By Saeed Qureshi
The next general elections in Pakistan are due to be held within three months after June 4, 2018. It means that hardly a year is left for the incumbent government of the PMNL to remain in governance. Right or wrong the PMNL came into power through an established democratic process. Let is complete its constitutional tenure in office for the remaining period. It is certain that the incumbent prime minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif would not contest elections in 2018.
If the opposition is so committed to root out corruption from Pakistan and arraign Mian Nawaz Sharif and his two sons as a result of Panama leaks then the best time would be to win elections against the PMNL and initiate legal inquiry against the family’s offshore accounts. Similar action can then be taken against Mian Shahbaz Sharif the younger brother of the prime minister and incumbent chief minister of Punjab province.
Although Imran Khan has been targeting solely Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family for the past several years for one misdeeds or the other as witnessed by his fiery speeches and prolonged Dharnas (sit ins) in Islamabad. Imran Khan has made several attempts to dislodge Nawaz Sharif or to force him to resign. But somehow Mr. Khan’s campaigning didn’t click in his favor. In the local elections and those in Azad Kashmir PTI lost badly. It demonstrated that notwithstanding his tall claims and impracticable revolutionary slogans, the people didn’t vote for Imran Khan,
The latest divided verdict of the supreme court allowing Mian Nawaz Sharif to remain in his seat is another setback for Imran Khan to force the prime minister to resign. Overall it looks as if Imran Khan has personal grudge or vendetta or some hidden agenda against Mian Nawaz, his brother and even the entire family.
But while Imran Khan has come to be known as a stubborn and unbending foe of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the other political parties of late have also joined the fray and started harping on the anti-PMNL and anti- Mian Nawaz tunes for resignation on the basis of corruption.
The PPP whose whole lot is composed of corrupt individuals both morally and financially is also demanding prime minister’s ouster for bad governance and for financial malpractices. This demand has come particularly from Asif Ali Zardari the co-chairman of the PPP who himself is known as the embodiment of corruption and hoarding wealth through every conceivable means. Someone has so aptly remarked recently that if Mr. Zardari is raising voice against corruption the it is the sure sign of the imminent coming of the “Doom’s Day”.
The religio-political party Jamaat-Islami has always remained a sidelined political outfit. It has been variously indulging in street politics and pursuing a political culture of denial. It opposed the creation of Pakistan and has never accepted its existence. Its present leadership has fallen back on the old tunes.
Its leaders are making fiery speeches against the federal government and highlighting peoples’ day to day problems such as water and power shortage and bribery etc. Someone may ask them is this corruption created by PMNL or the socio-economic problems have never there in Pakistan?
If the JI holds the PMNL responsible for people’s sufferings because of poor governance and shortage of basic amenities then it is merely a blame game and fishing in the troubled waters. Otherwise the fact is that the PMNL despite its shortcomings has been going extra mile to improve the living conditions of the people.
The religious and sectarian parties and groups are also accusing the PMNL government for all unethical and unislamic demeanors and thus demanding its way-out. On top of it the “Dawn Leaks” issue has surfaced. Even if Dawn issue has some truth then it doesn’t mean that the federal government was responsible. It seems as if the entire political lot of opposition wants the army rule or martial law to be imposed. They don’t seem to care that as a result of that happening a political culture and the democratic process that started after the exit of Pervez Musharraf would be nullified. That would be a bad bargain.
Let the judicial system take its course as far as Panama Leaks and Dawn Leaks issues are concerned. Pervez Rashid the PMNL information minister and Tariq Fatimi the advisor on foreign affairs have been removed. The necessary action against other officials and journalists responsible for this fiasco has been taken.
The point that I want to emphasize is that because of these peripheral issues, the ongoing process of democratization should not be derailed. It would be a colossal loss and a grievous set back to the democratic and political process that is somehow in place for several years and should be allowed to remain on the track.
In the meantime, let the inquiry committee ordered by the supreme court should further probe about the wealth and belonging and properties of not only Sharif family but others publicly known corrupt people. Thereafter depending upon the outcome, the prime minister may step down. But while such an inquiry is essential in case of Sharif family then it should also probe the corruption and offshore assets of all the politicians to clear the country of such a curse.
The next general elections must be held on schedule. If in the meantime army steps in the efforts starting from PPP government to the present one with uninterrupted march of democratic culture would be nullified. The country would again come under the military boots and no one knows how long that army rule would continue.
As such the best and legitimate option for the politicians in the opposition of PMNL is to prepare for the nationwide elections due to be held in 2018 and try to come into power from the democratic door and not from the backdoor.
In the meantime, let CPEC be completed. No party or any government is more earnest and desirous about the completion of this milestone project than the PMNL. I would reproduce from the Wikipedia the summary of the benefits that would accrue to Pakistan once this gigantic project is completed:
“China–Pakistan Economic Corridor also known by the acronym CPEC) is a collection of infrastructure projects currently under construction throughout Pakistan. Originally valued at $46 billion, the value of CPEC projects is now worth $62 billion. CPEC is intended to rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of: modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones. On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.
A vast network of highways and railways are to be built under the aegis of CPEC that will span the length and breadth of Pakistan. Inefficiencies stemming from Pakistan’s mostly dilapidated transportation network are estimated by the government to cause a loss of 3.5% of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Modern transportation networks built under CPEC will link seaports in Gwadar and Karachi with northern Pakistan, as well as points further north in western China and Central Asia. A 1,100 kilometer long motorway will be built between the cities of Karachi and Lahore as part of CPEC, while theKarakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. TheKarachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 km per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway inKashgar. The estimated $11 billion required to modernize transportation networks will be financed by subsidized concessionary loans”
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com