent government have to be followed with concrete steps. For the time being a number of those perceived as ‘corrupt and the incompetent’ by the current dispensation have been sent packing, but able and above board people have yet to replace them.

A number of key appointments like the provincial governors and ambassadors to some of the important capitals remain unfilled despite a lapse of six weeks. Probably perhaps more for the sake of optics, advertisements have been placed in newspapers for recruiting heads of key government corporations. Whether crème de le crème of CEO’s and COO’s from the private sector can be attracted through this process remains to be seen.

On the other hand a number of appointments made without going through the process have raised quite a few eyebrows. Ostensibly, some of these appointments and promotions have been made as payback, rather than guided by considerations of merit. A number of wheeler-dealers who have been in and around the corridors of power in every regime have managed to weasel their way back again.

People had voted out a patently corrupt and incompetent government to be replaced by those who in their eyes were capable of delivering. The PPP itself, post-election, is facing an existential crisis.

President Zardari in the twilight of his remaining term has gone abroad, perhaps owing to security threats. Master Bilawal is either unable to or unwilling to lead the party. In this sense the party, deeply demoralized, seems like a rudderless ship.

Nonetheless if the new government does not perform in key areas like the economy, governance, law and order and counter-terrorism not only it is bound to suffer, democracy will suffer as well. Decimated in the elections, the PPP does not seem to be in a position to derive any political capital if the PML-N fails to fire, but others will.

The budget announced by the new government within a week of its assuming power has not been well received. Both business and industry and the public are cribbing about it. Having bragged about break the begging bowl and dictate its terms to the donors, the PML-N government had to bite the bullet by going for a frontloaded IMF programme.

Taxes have to be raised and subsidies reduced not merely to meet the IMF conditionalities but more so to fix the economy. Instead of engaging in the ‘Orwellian doublespeak’, the public has to be taken into confidence and told at least a modicum of truth. In this context, it remains to be seen whether the PML-N would like to annoy its trading and mercantile constituency by opting for the Reformed GST, which has the potential of broadening the tax base and documenting the economy at the same time. The N-League had opposed it to derail the RGST initiative in the parliament when the PPP was on its reformist legislation binge.

This is a tall order after stating ad nauseam for the past five years that the only thing wrong with the economy were the twin menace of incompetence and corruption. The leadership is finding it hard to spell out the plain truth: endemic structural problems have to be tackled to fix the economy.

The humongous circular debt was paid to the power stakeholders accumulated during the past regime, through a masterstroke of good accounting. Nonetheless load-shedding remains a menace that refuses to go. Nawaz Sharif with his brother in tow had to face the wrath of the industrialists – his own constituency – the other day in Faisalabad owing to closure of industry as a result of perennial power and gas outages.

It is obvious the problem of load-shedding is not going away soon. Enhancing capacity (particularly of the cheaper variety), increasing efficiency of the grid system and controlling line losses and theft are medium to long-term goals. The nation should be told the stark reality: the only solution meanwhile is efficient distribution of the existing power available.

Instead of tapering off, interestingly enough after the elections there has been a fresh wave of terrorism in the country. This was indeed a huge shock for those who during the election campaign, the Pakistani Taliban had named as their guarantors for talks.

This has been a rude awakening for the PML-N that the TTP (Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan) is a group of disparate militants. To open talks with them without a coherent anti-terrorism policy will not be easy. And who to talk to from amongst at least 16 Taliban groups? Concerted efforts have been made by Mr Sharif to form a coherent anti-terrorism policy and to bring the military and the intelligence apparatus on the same page.

The idea of the so-called APC (all parties conference) was still born as it was announced hastily without any preparation. Not a big deal though, for the APCs held in the recent past have not impacted policy in any way, and petered out after merely reaching agreement on the lowest common denominator. From London Imran Khan has proposed a separate meeting with the prime minister and the army chief on the issue. It makes eminent sense, but why must it be that exclusive by keeping the leader of the opposition out?

The prime minister did the right thing by visiting the ISI headquarters for a detailed briefing. It is good that he is in the listening mode to understand the intricacies of the issue before formulating policy.

However it would have been better not merely for the sake of optics if he had taken chief ministers of all the provinces along instead of only the Punjab chief minister. It is not a party but a national problem that afflicts other provinces with much more intensity than the Punjab.

Somehow the first 100 days of the government is considered to be the benchmark before judging its performance. Perhaps partly owing to an overly independent higher judiciary and a free media, the honeymoon is wearing thin much earlier. Hence the urgent need to correct and set course now rather than later.

The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today.


  1. Where's Mr.PM address to the nation in 45 days? Seems like he had already forgotten the nation and only remember US,UK KSA ,Mansha and Sadruddin Haswani.

  2. I am sure the Amir ul Umora Nawaz Sharif will be not able to solve the the problems faced by the peoples and country He just made false promises and unattaianable tall claims, which illiterate majority believe these promise would come true. he has selected the team which donot have the capabality to gave the solution the issue faced by the country.

  3. This gullible nation with selective amnesia expected that this time around mangoes will grow on this cactus ……………………. nation's fault.!!


  5. A good media campaign by NS against PPP. Media is showing him and his brother as the cleanest person on earth. It was ppp who created the democratic culture, powered the assemblies, media and judiciary, and started hundreds of projects of national importance, They did all that with thin majority and with the support of several partners. Opposition pmln was as large as government. Punjab province was at loggerhead. Media was openly abusing the president and pm. Now everything is being run on personal ambitions. The autocratic system (mugal style0 is taking over fast.

Comments are closed.