NS’ first hundred days


Being in government is different from being in opposition

“We have made history not merely headlines,” so claimed the outgoing president Asif Ali Zardari the other day. He is right in the sense that perhaps for the first time since its inception a smooth democratic transition has taken place in Pakistan.

Democracy has been immensely strengthened in the past five years – all credit to the PPP government. But on the flip side it paid the price for poor governance and lack of transparency, by its being routed at the hustings.

An elected government has been ushered in after its predecessor served its full five-year term and elections held under a consensual caretaker arrangement. The president is soon going to pass the mantle to his elected successor.

It is indeed no small achievement. In our checkered political history presidents – and for that matter most prime ministers – were either sacked or made to leave in ignominy.

Mamnoon Hussain’s oath taking as president next week will also coincide with Nawaz Sharif’s first 100 days in office. The critics are judging him a bit harshly, declaring his first few weeks in office as uneventful and lacklustre.

True, the PML-N government has still to get its bearings right on most of the major issues confronting the country. Some of these problems need immediate attention. But to be fair much more time is needed to chalk out a strategy in order to sort out the mess.

But the rub lies in the fact that while in opposition the Sharifs gave the PPP-led coalition a tough time claiming that that once they were in power things will be sorted out in no time. Every issue was turned into a function of the perceived corruption and malfeasance of Zardari and his cohorts.

Hence disillusionment with the new government is a direct outcome of rising expectations not matching with ground realities. In this sense the PML-N is being hoisted by its own petard.

For example Shahbaz Sharif would claim ad nauseum that once PML-N wins the elections the problem of power shortages would go away in three months. Now the elder Sharif truthfully informs us that the issue is slightly more complicated, and that it will take at least three, even five, years to resolve.

Similarly rampant terrorism was blamed by the Taliban apologists in the PML-N at Pakistan being a partner in crime with the US in war on terror and incessant drone attacks on our badlands. Hence the facile claim that the newly elected government will quit being handyman of the US and terrorism will just go away.

Ironically terrorism has noticeably escalated since the inception of the new government. Adding insult to injury the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) has declared that it no longer considers Sharif as a guarantor of any possible deal.

The interior minister Nisar Ali Khan exhorts the nation to be patient and wait for a ‘comprehensive anti terrorism policy.’ In the meanwhile the much-awaited APC (All Parties Conference) on terrorism remains stalled.

Similarly it was claimed on the top of its voice that the PML-N would break the begging bowl. But at the very outset it was forced to go into a front-loaded IMF bailout programme to be able to pay instalments of past loans.

After a lot of fanfare about building Diamer Bhasha Dam, the government has been forced to put the project on hold after the World Bank refused any funding for the project. Ostensibly the high level WB delegation that visited Pakistan last week claimed that in order of priorities it was willing to finance Dasu Dam but not Bhasha. Perhaps the Indian objections to the project could possibly be the underlying reason.

The same WB delegation informed its Pakistani interlocutors that with a dismal nine per cent tax to GDP ratio and a fiscal deficit also touching nine per cent, Pakistan’s economy is no longer sustainable. Ironically the budget presented by the PML-N government soon after its inception was neither a recipe for reform nor of restructuring of the economy.

Understandably one rarely sees Nawaz Sharif smiling since he became the prime minister. His lacklustre address to the nation did not assuage his critics. In fact it raised more questions about the efficacy of the regime to set its house in order in real time than answering them.

Actually there is nothing much to cheer about. Most problems facing the freshly minted PML-N government are complicated and multi-faceted. There are no quick fix solutions available off the counter.

Just to survive as a self-respecting viable nation, hard choices have to be made in the field of economy, counter terrorism and governance. Notwithstanding Nisar’s claim that the military and the civilian government are on the same page on how to combat terrorism and open talks with the Taliban, there are serious outstanding issues that need urgent attention.

The government has been rather shifty on the matter. The interior minister claims that unconditional talks will be held with the TTP, whereas the prime minister is on record that talks will be held with only those who lay down their arms. Gen Kayani on the other hand says that talks cannot be held with those who are not willing to forego violence.

Similarly the economy cannot be restructured without broadening the tax net. The PML-N is however loath to tax its own core constituencies – the trading and mercantile classes. Merely tweaking with the present tax structure will not bear tangible results.

The government by not kowtowing to the MQM has rightly ruled out the possibility of handing over Karachi to the army. Launching an across the board operation through Rangers and the police is the right approach.

Taking the Sindh chief minster on board in order to launch a successful operation was necessary. Hopefully Zardari will walk the talk by cooperating with the federal government on this count.

The first joint walkout of opposition parties in the National Assembly is symptomatic of the ruling party’s shortsighted approach not to give parliamentarians the importance they deserve. Ministers starting with the prime minister himself hardly attend sessions of both houses of the parliament. Hence members of the National Assembly grouse that they are not being properly briefed on matters of national importance is somewhat justified.

One hundred days is not much time in the life of a government. But things should be seen to be moving in the right direction. Only then appeals to the nation to show patience might find some receptive audience.

The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today.


  1. .
    The narrative is not deep enough (or all encompassing*) — but sufficient to understand the state of the government …
    (*Baluchistan etc.)

  2. AZ handed over a fractured country,an economy in shambles and corruption destroying every state organ. Over 19,000 containers loaded with weapons and other contraband items went missing during the last two governments namely Mush and AZ, resulting in arming criminals and terrorists, who have destroyed the peace of this country. What we had in the past 5 years is nothing to rejoice about. It was an insult to democracy, where elected crooks behaved like vampires, whilst 6000 citizens were killed by known target killers and the elected govt doing nothing, yet rejoicing over the completion of their 5 year rule. Where has Rs8.1Trillion taken in debts by Zardari led regime gone?.

  3. The first 90 days of PTI are nothing less than a joke here. PTI's Lifetime Chairman Imran Khan Niazi had "promised" that he will resign from parliament if PTI is unable to eliminate terrorism, eradicate corruption and hold local bodies elections within 90 days….
    The realistic view shows that PTI has failed in eliminating terrorism in KPK rather it lost 2 MPAs in different suicide attacks, the notorious jail break in D.I.Khan has freed 248 terrorists including 6 waiting for their death penalty (& PPP had banned death sentences).
    The PTI government in KPK is full of NEPOTISM where 4 immediate family members of the Chief Minister are also in the Assembly enjoying perks & previleges at the taxpayers expenses. Various members of PTI have been disqualified for holding BOGUS DEGREES and the glaring examples are Yousaf Ayub, Ghulam Sarwar Khanand Ayela Malik.
    The local bodies bill is still wrangling in the provincial assembly and will take a few more months to get approved.
    Mian Nawaz Sharif has shown a great maturity in giving Tsunama Khan a chance to prove that he is exposed and drowned with his own deadweight, just like how PPP drowned with its own deadweight!!

  4. Democracy is not about winning elections but about " the Rule of the Law". How can we have unconditional talks with people with blood on their hands. Violence cannot be rewarded with talks or dialogue. If this is so then we have forfited democracy and accepted anarchy.

  5. Sharif family have to decide whether they are willing to surrender their personal interests in favour of broader national interests.Their past record shows that they are in politics to protect and expand their industrial and business empire.They have to come clean on allegations of loan default.They must face all investigations held up in NAB.And they have to declare on oath that it is the nation and not their businesses that gets priority.

  6. You can't build a house on sand. Pakistan is just a tent pitched on sand. We just got a new sheikh to replace the old one. If the media calls that democracy shame on them. Check Eric X Li on Ted.

  7. The corrupt electoral system facilitated the scum of the earth – loan defaulters, tax evaders and those with criminal record – to reach the Parliament. Without overhauling the political system, elections will not bring capable leadership.

    What Pakistan needs is revolution in the electoral system, to bar the crooked elements from fighting elections, so that the educated middle class may become the representatives of the 95 per cent nation. The moneyed people more often than not resist this type of revolution while the have-nots are badly in need of it.

    • We had a chance of a lifetime! We blew it. Let us not cry over spilt milk. Now we can sit under a banyan tree and moan and groan for the next five years.

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