The political economic and social climate in Pakistan is topsy turvy. Its longest serving prime minister was disqualified by the Supreme Court last week in a move that suspiciously came about when the CJ’s son was being accused of illegal actions. In the economic sphere, Pakistan’s industry has collapsed while imports continue to increase; circular debt has reached Rs. 80 billion while the rate of inflation is over 10%. The power crisis engulfing the nation in darkness has adversely affected industries and businesses. Socially, the masses are experiencing their worst nightmare with rampant insecurity, flawed justice and diminishing sources of income. If domestic turmoil is not enough, the War on Terror has bestowed an unmanageable amount of burden on Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies. The influx of refugees, warfare and foreign intervention has spread the authorities thin.
It is in such testing time that political change is often said to emerge. Pakistani political parties are indeed following this belief when they are seen to be (mis)using the situation in the country to garner support in the election coming up next year.
The issue of new provinces has gained immense popularity recently. In the name of better representation of the masses, the two major parties in the coalition battled to approve their version of a more appropriately distributed nation. Interesting how PPP’s stance about a Seraiki province took a 180 degree change from complete rejection to absolute support in a matter of 3 years. Southern Punjab is indeed disadvantaged with respect to other parts of Punjab but low poverty levels and social welfare were ideal to balance PML-N majority in Punjab. It is impossible for the PML-N to watch silently as PPP plays a shallow game to get votes and soon after, PML-N proposed to create 4 new provinces for Pakistan the most controversial being the Mohair province. PPP in return have called this movement a conspiracy which is misleading the Sindhis.
The second politicized matter is last week’s insane power outages in Punjab. The CM has come out with the masses to protest against the federal government which is allegedly discriminating against the Punjabis. He even refused to order law enforcement agencies to counter protestors, which in other words gives the latter a free hand in voicing their dissent. Although Shahbaz has condemned violent protests we all know that in the heat of the moment things do and have gotten out of hand. The residence of an MNA belonging to the opposition party was pelted with stones. Three protestors lost their lives in the ensuing retaliatory attack by the MNAs security guards.
The electricity crisis in Punjab is indeed a serious concern. After all, Punjab is the only province which owes the least to PEPCO unlike all other provinces. Sindh government claims it’s their better management skills which have ensured a reasonable amount of load shedding for its residents.
Advisor to the PM, Rehman Malik has warned Shahbaz Sharif of serious legal action if members of PPP are attacked in Punjab. He obviously overlooked the fact that an ex-minister of Water and Power from their party had caused great mismanagement. The escalation in water and power shortages and fuel prices has come back to bite Raja Pervaiz Ashraf sadly at exactly the same time he was succeeded to the post of the PM. Power ventures are failing one after the other in Pakistan and Raja Pervaiz has one entire venture to his credit. The kickbacks he received under the Rental Power Projects are believed to be the source of this failed venture. So far NAB has recorded his statements, frozen his financial accounts and placed him on the ECL.
The provincial government has picked this sore point to prove the “step-motherly” attitude of the federal government. They claim that the 18th Amendment does not permit them to produce power on their own. In its defense, the Punjab government states the example of the Nandipur and Chicho ki Malian project which would have provided approximately 950 MW of energy but the negligence of the law ministry in providing sovereign guarantees to the Chinese investors has costed Rs.113 billon from the national exchequer.
Politicians in Pakistan are engaged in an underground boxing match. Concrete floors, bare fists and no rules. They all have an unrelenting determination to distract their opponents and make them lose in order to pass into the next round. All this while the public stands behind the arena looking at a match where their lives are played upon. I hope the people can cross those fences, take control of the arena and make Pakistan a nation to be proud of again.
By Nida Afaque