Monday September 27, 2021

Pathetic performance

Head of PPP Media Cell

Pakistan People’s Party victory in the hotly contested by-election Karachi last week clearly established the party’s political capital was gaining momentum by leaps and bounds in the provincial capital also. On the other hand, the PTI’s plummeting of the popularity due to the bad to sickly governance was evident from the pathetic performance in the metropolis as it stood at the fifth position in the polls. It may be kept in mind that the National Assembly seat fell vacant after the ruling party National Assembly member, Faisal Vada, had to resign from the seat anticipating action against him by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The by-elections results of Karachi might also suggest that the formidable known supporters of the ruling party had maintained ‘neutrality’ in the by-elections because their imposing partiality if not highhandedness in the past were detested and probably damaged their credibility and respectability in the eyes of the people. Also, stakes were evidently not so high this time warranting push like in the Senate elections.

The tone and tenor of PML-N leadership’s statement and other leaders over the PPP candidate’s victory were anticipated to the effect of challenging the results in the Election Commission of Pakistan. Such posturing made sense after the elections defeat to keep the moral of the party workers afloat that must had been shaken because of the other party victory. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto did not made hue and cry over such statements implying that the party would accept the outcome of the Commission if wrongdoings, if any, were found as a result of the recount. Indeed, the PML-N also did well by attaining the second position and lost with small margin explicitly establishing its credentials as the national party. Winning and losing is the part of the elections that may be accepted as such with grace and dignity.

On the other hand, the miserable performance of the ruling party PTI in the by-elections indeed laid bare its unpopularity among the people who were surely terribly angry because their lives had become miserable since the incumbent government came to power. People seemingly had lost all hopes of better days during the tenure of this government and were seemingly in the mood of paying back, and indeed they did so. Rhetoric and sabre-rattling were no substitute to the realities on the ground those were indeed painful threatening the very survival of the middle and lower middle class segment of the society. The PTI leadership might be red-faced at the series of defeats in the by-elections throughout the country. The need for undergoing paradigm shift could not be overemphasised as its failed policies had no potential, whatsoever, to accrue dividends for the liking of the people. The dire straight of the economy could only be straightened out by enforcing long terms reforms in the sector. Sadly, that did not figure out in the calculations of the officialdoms. The economy was in shamble, and the series of announcements of development packages of billions of rupees for many regions might not be suffice in the eyes of the people as such packages announced earlier remained hugely unfulfilled. The root cause of the economic meltdown as pointed out recently by Farhatullah Babar, PPP Secretary General were, (a) non-combat military expenditures,(b) Reko Diq and (C) witch-hunting by NAB driving away the investors from the country. Changing of faces would not make any difference.

The bitter ground realities those warrant urgent attention are: almost double digit inflation, unemployment with 4 million job already gone, 15m more will be pushed down to the poverty line, the PM stated recently, agriculture produce—cotton and wheat, is on the wane with ghost of hunger and starvation may be lurking during the second half of this year. But, ironically, intemperate and unsavory politicking remains in surplus supply that may sadly reinforce the downward spiral of the economy in the face of government leadership’s fixation rooted in the denial syndrome. The government’s commitment with the IMF known as ‘fiscal adjustment arrangements’ entailing the generating of whooping Rs1.3 trillion revenue may unfold sufferings beyond the endurance of the people. The economy is already teetering on the brink.

Such a huge revenue generation through broadening tax net, withdrawal of lucrative subsidies, increasing of tariff on gas, electricity in particular, compelling reasons of reduction of development expenditures no more job creation resultantly, all point to the terrible scenario for the common people equating with they have not seen the worst yet. The compliance to the IMF conditionalities may push people deep into the abyss of poverty, unemployment and run-away price hike with appalling impact on the society. Ehsas social security programme and Sehat Card of the government may prove too little when seen in the context of accumulative pitfalls of IMF stringent conditionalities on the poor masses. Twisting their arms to extract money may be sheer tyranny as they have no capacity even to maintain the subsistence level. This is neither affordable nor tenable due to the exigencies of soul and body. But, who cares?

Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to stumble from crisis after crisis like sugar crisis, flour crisis, and petrol crisis including back to back out of control spiral of prices rooted in mismanagement of grotesque proportion. The government may not be absolved of its responsibility for not taking measures to counter the crisis situation as buck stops with the government table. Now, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, has sounded the alarm bell of wheat crisis later this year because wheat may disappear this year as well like the last year in May when ten million metric tonnes of the commodity could not be traced out creating flour crisis in the country. The food security in the country this time too was under threat because our strategic reserves might last only for twenty days those needed to be revamped substantially by alerting relevant authorities to stop smuggling to avert the food crisis in the country. He lamented the government for its bad policies that had slid the country from wheat exporting country to as a wheat importing country notwithstanding that Pakistan was an agriculture country. The chairman was critical of the government for not doing enough to facilitate the farmers to neutralize the impact of inflation that had adversely affected the major crops of the country with devastating consequences to the economy.

He reminded that the PPP-led government under Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Pakistan not only attained the status of food security country but also had surplus wheat to export during the first year of the PPP government. Then prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani while addressing the cabinet meeting to increase the wheat support price said, ’it is better to give money to the Pakistani farmers than to the farmers of Canada or of the USA’. It was, then decided to double the wheat support price and Pakistan attained not only self-sufficiency but also surplus was available to revamp the wheat reserves the same year. That was the level of commitment of the PPP government for the economic well-being of the farmers.

The slogan was ‘if farmer is prosperous Pakistan is prosperous if farmer is happy Pakistan will be happy’. No wonder, Pakistan agriculture based exports significantly helped to achieve the $25 billion target during the PPP led government that too without EU GPS+ facility.

Both the successive governments, PML-N and PTI had been grappling to achieve the target of export at the level of PPP with EU GPS+ facility but had not succeeded so far. How unfortunate that the economic and political mess in the country is hitting the roof today and the Damocles’ sword of FTFT may be nearer in June this year as well. The chief justice of Lahore High Court also mentioned this during the hearing of land grabbing case of ETPB. But, the corridors of power remain tone-deaf, to put it harshly.

The wheel of misfortune is also not coming to grinding halt as the COVID-19 rampage with full fury has caught the government napping. The tyranny of late epiphany of the government may be instrumental of wreaking heavy toll on the lives and livelihood of the people because of the official delayed response to stem the third surge of COVID-19,. It demands a lot of official explaining as the people in general and the experts and the representative doctors’ bodies in particular have been urging the government to impose total lockdown to contain the surge of the menace bearing lethal mutations.

The strict preventive measures should have been enforced right in the beginning after witnessing the devastation of the Indian variant in the neighbouring country. Indian health system is crumbling and may be collapsing as the relentless surge is not backing off and curve is rising with every passing day. The government should have launched vigorous hunt for the procurement of the vaccine instead of totally relying on donation from China.

The other countries also faced the situation of short supply but they managed to procure the vaccine by putting extra efforts those were duly rewarded. For example, BD managed to secure to cover 10% of its population, Nepal 47%, Sri Lanka 40%, Myanmar 31% and Indonesia 47%. Pakistan has secured only 0.4% of its population.

It speaks volumes of lackadaisical response of the government that may be unforgiving when seen the scale of infection. The traveling ban between India and Pakistan was the right action at the right time as no case of Indian variant has been found in Pakistan, according to official sources. The Sindh government, however, reportedly confirmed the Indian variants in the province which is alarming.

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