On 16 November 2011, Mario Monti was sworn in as the 54th Prime Minister of Italy when the scandal-ridden Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced to resign. Italian economist Monti enjoyed a steely reputation for stringent economic measures that earned him the nickname Super Mario.
Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano suspended the country’s constitution and invited Super Mario to lead a government of technocrats when Italy was caught in the quagmire of deep debt crisis, and Berlusconi’s heroics read across the world.
After the one-year rule by technocrats, Italy is staging a comeback and Super Mario has lately said the end of the crisis is “getting closer in some ways.” This is the story of a modern European country, not a third-world under-developed state.
Italy’s economy was ruined by none other than its thrice-elected Prime Minister Berlusconi. It was, however, the political parties and their leadership, including the ruling party, who unanimously decided to give Italy a long shot in the arm after admitting that they couldn’t resolve the severe crisis.
Italy’s politicians had the wisdom and prudence to accord the economic survival of the country priority over their democratically legitimate rule. They were able to see that they had reached a dangerous point..
Will the political leadership of Pakistan be able to, at the very least, copy the recipe of the third most powerful economy of Europe? They must realise that political expediencies won’t let them give the bitter-pill treatment to the body-politic.
Compared with Italy, Pakistan has long been suffering from multiple wounds. Being in the fifth year of its rule, the PPP and its coalition partners must accept harsh realities. Without going into figures that economists have been highlighting, Pakistan’s biggest problem remains a dwindling economy. Intertwined with it are the two glaring problems of energy shortage and religious extremism.
It seems more than obvious that Pakistan’s civil and military establishment has not squarely eliminated the threat coming from the religious bogey as a whole. Taliban collect donations even from a mosque that is near the GHQ.
Leaders of religious parties oppose military operation in North Waziristan. Yet no one from the ruling coalition has the courage to stop them from backing mass-murderers in the name of Islam.
Even a small country like Yemen has performed better than Pakistan because the people of Yemen suddenly realised that it was their own war, not America’s. Yemen’s run-away ruler, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was a reluctant undertaker like Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf.
They both believed that aid would keep coming as long as the US remained worried about al-Qaeda. The result is that Pakistani soil is drenched in the blood spilled by terrorists. Out of 244 days of this year, there have been 324 events of terrorism-related violence.
The death toll of terrorism in the country this year stood at 2, 516 including 556 of security personnel. The conflict in Pakistan is the worst, indicated by the fact that security forces also killed 2,022 terrorists. The reason is that nothing much has been done at the political level. Backers of terrorism like Hafiz Saeed have been addressing public rallies.
The military establishment is also in two minds, still not knowing which way it has to go and to what an extent it must go. It has yet to admit that the killing of Osama bin Laden, though unilaterally carried out by the US, was a good act.
Statements about drone attacks sound hollow. The US drone technology has been successful in hitting targets; Pakistan should lend intelligence support for taking out al-Qaeda remnants and the Taliban so that targets are hit with precision.
Leaders like Imran Khan have been condemning drone attacks only to muster political support. Why does Imran Khan not condemn Taliban’s terrorist acts if he believes moderation is the right path of Islam?
Apart from extremism, the crisis of power shortage is the second major factor for the bleak economy, and the government has done precious little and wasted its whole tenure in power. Why hasnt the government procured LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) for the transportation sector? It is being sold at LNG/LPG gas points from England to India.
According to insiders, the bribe for the conversion of a single CNG station to an LNG station is Rs. 6 million. Even the production of hydro-power generation capacity remained a low priority. Bad governance and corruption scandals have further mired the credibility of the present government.
How can a country go to the polls with such extreme signs of misrule? Why should the rulers be allowed to loot and plunder for another term? Of all the people, President Asif Ali Zardari must realise that he is president of the whole country and not of Pakistan Peoples Party.
It is his duty to hold a meeting with leaders of all political parties, including his own, to reach a consensus for Pakistan to be ruled by a team of technocrats for two years like the Italians did.
If we have the will we can find a Pakistani Mario Monti. A court can further facilitate by giving the ruling in support. Military should keep off. It will surely mind its business if the political leadership is able to translate the will of the people of Pakistan into reality. Other ways to seek the rule of technocrats will not be plausible.