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‘NATO-PPP’ failing Pakistan again - by Abid Hasan

By Abid Hasan

Pakistan’s quest for stable and genuine democracy continues to be undermined by the pervasive ‘no action, talk only’ (NATO) culture among the Political Parties and Parliamentarians (PPP). Though the NATO label applies equally to other public functionaries, this article focuses on the role of the political system which has the ultimate responsibility for managing the country. It has been over 18 months since the new federal and provincial governments and assemblies have been in existence. Unfortunately, so far, all of these have failed to provide the vision and leadership that Pakistan needs to pull itself out of the economic, political and existential crisis.

As in the past, the majority comprising the NATO-PPP alliance has been actively jostling for power and position, for access to bullet-proof cars and taxpayer funded privileges, promoting corrupt interests, and misusing their official positions for private gains. Above all, their lavish lifestyles are a shrill contrast to both to their declared incomes and wealth, and their slogans and posturing in the assemblies. If opinions in print and electronic media are any indicator, ordinary folks are getting restless and are disenchanted by the performance of the current democratic system.

The NATO-PPP must realise that when the economically stressed and unemployed people are anxious and sullen, lunatic demagogues (for example, Hitler) can capture their fears and hopes. History shows that if middle-of-the-road politicians don’t offer a plausible story and strategy for change, crazy elements or military will gain ground even with an implausible story. For ordinary Pakistanis to support and protect democracy, which is the only way to prevent military adventurism, leaders must put their minds and hearts to addressing the substance rather than concentrating on form.

Although the responsibility to spear-head change falls on all leaders, it is the prime minister who is best placed to lead it. While politics is the art of the possible, committed and courageous leaders expand the scope of that possibility. The PM needs to realise that he has a God-given opportunity — and constitutional responsibility — to lead Pakistan out of its crisis. Speeches in the parliament and public meetings are a poor substitute for fostering fundamental reforms. The PM needs to organise and lead a welldesigned and orchestrated campaign and debate, inside and outside the parliament , to seek a national consensus on key nation-building and economic issues.

A good model to follow is the on-going debate in the US on health reforms, led by Obama. To ensure focused public debates, position/option papers would need to be prepared for each issueby task forces comprising members from all segments of the society.

Restoring the 1973 Constitution and removing Article 58 (2) (b) is long overdue.However, as the past record shows, such changes in a book – that the political class doesn’t respect or fully comprehend — would neither usher good governance nor reduce poverty or provide better services to the masses. Nor will these changes accelerate growth which is critical for reducing unemployment. For constitutional reforms to have the desired impact, other reforms are necessary.

The first matter requiring urgent attention is to put the economy on sustainable high growth track, without excessive dependence on uncertain foreign assistance. There is pressing need for economic vision and strategy that has widespread national ownership, as against strategy papers produced by donor-funded consultants for getting donor assistance. A national consensus on the key pillars of the economic strategy will enable all federal and provincial budgets, expenditure and subsidy policies, development programmes and structural reforms to be anchored in this strategy. Such a consensus would also enable agreement on the national tax strategy — that is, who should pay taxes and amount of taxes that need to be raised to accelerate growth, reduce poverty and improve delivery of basic services.

A broad-based consensus would provide to everyone long-term consistency and predictability of economic strategy and policies, as against the present band-aid and donor-driven approach. Furthermore, the ECNEC and NEC meetings are inadequate forums for building national consensus.

The second initiative, critical to the future of Pakistan, is a national consensus on the use and sharing of river and ground water. As the per capita water availability declines, with increasing population and adverse impact of climate change, without such a consensus, farmers will kill each other and provinces will fight amongst themselves. Special incentives (for example, full ownership of the Kalabagh Dam and revenues from it) could be provided to Sindh and the NWFP to induce them to agree to it. Consensus on water will also enable Pakistan to unlock its cheap hydro potential, saving Pakistan from the present unsustainable imported oil-based power generation.

Third, there needs to be a consensus on establishing genuine local governments (LGs), and rejuvenating public institutions – especially those delivering education, health, law and justice, agricultural services. Consensus needs to be developed for broad-based civil services reforms comprising actions to have leaner, accountable and performance-driven institutions, whose staff are recruited, promoted and fired through transparent, merit-based systems.

Fourth, a national consensus is needed on accountability and anti-corruption to put in place a comprehensive, strong and independent anti-corruption system, which has no exemptions and prescribes high ethical standards for the holders of public office. The pervasive ‘mitti payo’ culture has eroded all norms of accountability. While prosecuting General Musharaf for violating the constitution is an absolute must, this should be part of a broader national campaign to punish all political leaders and senior officials within the judicial, civil and military institutions who abetted — say in the last 20 years -grossly illegal actions and abused their position for personal gain. A regrettable majority of our leaders have participated in illegal and unethical practices and politicians like them would be in jail for such actions in a country like the US.

Fifth, there is a need for widespread debate and consensus on overdue changes in India-centric policies that have distorted economic and security priorities, promoted state-sponsored, Jihadi activities and led to the security establishment taking over foreign policy-making.

Sixth, we need nation-building initiatives, starting with actions to solidify the federation. While legislative actions are important, equally critical is the need for all citizens to embrace the spirit that federating units make Pakistan — and not the other way — and that extra care is needed to manage a federation comprising so many distinct ethnic and linguistic groups. Urgent actions are required to win the hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan including immediately raising PPL’s price to market prices and distributing federal government shares in PPL (equivalent to its revenues from Balochistan) free of cost to each adult resident of Balochistan, so that they get full benefits from their hydro-carbon resources; to rectify their wrongs whereby residents of Punjab and urban Sindh have disproportionately benefited for 50 years from below market priced gas from Sui; initiating an affirmative action programme for the Balochs, as was put in place in the US for Black Americans in the 60s.

There is also urgent need for several aggressive and sustained campaigns, spear-headed by political parties and not simply PTV ads, to rebuild the nation’s foundations: (i) a campaign, which involves and touches every citizen especially the youth, to rekindle the spirit of 1947 and to permanently enshrine the key messages of Quaid-Azam’s August 11 speech in the hearts and minds of the majority; (ii) a campaign to inculcate in each and every citizen – especially the political class — the importance of rule of law; (iii) an aggressive awareness-raising and enforcement campaign to establish a tolerant Pakistan by tackling hate crime and reducing the capture of state and its institutions by religious bigots and obscurants. One of the campaign’s goalwould be to motivate citizens to shun religious bigotry and identify those who promote hate crimes.

The above are huge tasks. But if no significant dent is made to address the problems of common folk and they start losing faith in the democratic system — all current signs pointing in that direction — the blame will lie squarely at the doorsteps of the NATO PPP. The political leaders and parliamentarians must get their act together, stop tinkering on the margins and focusing on the frivolous and take up the transformational challenge. Otherwise they will be swept away by either forces of darkness — as happened in Swat — or by the military when public disenchantment reaches a level whereby they welcome military intervention.

(The writer is a former operations adviser at the World Bank. Email: [email protected])

{Source: The News}

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Nation’s form and style of protesting against load shedding

July 23, Kal Tak with Javed Choudhry. Topic: Nation’s form and style of protesting against load shedding which included burning of train in Jhang, Faisalabad. Guests: Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour (ANP), Sardar Nageel Ahmed Gobol (PPP), Javed Hashmi (PML-N)

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Stock taking of PPP government

July 23: Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi, Senator Maulana Gull Nasib, Aqil Yousaf Zai and Senator Zahid Khan (ANP) in fresh episode of Capital Talk with Hamid Mir on Geo and discuss PPP governance, crisis in country, etc.

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Musharraf’s future in Judiciary’s hands

Jul 23 episode of Islamabad Tonight with Nadeem Malik: Haroon Rasheed (Columnist), Orya Maqbool Jan (Columnist) and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (Minister for power, PPP) discuss pathetic state of electric power system in the country and its political implications, present and future.

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Discussion on Musharraf’s summon by SC

July 22: Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan, Riaz Khokar, Hasan Abbas and Javed Hashmi discuss Supreme Court’s summon notice to Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf on Capital Talk with Hamid Mir.

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Brewing civil disobedience in country?

July 21 Capital Talk- Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed (Pres AML), Khush Bakhat Shujaat (MQM), Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah (PPP) and Irfan Siddiqui (Columnist) discuss with Hamid Mir on Geo on load shedding, brewing civil disobedience, water shortage, etc.

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Tariq Ali: I’ve never been so depressed about Pakistan

July 21 Islamabad Tonight with Nadeem Malik: Tariq Ali, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed JUI-F, Sen Mir Hasil Baloch NP, Sen Abdul Rahim ANP participate in hot topics: Swat Ops, Balochistan insurgency, Pashtun insurgency.

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Plight of Governance, Judiciary’s role

July 20: Hasan Nisar (Columnist), Ansar Abbasi (Analyst), Dr. Safdar Abbasi (PPP) and Saleh Zafar (Sr. Journalist), Dr Safdar Abbasi(PPP) in fresh episode of Meray Mutabiq and discuss with Shahid Masood post-rain plight in Karachi, lack of governance.

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What type of Governance we have: Parliamentary, Presidential or none

July 20: Islamabad Tonight with Nadeem Malik: Khawaja M. Asif (PML-N), Saleem Bukhari (The News), Sen Pervaiz Ashraf (PML-N) and Syed Khurshid Shah (PPP) discuss with Nadeem Malik PM Gilani’s statement that he’s not sure what type of government there is: Parliamentary, Presidential or none of them.

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What happened on Jul 20 2007

July 20: Hamid Mir on Capital Talk discusses with Ch Aitzaz Ahsan (Legal Expert) on the importance of July 20 when 2 years back CJ Ifitkhar and other deposed judges were restored..

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How friendly is the opposition and why?

July 19, Meray Mutabiq: Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (PML-N), Irfan Siddiqui (Analyst) and Brig (R) Imtiaz Ahmed (Ex-DG IB), discuss friendly and docile opposition, PPP’s governance, etc..

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Hillary Clinton stays at Taj hotel

Shamshad Ahmed Khan (Ex-Foreign Secy), Gen (R) Roedad Khan (Analyst), Akram Sheikh (Lawyer) participate in July 18 episode of Meray Mutabiq and talk with Dr Shahid Masood Hillary Cinton’s visit to India.

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