Monday September 27, 2021

Egregious mess

Head of PPP Media Cell

Opposition may be grappling to recover its political ground because of the fissures within-- the ruling party‘s neck may be between sword and block as the ‘Tareen Group’ seemingly waiting for the wag of a finger to do the bidding, the establishment is seemingly looking over the shoulders wondering what to do --- and the law enforcement agencies and judiciary may be dithering in the aftermaths of the infringement of fundamental rights of the targeted citizens by the state and non-state actors.

The freedom of speech and media has been subjected to brazen stifling since this government came to power. The recent two incidents of life threatening attacks on the journalists may be enough to drive the point home.

The domestic and international representative organisations have been crying horse against the tyranny, but to no avail so far. The egregious mess right across the board is abhorrently diabolic in nature that has been tightening its stranglehold around the nation’s soul without the fleeting moments of reprieve.

Unexpected hyper political activities are normal than exception in this country. The run-of the budget (2021-22) may unfold telling times` on the offing for the government party.

This seems plausible as the ruling party is increasingly looking as a house divided against itself that may embrace an ill-fate because a house divided against itself cannot withstand for longer period of time.

Chaudhry Nisar’s sky diving into the arena of Punjab Assembly may not be explained in isolation. It sounds intriguing for the ruling party and its coalition partners with Jahangir Tareen Group already in the political ring. It may be recalled that Jahangir Tareen has been facing charges of manipulation of sugar price in the country. The cudgel of the group, consisting 43 members of the provincial and the National Assembly, may not be wished away.

With that decisive numerical strength the group is in a position to rock the boat or keep it afloat with the political clout it is in possession of. It may also be true that the group will not make any move without the nod of the hallucinate power. However, Jahangir Tareen is most likely get the ‘justice’ as per the demand of the group.

The chief minister of Punjab has already greased the palm of the dissident members by approving the development funds and also transferring the police officers measuring up to the demand of ‘justice’.

The mockery of justice indeed. The senior FIA officer investigating the case against Jahangir Tareen had also been replaced in sync of the ‘justice’. So, ‘the wheels of justice are moving slowly but steadily’ to cater for the demands of the group while relegating the credible accountability to the back burner.

The shrouded mystery over the political horizon may get clear during the budget session or after it entailing whether the establishment is in mood of pulling the rug from underneath the feet of the government, or let the merry go round and round without pause equating with the tale told implying nothing. The group though has repeatedly maintained that they were part of the PTI and were not in favour of changing of the guards.

Their resolve to continue to support the government notwithstanding they had established a distinct entity within the party seemingly touches the bounds of skullduggery. Its confidence clearly demonstrated it derived the strength not from the party. Its members boasting about in the full glare of media and public without the fear of the backlash form the ruling party leadership solidified the perception of its special links with the powerful.

The news and views gave credence to the image heavily hanging in the air. The grandstanding seemed real and not mere the sleight of hand because the establishment might surely be holding the strings of the group. The tone and tenor of the group is mind-boggling suggesting the very obvious. The group, as such, would faithfully comply with at the wag of a finger from the quarters. It had been seemingly brought to fore either to intimidate the ruling party with wrapped warning to mend its ways, or be ready to face the inevitable. Time will tell as how the political development unfolds during the foreseeable future. However, toying with the future of the democracy by the unauthorised forces may be deemed as disappointing at whichever angel one looks at.

There is perception that the establishment is not happy with government’s performance especially in the domestic front as people have been left in the blind ally of unemployment, inflation and abject poverty, and prognosis of turnaround continue to be bleak in the future.

The economic indicators continue to be startling with predictable unenviable consequences. The latest attempt of the government to project the GDP growth at 4% seems too good to be true suggesting fudging of the figures. The ensuing heated controversy was hardly surprising. This official projection may boomerang when scrutinized through the prism of entire perspective of prevailing ground realities of the economy. The economists and the experts have highlighted the incompatibility of the projected GDP figures. These should be at play in tandem for being intertwined and interdependent. For example the GDP growth had been worked out on the basis of old and controversial population figures while the actual population of the country is around 220m. This may amount to an attempt of misinforming the people, an abomination. Likewise, the consumption of energy in the industrial sector is another mismatch that approximately declined to 20% in the sector during the period. The incessant decline in the FDI also indicates the credibility gap between the official claim and the facts on the ground. The World Bank, IMF, and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) projections are around 2% growth of the economy.

The government may surely face the poignant credibility issue if the figures of the government are comprehensively rebutted by statistics before the announcement of the budget of the next financial year, or by the report of the SBP in September this year. The resultant mea culpa will be fatal blow to the standing of the government as collateral.

The opposition may also spring into action after the jolt due to the collapse of the PDM alliance because of the differences among the component parties on the question of resignations from the assemblies and the scheduled long march against the government. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto made it abundantly clear to take the ‘selected government’ head on in opposing the IMF dictated budget at all forums.

The PDM meeting last Saturday also announced the protest rallies in the country to expose the government’s failed policies and sickly governance. Undoubtedly, the sudden fragmentation of the opposition alliance resulted in windfall for the ruling party skirting the threat to the government that was imminent. The prime minister was so overwhelmed that he gave instructions to the government ministers to focus on deliverance because, ‘PDM does not matter anymore’. Both the major political parties, PPP and PMLN, need to take holistic stock of the obtaining political situation while according primacy to the constitutional rule with the underpinnings of civilian supremacy as the shared commitment.

People across the country were really saddened over the political gulf between the two major parties and sincerely wished that they should launch joint struggle for the restoration of democracy that had been hijacked by the ruling party in 2018 rigged elections. The PMLN leadership should have not given unguarded statements earlier for the sake of unity in the folds of the opposition keeping in mind the aspirations of the people demonstrated during the huge public rallies under the PDM forum. It was encouraging that Bilawal Bhutto highlighted the ideological basis of the PPP in his statement articulating that it would be the underpinning of struggle of the party for bringing about constitutional rule in the country.

The post budget scenario next month may create opportunity for the government and the opposition alike to win the popular support or lose their sympathy depending on as how the people react to the new budget (2021-22). The release of Economic Survey of Pakistan just before the budget speech of the finance minister may set the tone because it will reflect the performance of the government during the financial year (2020-2021). It may surely give huge mileage to the opposition to build its political capital by spotlighting the poor performance of the government.

The people are privy to the facts based on their own bitter experience of rising prices of food items, unemployment and abject poverty making their day-to-day life miserable. The common perception of the budget among the people will count in the final analysis as they are at the receiving end. They are really very angry due to the sufferings they have been going through since 2018. If the budget triggers protest in the country then the government will be on the defensive and the bleeding of the political standing may be the foregone conclusion. However, if the government manages post-budget maelstrom successfully, the chances of that may be minimum, it may reap the proportionate political dividends.

The prospects of giving tough time to the government in absence of united opposition may not be as bright as these should be. The need for the unity on fundamentals-- constitutional rule and the supremacy of Parliament-- may not be over emphasized.

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