The PTI Government is being clearly outclassed in propaganda by the opposition. The regime has even failed to highlight the good initiatives taken by it to rid the country of the scourge of corruption in the high echelons of the ruling elite and the bureaucracy, to curtail the expenditure on the nauseating publicity of mundane projects in Television channels with the beaming pictures of party leaders, to reduce the foreign junkets of the President and Prime Minister, to structurally reform the economy, to streamline the foreign and the security policy of the country.
However, the opposition faults the PTI regime on a number of counts, some justifiably correct, that include non-repatriation of the looted wealth of the country; the denial of justice to the victims of the Sahiwal and Model Town police killings; police reforms in Punjab, squabbling in the Parliament, ignoring some of the CPEC projects, vindictive move against the opposition through National Accountability Bureau and FIA.
The task of the opposition is to constantly dilate on the failures of the ruling party; undermine its successes; discredit and destroy its credibility in the eyes of the electorate and never lose a chance to compound its difficulties in a constitutional crisis. This is the practice in all democratic countries irrespective of the form of government. The media, being the fourth pillar of the state, is duty bound to distil facts from fiction, criticize the aberrations of the government, recognize its successes and present a balanced account of what is taking place in the country in order to educate the electorate. However, it is not so in today’s competitive times. It is difficult for media houses to play a gentleman’s role. Taking sides, defending status quo, or ideological mores, siding with progressive or populist trends is well anchored in their policies.
There remain intellectuals, analysts, columnists who relatively have a balanced approach to the events and try to separate the wheat from chaff, distil truth from falsehood and distinguish between politics and factual position in a given situation. Nevertheless, the freedom of their pen is also circumscribed by the policies of the media houses, sensitivity of the issues involved, religious and moral bounds and restraints on print and publications in an emergency situation. They accept these restraints by compulsion, moral and ideological bounds or out of nationalistic patriotism. The outreach of their writings is limited in developing countries because of the high rate of illiteracy. Therefore, the electronic media plays the vital role in opinion forming.
The predecessors of Prime Minister Imran Khan excessively used the electronic media for their projection. The paid advertisements with the smiling pictures of the leaders adorned the screens of many channels in a nauseating frequency to the peril of the public exchequer. These visual projections have brought about a sea change in the concept of leadership. High visibility and dramatic display of mundane engagements of leaders has gripped the public mind as qualities of leadership. This negative trend was promoted by media to take their pound of flesh from the public funds. To the anger of some media houses, the PTI regime has been resisting the temptation of this trend.
The opposition has almost succeeded in politicizing the process of accountability. Our past record in view, nobody even the highly educated people are reluctant to believe that the process has, indeed, started in earnest and independent of the government. The opposition, bearing the brunt of the accountability, has been attacking the process terming it witch hunt and politically motivated campaign by the government to browbeat its opponents. They say the process is not across the board and targets politicians particularly those in opposition and is aimed to discredit civilian leaders. They feign to feel the hands of a hidden string puller.
No doubt, the axe of accountability would fall on those who were or are in power and who had or have access to public funds and control over lucrative contracts. The process cannot be fully across the board as the established institutions of the country including the army, judiciary and bureaucracy have their own systems of accountability effective enough to punish delinquents. The harsh punishments handed down on some senior army officers on account of corruption and on some other counts are examples to quote. The accountability in the bureaucracy is also a continuous process. The bureaucrats face mild and major punishments in this process though go in silence and unpublicized way. The prosecution of the corrupt is the job of the executive, while finding them guilty or innocent lies within the remit of the judiciary. We are living in a constitutionally governed society and the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens is also the remit of the judiciary. This is a slow and time consuming process and we have to bear with it. We cannot adopt China model for quick retributive justice.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is also faulted for his failure to bring back the looted wealth of the country. This failure strikes us monumental because of the rhetoric of Mr. Khan in his election trail. The task is not easy because of the involvement of foreign countries and in the absence of interstate agreements for the repatriation of ill gotten wealth stashed in a foreign land. However, the PTI regime is not seen to have started an earnest endeavour to sign agreements with foreign countries for the return of illegitimate wealth with the exception of the United Kingdom.
The cases of the Sahiwal and Model Town killings have also disappointed many sympathizers of the PTI. These cases are in the courts. The Sahiwal killings case seems to have been manipulated by the perpetrators of the crime in the country’s cumbersome judicial process by influencing the witnesses and the immediate relatives by paying blood money resulting in the acquittal of the accused police officials. The Punjab government should file an appeal against the lower court’s judgment and pursue it diligently.
The PAT leaders appear to have lost interest in pursuing the case of the victims of the Model Town killings. Media reports suggest that certain petitions of PAT leaders are lying with the apex court since considerably long and have not been fixed for hearing causing disillusionment among the PAT leaders. Justice delayed is justice denied. The heirs of the victims of Model Town mayhem deserve justice. The PTI regime should do whatever possible to get them justice. These two cases are a challenge to the government in power and the efficiency, transparency and fairness of our courts.
The status quo always remains strong. The forces benefitting from an entrenched system of governance always resist change. This is what PTI regime is confronted with. There are noises from every corner and every segment of the society affected by the purported changes. The business community clamors against changes in the tax system, the bureaucracy adopts ‘go slow’ because of accountability, the parliamentarians are engaged in ‘save leaders’ campaigns to the peril of their original duty of legislation. Their purpose seems to be derailing of the accountability process.
The economy of the country has been run on the basis of adhocism and on foreign aid and loans for the last seven decades. For the first time, the PTI regime has initiated structural reforms in the economy curtailing overhead expenditure, increasing exports and decreasing imports. The economy has shown signs of take off. There is much more to be done about the sick public sector enterprises devouring a big chunk of our meager resources, attracting foreign investments by easing procedures and guaranteeing the safety of such investments. The PTI regime has been sluggish on this count so much so that it has so far failed to meet the conditions of Financial Action Task Force to take the country out of the grey list. Though inherited, it is now within the duty of this regime to do the job.
Alongside the poverty alleviation programs, the regime should give priority to reining in the skyrocketing inflation which is breaking the back of the low income segment of the population. An increase in the price of bread caused the French revolution and the addition of few coins in the cost of sugar triggered the mass movement against Ayub Khan. The masses give a long leash to the rulers but not long enough to fall in complacency. The slumbering rulers find no place to hide when the masses rise in rage and fury to shake the citadels of power. The PTI would be better advised to keep an eye on the public mood to stem a furious storm on this count.
Disclaimer: Surkhiyan believes in freedom of expression and providing space for views and opinions from all sides. But we may not agree with everything we publish. The views expressed in this op-ed are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Surkhiyan. We do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.