January issue 2019

By | Editor's Note | Published 11 months ago

As the clock struck 12, a burst of fireworks of a myriad colours lit up the skyline across the country, encapsulating the aspirations and prayers of its people for a stabler, saner and serene Pakistan.

2018 ended on a discordant note. The dream of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ seemed to be dissipating, with its principal architect and his team floundering like a pack of novices, ill-prepared to measure up to the marathon task at hand.

Six months into the job, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s economic team is still struggling to stabilise the economy with loans, grants, and deferred payments, as the dollar skyrockets and inflation hits a new high, breaking the common man’s back. Industrial units are shutting down and the level of unemployment is rising, belying the prime minister’s promises of creating 10 million jobs. And, additionally, of providing houses, gas, electricity, water, the works. However, austerity and the anti-corruption drive have taken precedence over all else. A noble aim indeed, but one that will not help boost the country’s dwindling fortunes in the near future. And to make matters worse, instead of focusing on governance issues at the centre and in the two provinces it rules, the PTI has set its sights elsewhere: Sindh, where it is attempting to dislodge the PPP government by creating a forward bloc. The party believes that the JIT report on money-laundering, implicating the top leadership of the PPP, presented to the Supreme Court (SC) recently, gives it the right to demand the resignation of the Sindh Chief Minister and engineer a political change.

A foolish move, indeed, because the PPP threatened to do the same at the centre. And given the PTI’s precarious position in the National Assembly – with a lead of only six seats and two disgruntled coalition partners, the BNP-Mengal and the MQM-P, who are raring to break loose if the PTI does not make good on its promises to them – the party could be in serious trouble.

Six months after the parliamentarians took oath, the assemblies and the Senate present the scene of a battle ground, with the opposition and treasury benches trading barbs, staging walkouts – worse, coming to blows. The business of legislation, which is the parliament’s primary task, has ground to a halt.

Casting a pall of gloom over the National Assembly is the process of accountability, which is being viewed as one-sided. With Nawaz Sharif serving a seven-year prison term in the Al-Azizia case, Shahbaz Sharif in NAB custody and the PPP leadership in danger of being convicted for money-laundering, while some PTI stalwarts who have serious charges against them roaming free, there are rumblings of discontent. However, the PTI rests secure in the knowledge that it has the backing of the judiciary and the establishment, as is always being alleged.

In a surprising development, the FIA has asked the Supreme Court to close the Asghar Khan case as there is insufficient evidence. Why, when the then DG, ISI had provided an affidavit that he had distributed money to leading politicians who were opposing the PPP in the 1990 polls? Even the Mehran Bank chief had corroborated the story. So what more does the FIA want – or more to the point, who wants the case to be dropped? Prior to being elected, Imran Khan had promised to unearth the truth behind the Asghar Khan case, from assorted forums. So will he step in and ask the SC to turn down the FIA request and punish the guilty, or will he refrain from rocking the boat?

The jury is out on that one.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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