March 21, 2013 Leave a comment
By Saeed Qureshi
The ruling partys election charter is least groundbreaking or revolutionary. It seems to be written as if to fill in the blanks with a hodge-podge of overblown objectives. Unveiled by the partys parliamentarians, the manifesto proffers a heavy load of commitments that it could not fulfill during its previous five years in power.
The manifesto was announced in English before the media, by the commerce minister Amin Fahim who himself has been involved in creepy financial scams. Makhdoom Amin Fahim is also the senior Vice Chairman of the PPP.
The parliamentarians, in tandem with Amin Fahim, espoused seven priority issues that the new government of the PPP would take-up in the first 100 days at both the federal and the provincial level. The most outstanding hallmark of the new manifesto is to raise the minimum wage ceiling of the ordinary workers to Rs. 18000 by the year 2018 which is 5 years away.
Besides, poor sections of the society would be given Roti, Kapra Aur Makan (bread, clothing and housing).This slogan is a refrain from the past. It was the central theme of the founder of the PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the eve of launching the PPP in 1967. That became the symbol and slogan of the PPP and that hugely burnished its image as the party of the downtrodden and poor.
The other salient features of the manifesto are, mass education and health, jobs for all, elimination of terrorism, and upholding and hoisting high the democratic culture. The manifesto calls for the creation of a separate province in South Punjab. Eradication of polio by 2018 is part of the newly revealed election agenda of the PPP.
The new PPP government would make the military budget accountable, ensure workers representation in the parliament, facilitate employment of women, and provide security to the minorities; it would give freedom of expression. It would also generate additional 12000 MW electricity. All this stuff is run of the mill and part of every political partys agenda.
The unveiling of the manifesto was tagged and supplemented with the achievements of the PPP government in the preceding five years. The speakers claimed providing jobs to Lakhs of people, sustaining democracy and establishment of the Counter Terrorism National Authority and passing Anti-Terrorism Law Bill.
All these sparkling promises and new lofty goals unfolded by the PPP stalwarts ring hollow. It appears that the PPP had to draft this heavily nourished menu of dainty pledges in a hurry. One would wonder and rather question that if the PPP could not offer a semblance of good governance for five years, how could it fulfill all these marvelous and high sounding undertakings in the coming five years.
However, one feather in the cap of PPP is that it resisted derailing of the bandwagon of the democracy for five years. It did so despite tough challenges and heavy stumbling hurdles, though that resistance was predominantly motivated for an urge to remain in power. Its other notable achievement is amendments in the constitution devolving due powers to the provinces.
But other than that, it has earned more flak and discredit for its misdeeds and glaring shortcomings that kept the country on the tenterhooks of an unremitting trauma. The package of reforms did not make any meaningful difference in the lives of the common man. As a matter the people of Pakistan judged the PPP leaders from their conduct which on the whole was unblemished.
From a crippling load shedding to pervasive corruption to the callous indifference in curbing lawlessness, violence and terrorism have eclipsed the meager achievements of the PPP. The PPPs high command has not given any importance to the murder of its chairman under one pretext or the other.
Of late one of the talkative stalwarts asserted that although PPP knew the names of the assassins, yet could not divulge because they were more powerful than the state and the government. If this in the level of coyness and compromise of the PPPs leaders then how could it pick up courage during the next tenure in office to take bold decisions in public and national interests.
There has been incessant and running tussle between the apex judiciary and the PPPs outgoing government for these preceding five years. From the treason trial of former president Musharraf to Memogate to rental power plants scams, to import of ephedrine, to Swiss bank case, and investigating several high profile murder cases, the government deliberately dithered and no conscious efforts were made or willingness shown to execute supreme courts orders.
All these five years, the executive has been playing hide and seek with the judiciary with regard to the implementation of the decisions of the Apex court. The obvious reason for such a devious conduct was that in these cases several PPP heavy weights were involved. The rental power plants scandal is the elephantine case in which the outgoing interim prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is the principal actor. He was ordered by the Supreme Court to be arrested yet he remained in the office.
The Benazir Income Support program (BISP) is an eyewash mega corruption project for helping the poor families or removal of the poverty. An unbelievably hefty amount of 72 billion rupees was allocated every year for distribution among the needy people. For five years it comes to staggering 350 billion rupees. No one knows where 350 billion rupees have gone and why still the poverty could not be eradicated. Had this amount been spent on building highways, new dams, bridges and power generation units, the country would have hugely benefited both socially and economically?
The blackouts, the persistent water crisis, the ramshackle transportation, the explosions, the insecurity, the robberies, extortions and a host of other crimes are driving the people crazy with no hope for a better future. The studied debilitating and destruction of Railways, PIA and several similar nation building organizations have pushed the country backward for several decades. There is a universal outcry and deep seated repugnance about the PPPs five years dismal performance not only in Pakistan but also aboard.
As such giving even a slim benefit of doubt to the PPP and voting it into power again by the electorate seems to be a far cry and a hard to achieve tall order. The PPP of today suffers from a tarnished image. On the contrary what can be surmised is that a whole litany of charges could be opened up against the respective PPP leaders, keeping them busy for pretty good time. If they slip out of the country, like Hussain Haqqani, then it would be an entirely different scenario.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.