Sunday January 23, 2022

Translate overdue commitments

February 22, 2021

The prime minister was pleased to wow a couple of years ago, with follow up reassurances for some time, of creating one crore jobs for jobless, vowed of building 50 lakhs houses for the homeless, vowed of ending corruption that had eaten into our vitals, vowed of providing affordable and quality utility services indiscriminately, vowed tsunami entailing planting of billions of trees, vowed of delivering quality health and educations services, vowed of bringing down prices of food items, and not the least, vowed of bringing billions of dollars of black money stashed in foreign banks. What has happened on the ground after more than two years could not be starker as it had proved all as a damp squib.

The fulfillment of promises remained unfulfilled with big margin resulting in sense of betrayal among the masses against the government leadership. There may not be a bit of an exaggeration that obtaining situation as has been unfolding may surely heading to from bad to worse with the passage of time. The indicators of the political economy may sadly bear witness to this bitter reality. More than 4 million may have lost jobs, around ten million people may be pushed below the poverty line, and inflation spiral is out of control, debt trap galloping limited financial resources of the country due to debt payment obligations. The quantum of debt of the present government evidently suggests the violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act with impunity. Regretfully, people have been undergoing through the hell of long night of sufferings. They are seemingly not prepared to give benefit of doubt to the incumbent ruling party anymore. Their decrying has not been heeded to yet. But their moment may not be far off because tyranny is not tenable. When their moment comes then no power can stop them to take the destiny in their own hands. Urgent course-correction may not be overemphasised.

The provincial assembly elections held last week in Karachi and the subsequent by-elections in the country may open the eyes of ruling party clearly suggesting that the hallucinate power may not be prepared anymore to carry on the burden of mechanized fortune for a longer period of time. The elections might be semantic of the plummeted political capital of the ruling party attributed to its bad governance mired in combative politicking-- hurling insults on other thus queering the pitch to its utter disadvantage. The election was won by the PPP candidate with huge margin while the (PTI) candidate trailed behind in third position losing his security money. It may be indicative of the fact that the wind is now blowing against the ruling party rather ironically with faster speed. It means the people have run out of their patience with the government and its policies as they have been pushed in the ally of abject poverty, spawning unemployment, and crippling inflation threatening their very survival. The indicators of their bitterness have been increasingly surfacing on the political horizon of the country. The perverse sense of hopelessness and depredation is upping the resentment of the people against the government policies and its leadership with the plausibility of its busting any time sooner. This is time for serious introspection on the part of ruling elite as government policies have seemingly not only failed but indeed are instrumental of biting the masses the hardest. Their hopes of better days in the foreseeable future may have faded away altogether after witnessing the completion of inconsequential half tenure of the PTI government. Honestly, it is difficult to find the people claiming better off, of course, with the exception of die-hard PTI supporters.

The series of protests like of government employee, paramedic staff, teachers associations, trade unions, industrial workers, the farmers community including many others have become routine indicative of the frightening unrest among the people tipping over the edges. The longest protest of the families of the disappeared persons has been bedeviling the image of the state institutions globally as well as locally as Pakistan was one of the signatories of international conventions committing the cause of human rights. The leadership may put the ear on the ground and listens to the thumping of the feet of the protestors and their agonies to mend the ways lest the situation may deteriorate beyond recognition.

The repetition of vow mantra may end now to translate the commitments into fulfillment that is surely lagging far behind as per perception hanging in the air assuming almost crescendo. The perception may not be misplaced as the miseries of the people have increased manifold whichever angel we look at. Unemployment has been on the rise as the job market has been shrinking perennially. The government’s inertia looks like conducting itself as a bystander and cannot do anything about. The Transparency International (2021) report had squarely ripped apart the corruption narrative to shreds of the ruling party. It was worse as compared to previous PPP and PML-N governments. The building of 50 lakhs houses have seemingly been reduced to the construction of limited number of ‘shelter homes’ in some urban centers equating to the sleight of hand. Inflation along with the repeated rising of tariffs on electrify, gas and petrol, have hugely reduced the real income of the poor people who are indeed baffled as why the government is on the mood of taking revenge on them. These are dangerous feelings, and the ruling party may understand that the threshold of their patience may run out sooner than later. The revision of the political strategy in sync with democratic practices is the dire need because clinching to tested policies may reinforce the same narrative. The overwhelming majority of population may surely be fed up and their endurance level is boiling out of the edges. The government’s claim of the economy is on track indeed add insult to the injury of the people. The new agreement with the (IMF) is likely to put break to the projected growth in some sectors attributed to massive subsidies to the textile and manufacturing sectors and lower interest rate. The IMF must have twisted the arm of the government to withdraw these stimuli to carry on whatever growth is possible on sustainable basis. We may see the compliance of the IMF conditionalities in the not too distant future. The rising of the price of ghee at the rate of Rs30 last week in one stretch may suggest more such desperate measures in the offing.

The other important event was the inauguration of tree plantation campaign (2021) by the prime minister in Lahore in which he had reiterated that the billions tree tsunami would be carried out to address the climate issues of the country on pro-active basis. The timing was ironic because Lahore denizens had been breathing the most polluted air that was the cause of multiple diseases reducing the life expectancy to eleven years in the metropolis, the prime minister pointed out. The situation was equally bad in Peshawar and Karachi as compared to other urban centers.

He abhorred the destruction of the forests of the country by the timber mafias in connivance with the officialdoms. He also reiterated that the tree plantation campaign throughout the country would continue to increase the forest cover of the country that is at present around 5%, far below the accepted international standards of 25% for sustainable development. Unfortunately, the prime minister did not quantify his statement regarding the level of success of the one billion tsunami trees campaign in KPK. However, media reports do mention the investigations are underway of the misuse of the allocated funds. Such media reporting had indeed soured the campaign that was otherwise an excellent initiative even if it had been met with even halfway success. The tall promise of rest of nine billion trees tsunami during the rest of the tenure seems day dreaming utterly devoid of common sense and logic. The government spokesmen may spring into action to apprise the people, eloquently and unequivocally, of the scale of the success, if any, of the tsunami tree plantation since its launching.

The PPP-led government in Sindh province had done wonderful job by doubling the mangrove forest along the coastal line of Sindh since 2008, and winning three international prestigious awards in recognition of the provincial government’s rewarding endeavors. It would surely go a long way in preserving the Indus Delta and enforcing the degree of balance in the ecosystem ensuring the livelihood of millions of people of the province of Sindh in particular. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, while appreciating the successful efforts of the Sindh Department of Forest, disclosed that doubling of the mangrove forests in the province was a monumental success. The mangrove forests are essential to save and flourish marine life that was on the wane due to the worst exploitation of the resources without taking into account their replenishment, preservation and development. The livelihood of the millions of people, who had been living there since many generations, will also attain longevity on sustainable basis. The government of Sindh has been actively executing the tree plantation campaign in other cities of the province as well with the same level of commitment. Doubling the mangrove forests entailing billions of trees may be an enviable achievement for the country that would greatly help to contains the sea erosion and flooding of the regions.