Pakistani media is brimming with criticism against the political class that has failed utterly in managing the political-economic crisis prevailing in the country
It would seem from the ongoing trend of political and related developments in Pakistan that media is one vertical which is going hands down and full hog in its blistering attacks on the government due to the latter’s numerous fallacies and inability to govern effectively or address issues like terrorism and the economic turmoil. Leading columnists in prominent newspapers as well as TV commentators are almost nonstop in their criticism of the government. Zahid Hussain, an established political watcher, and a regular writer on Pakistan, in a recent opinion piece in `Dawn’, has categorically stated that Pakistan is heading towards a shipwreck under a rudderless political dispensation. Not letting the political opposition off the hook, this columnist targets the opposition for trying to bring down the entire political edifice. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), is now calling for the deferment of impending elections citing financial problems faced by the country. Intriguingly, the Governor of the State of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is also believed to be dragging his feet on the issue of poll dates. On the judicial front, the Supreme Court is also seen to be in the middle of some controversy or the other.
Meanwhile, ‘Dawn’ has charged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for having proved his government to be one of the most disastrous dispensations in Pakistan’s recent political history. Very interestingly, the present Cabinet has 70 ministers and advisers, and many of them do not have a portfolio. This lack of this specific responsibility shows the political bankruptcy in the government as well as the Cabinet being a big burden on the exchequer when the country is reeling under a sharp economic downturn with no signs of amelioration. Criticism is further mounted on Prime Minister Sharif for being on foreign tours frequently, abdicating serious responsibilities, with no efforts whatsoever to bring the economy back to rails. Furthermore, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is being disparaged for being singularly responsible for the economic doom with no signs of salvage in sight.
In the meantime, critics reckon that the political witch-hunting, which does not seem to end, is destroying political decency, and a number of criminal cases of sedition are mounted on them which, they feel, are coercive and intimidatory tactics but are unlikely to work.
In another writeup in an important daily, noted political commentator Lt Gen (Retd.) Talat Masood has described the present Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government as personally oriented, with Nawaz Sharif being the dominant figure. Despite the economic collapse, the finance minister continues in office, and all policy decisions are taken by Nawaz Sharif sitting in London. This reflects poorly on the government’s working and highlights the lack of priorities in dealing with the key issues. Masood further states that the government shares no accountability despite its ineffective performance and failure on all counts. It would, therefore, seem that serving the people is secondary. Similarly, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI’s) absence from the parliament offers yet another poor reflection on the governance. Fingers are also pointed towards politicians for their connivance with military generals, pushing the country into a quagmire due to deliberate distortion of the Constitution. Some critics have even gone to the extent of seeking the resignation of the PML-N government for lacking moral courage and exhibiting an abject inability to lead and implement even the minimum agenda to stabilise the economy.
Meanwhile, in a latest piece, Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani diplomat, says that the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition will complete a year in government next month but has little to show in terms of improved governance. It has instead been defined by its bloated Cabinet — the largest in the country’s history. She has essentially echoed the views of other critics. Also, PML-N’s main alliance partner in government, the PPP, has shown no interest in economic policy in an obvious attempt to distance itself from economic measures the PDM government was obliged to take for an IMF bailout.
In another development not directly linked to politics, on March 5, 15 Hindu students were injured following a brutal attack by the Islami Jamaat-e-Tulba — the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) — when the Sindh Council organised a Holi function for the Hindu students at the Punjab University in Lahore Campus. This incident shows the level of intolerance existing among fanatic organisations that are active even on university campuses. Hindus had earlier sensitised the local police authorities about the likelihood of a JeI attack on them to spoil their Holi revelry. Sadly, when the students reached the Vice Chancellor’s (VC) office to protest against the physical assault, the security guards beat them up. A section of academics has strongly condemned this act of vandalism targeting the minority and not allowing them to observe their festival. They have also called for a full-scale investigation, apprehending what message would go to the world regarding such intolerant acts of bigotry, bringing much shame to Pakistan by displaying the level of religious extremism in the country.
Having dwelt upon a slew of challenges that the Pakistani government is saddled with, it appears doubtful if the country is on the right track, as articulated by the media in all objectivity.
The writer is an IPS officer, Adviser NatStrat, security analyst and a former National Security Advisor in Mauritius. Views expressed are personal