While in neighbouring India BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi has staged a come back with an unprecedented majority running across the four corners of the country in the just concluded election in biggest democracy in the world, post election scenario in Pakistan remains pathetic. Having waddled through one crisis more serious than the previous, elected or selected rulers-whatever- have been compounding Pakistan’s socio-economic and political problems.
Now we have come to a point when the government having failed to deliver its promises, has surrendered its economic writ to the IMF and its nominees to directly control Pakistan’s finances the way that they could squeeze the most from it in the recovery of loans and credit facilities. Leave aside Prime Minister Khan’s election manifesto that promised the nation rivers of milk and honey, 5 million houses and ten million jobs and on top of everything, his utmost contempt for IMF loan and pledge to the nation that he would rather commit suicide than seek loan from IMF. Regretfully his has been the biggest U-turn.
Not only he is borrowing from IMF but he has surrendered the economic sovereignty of the country into the hands of IMF musketeers like seeking medicines from same dispenser boys who have been responsible for Pakistan’s deplorable economic ills. Photograph of his meeting with IMF chief Christine Lagarde published after the staffers had sorted out the details of the IMF package, spills the beans. While Ms Lagarde is facing Imran Khan comfortably with a large victorious smile on her face, Khan is shown sitting smugly like a bride who had been deflowered without consent.
As predicted by various independent economists the devastating fall out of the IMF bail out package has started showing its adverse impact on an economy already sunk deep in the quagmire. US dollar continues to climb high, prices of all essential commodities have broken all previous records, and unemployment too has reached its apogee. The huge gas reservoir in Arabia Sea off Karachi that IK had promised weeks before the IMF bailout, proved to be nothing but hot air. Now the Prime Minister having raised too many illusionary hopes has asked the nation to show patience for two or three months and see magic of his words when Pakistan would be so wealthy that it will become a heaven for jobs for the unemployed.
With a government that has done nothing to ignite confidence of the people in the immediate future, one was wondering about the masterly inactivity of the opposition parties. Having been out outmanoeuvred and out engineered in the July 2018 elections by the powers that be that had decided to get IK in power as their proxy in the PM House. No doubt leadership of the two major opposition parties has been very tactfully embroiled by the state machinery into plethora of corruption charges.
National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) role of being a discriminatory institution has come out in the open. Its operations are one sided only targeting the opposition leaders or any one who the government sees as its enemy. It has been overly oppressive and following double standards. Its treatment of its victims has been too Draconian. Remember how NAB hounds handcuffed university professors, how victims die in their custody from torture.
Latest victim being a lady who was allegedly sexually abused by the Chairman. One could give benefit of the doubt to the Chairman, the matter is so serious that it deserves to be investigated by a joint committee of the Parliament as demanded by the opposition leaders since the issue has become much compounded by the fact the television channel that broke the sex scandal belongs to a close advisor of Imran Khan. It is being conjectured that there is definitely some method behind this madness. It is charged that PTI government wants a pliable NAB Chairman who would deliver them. Hence this blackmail.
In this dismal atmosphere PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto decided to seek unity among opposition political parties by inviting them to an Iftar dinner to seek a strategy for steering the problem loaded country to safer shores. The highlight of the Iftar was PML N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former PM Nawaz Sharif. Both the young leaders proved their political mettle. At least 10 opposition parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) gathered for an informal iftar-dinner to devise a joint strategy to save the country from PTI’s failures, economic chaos and growing lawlessness.
Joining of hands by Maryam Nawaz with Bilawal Bhutto after a long absence from the national scene is rightly being considered as a very healthy and desirable development good for country’s politics. Maryam led the PML-N delegation that included former PM Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Rao Ahsan Iqbal and Hamza Shehbaz in the absence of Shehbaz Sharif who is in London for treatment.
This was a big show of solidarity from the opposition parties and it clarified its stance against the PTI government: that it will no longer sit silently and will start mobilising its workers for saving democracy and the system. They have enough fuel to ignite a countrywide fire involving the poor masses who have been fed up by high prices and extortionist policies of the state. Indeed, in game of politics, the opposition parties cannot sit aloof. They are expected to provide strong opposition to the government and keep it under its check. It may be recalled that despite PTI having played a rabble rousing role against PML-N government with the backing of powers that be, it does not seems to grasp the necessity of having a strong opposition for the survival of democracy as an alternate to dictatorship that crush resistance to subjugation.
No doubt Iftar dinner hosted by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was an informal get together to make a beginning to mobilise the joint opposition much on the pattern of MRD against General Zia’s dictatorship spearheaded by his grand mother Begum Nusrat Bhutto and his mother martyred Benazir Bhutto. It was a preliminary meeting of opposition minds, much in concrete form would come in APC that would be held soon after Eid. Although the Iftar did not make any high sounding claims, yet it did manage to carry a strong message to PTI that its play time is over. Political pundits say that Iftar caused some sleepless nights to PTI leadership.
This was obviously manifested in the reaction to the Iftar by PM Khan, his band of Buffon ministers and conies who at once jumped to criticise the iftar. What was seen severely bothering to PTI was that though much line of action is going to come out of APC after Eid, the Iftar did create an impact on the general public who expect the opposition to take Khan’s incompetent government to task.
No doubt Sardar Akhtar Mengal did not attend the Iftar, matter of concern for Imran Khan-led PTI was the warning sign from the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal)’s tilt towards the opposition. PTI is leading with only a few votes in the National Assembly. If BNP-Mengal and PTM members withdraw their support, the opposition will only need a few members more to topple the PTI government in the centre. Remember how Mian Nawaz Sharif seduced MQM on his side with ‘chamak’ members of MQM to abandon its coalition with PPP under PM Bhutto in 1989 vote of no-confidence. History can repeat especially when it is not same old MQM.
Bilawal Bhutto is absolutely right in seeking revival of national commitment to the Charter of democracy signed between martyred Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif in London. It was definitely finest thing to happen to Pakistani politics after the framing of 1973 Constitution later followed by 18th Amendment. Not that all three have been flawless documents, like every other they too require to be amended in view of the changes circumstances and challenging needs of the state. Moreover, it has to be reinvigorated and revamped in order to strengthen the constitutional foundation of the state to close doors permanently on Bonpartist elements from subverting and hijacking democracy. Engineering operations that we witnessed before and after July 2018 elections, ISI’s bribing of politicians to deny Benazir Bhutto her landslide victory in polls—not once but thrice, wheeling dealings by powers that be not to let democracy grow stronger.
A reinvigorated Charter of Democracy is the need of the hour when sees ominous moves being made both overtly and covertly to do with away with 18th Amendment, remodel NFC award, do away with local bodies, and in a cloak-and-dagger operation seek to reintroduce four times failed Presidential System through which we lost half the country and sowed fissiparous tendencies. Both Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz must see through the panic and frightened reaction from the PTI leadership and must get down to evolving a consensus based strategy to take advantage of PTI’s misrule. They must remember that ousting an incompetent government from power is a national priority but they also should have an alternate agenda for establishing an egalitarian socio-economic system for the greatest good of the largest number.