The uncelebrated milestone of Nawaz Sharif’s government

Mansoor Jafar
Mansoor Jafar
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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s third government has completed 100 days in power yesterday, but without any popular public applause as he has failed to bring any promised economic relief, instead choosing to impose further heavy taxes.

His rollercoaster-like style of governance during the first three months suggests he is in much haste to outdo his predecessor, Asif Zardari, who has been dubbed as the most corrupt and accursed politician Pakistan has ever had. Under Zardari’s rule, prices of essential commodities reached record heights while corruption, lawlessness, crimes and killings also soared.

Although Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, enjoys a decisive majority in parliament and support from allied parties, his performance in the first 100 days was a stark contrast to the public expectations he had himself created with his electoral promises.

As a result, he is drawing unusually large amounts of criticism both from opponents and the general public, and is set to surpass Zardari’s notoriety.

Sharif’s rule so far has been nothing but a continuation of the corrupt and capitalist policies by his predecessors, especially those implemented by the regime of the outgoing Zardari-led Pakistan People’s Party. Interestingly, Zardari’s regime had carried on with 99 percent of the policies employed by his predecessor, [retired] General Pervez Musharraf, who is also a strong contender for his successor’s dubious legacy.

As far as the promised relief to the people from price hikes, power shutdowns and lawlessness is concerned, Sharif is moving at a snail’s pace, accomplishing almost nothing. Even his supporters argue that his failure is not because of lack of experience. Most of his team is comprised by veteran stalwarts who remained with him for over two decades. Perhaps his cabinet members have become too “old” and “tired” to make any difference now.

Unfortunately, Sharif has squandered all the golden chances he had to bring promised changes. When he took charge 100 days ago, he had everything needed to achieve success; a decisive majority, a clear mandate, and above all, his tall electoral promises which earned him electoral victory. He also had the support of the media and the superior judiciary.

But to the dismay of anxious Pakistanis, he kept all of Zardari’s policies going and went back on his promise to recover plundered public money from previous corrupt rulers and to bring an end to power outages within six months.

Sharif’s rule so far has been nothing but a continuation of the corrupt and capitalist policies by his predecessors

Mansoor Jafar

Even worse were the new taxes Sharif imposed, in addition to the raising of petrol and electricity prices as part of the IMF’s preconditions for obtaining fresh foreign loans, thus going back on his other promise of “breaking the beggar’s bowl” before the world and achieving self-sufficiency.

But Sharif is smart enough to give any timeframe or date of ending blackouts, something which kept Zardari’s regime in the dock during its entire tenure. Nawaz Sharif said that the load-shedding (intentionally engineered electrical power shutdowns) issue would be solved before the end of his government’s term, i.e. the load shedding would surely continue for the next five years.

He also gave away a huge sum of $5 billion to private power-producing companies in the name of ending circular debt, but the debt was still there and the load-shedding became even worse despite giving away such a big amount to multinational companies from the public’s pocket.

Sharif is protecting the corruption of former rulers and influential capitalists in the name of following the policy of reconciliation. He is taking the reconciliation process higher than democracy itself. No doubt, reconciliation with opposition parties like the PPP is a good democratic gesture, but it must not be done at the cost of sacrificing justice and accountability.

Despite all the crises the nation is passing through, Sharif has not yet given up his habit of king-like arbitrary (often dictatorial) decision-making and lavish spending on his luxurious lifestyle. Media has taken him on for his proposed plan of a new city in Islamabad, of which the land is expected to be the most expensive in the entire world.

Though his cabinet has covered it up under a plan of developing an economic zone for the Capital city Development Authority, the secrecy of the plan made everything suspicious and media smelled a rat. The multi-billion dollar proposed city project would also include a new airport, a 10 km long tunnel across the mountains, ring roads around the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and a ten lane motorway to connect the new and old Islamabad.

Members of his cabinet say the project would bring Dubai-style motorways, and shopping centers to Pakistan. But such luxurious developments would bring no change for common Pakistanis. The Pakistan Muslim League’s party leaders must keep in mind that roads and buildings alone did not result in the enviable developments in Dubai and other states in the UAE.

Sharif is perhaps also unaware that Dubai rulers did not put the financial burden on their people for building roads and malls.

Sharif, who was recently criticized for donning a multi-million dollar wristwatch, has been refraining from enforcing Dubai-like governance in the country or following Dubai’s industrial model. His plans seem out of place for a poor country like Pakistan, where he has also avoided enforcing ‘e-governance’ in Pakistan.

If he ever succeeds in pushing up an economy by imposing more taxes, it would be the achievement of the people and not his own. He must keep in mind that he should follow the principles of democracy and not the achievements of democratic countries he envies. If he followed in the footsteps of rulers of other countries without keeping in mind the realities on the ground in Pakistan, it would bring disaster for the country.

If he ever succeeds in pushing up an economy by imposing more taxes, it would be the achievement of the people and not his own.

Mansoor Jafar

Pakistan’s former rulers must be subjected to strict accountability, since they are the ones who pushed the country to a state where criminals such as petty thieves, muggers, extortionists and terrorists are coming out from every city and town. Accountability is not mere revenge or victimization, but it is a requirement for absolute justice and the enforcement of law.

No doubt, Sharif has a small number of people clapping for his achievement during the past three months, like winning a majority of seats in by-elections, bringing in a fellow loyalist as the country’s president, and setting a unanimous mandate of all parties and the military leadership to negotiate with the Taliban to end terrorism and insurgency.

His rule could become worse than Zardari’s if, amidst receiving congratulations from supporters, he forgets to hold the corrupt accountable, punish the criminals and provide relief to the poverty-stricken masses who brought him into power with the hope of him making their dreams come true.

Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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