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January 2, 2018

Mapping out 2018


January 2, 2018

Stepping into 2018 we must take a moment and recall where we stand today. Last year’s political upheavals and the struggle on maintaining the status quo amidst a hostile regional environment has been taxing, to say the least. Despite the clamour at home and outside, Pakistan has maintained a resilient and unified stance on the security front. If this new year turns out to be more turbulent, are we prepared to meet its challenges?

This is election year and it is the looming national elections which are likely to dominate the political landscape. While the opposition ranks prepare for an all- out war to minimise any chances of the PML-N’s return to power even in Punjab, things are bound to get uglier. As the power tussle to carve greater electoral space between political parties intensifies, corruption and sundry are being tossed about as lynchpins of this year’s elections.

The PML-N faces a tough time after Nawaz Sharif’s ouster and with his brother Shahbaz Sharif now in the opposition’s crosshairs. The weeks of obfuscation to nominate a party leader once Nawaz’s future became increasingly uncertain was in itself damaging for the PML-N. Damage control that translated into some sort of unification over Shahbaz’s future role eventually came about, but how the party manages to steer itself away from the Model Town protests and the APC’s opposition strategy – once it gets everyone on board – remains to be seen. There is much that remains unclear as the politicians assume their confrontational positions on our chequered political front.

The PTI prides itself on being the only party that ceaselessly worked towards ridding the country of corruption by pursuing the Panama Papers case against Nawaz Sharif.

However, PTI chief Imran Khan has also vowed to work against other corrupt elements, especially Zardari; so it could be difficult for the PTI to work with the PPP if it needs to form an alliance after elections. It is hard to imagine how Khan would be able to justify Bilawal’s involvement, especially as a beneficiary of the alleged corruption of his father, and accept him as a viable political ally even if Zardari were to step aside for the sake of expediency. But, eventually, it is pragmatism that rules.

On a lighter note, despite the recent astrologers’ predictions, Khan remains the blue-eyed boy for premiership. Whether he will or will not make it to the office remains to be seen. What is hoped for as this year unravels is that by some miracle, some decorum and respect is adhered to by all stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the concept of democracy as understood by us in a completely isolated perspective is such that the right of free speech allows us to trample every level of decency. Such are the depths of the senseless slurs and accusations one witnesses on daily talk shows. The media is more to blame – for encouraging such virulent exchanges – than the politicians and the analysts who have their own axe to grind. Is this the kind of environment we are exposing our younger generations to? Should there not be some sort of civility or ‘tehzeeb’, which was once an intrinsic part of our culture, in our daily dose of wisdom which we spew unabated?

Army Chief General Bajwa rightly pointed out that 2018 would be a significant year for Pakistan. We face several challenges, not only on our borders but within, and it is important that our politicians are cognisant of this as they prepare for their political battles. It is Pakistan we should be more concerned about rather than securing the top slot by sidelining our national interests and Quaid’s vision of our country. A Pakistan where minorities are given due rights and where draconian laws are not set in stone to appease the religious right whose own ignorance and appetite for power has blinded them to the Prophet’s (pbuh) own teachings and practices. Pakistan Zindabad.

The writer is a former deputy opinion

editor at Gulf News, Dubai.

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