A dif­fi­cult year

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi

The fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments were un­able to en­sure gov­er­nance to the sat­is­fac­tion of the peo­ple. There were se­ri­ous com­plaints of mis­man­age­ment, neg­li­gence and par­ti­san use of of­fi­cial dis­cre­tion and state pa­tron­age

We have reached the end of the year. This has been a dif­fi­cult year for Pak­istan be­cause of its po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­ci­etal and se­cu­rity prob­lems against the back­drop of a trou­bled re­gional en­vi­ron­ment.

The biggest achieve­ment of the year is that the dooms­day sce­nar­ios pre­dicted for Pak­istan by many in Pak­istan and out­side did not ma­te­ri­alise. These sce­nar­ios were not based on a dis­pas­sion­ate study of the in­ter­na­tional, re­gional and na­tional sit­u­a­tion. Rather, most Pak­istani ad­vo­cates of these dooms­day sce­nar­ios ex­am­ined the sit­u­a­tion from a nar­row and para­noid state of mind that de­scribed any sit­u­a­tion as hope­less if it did not fit into their no­tions of the ideal.

Pak­istan can be de­scribed as a trou­bled state whose po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and se­cu­rity prob­lems can be ad­dressed. How­ever, nei­ther will a saviour come from the Heav­ens nor will Pak­istani lead­ers be­come a replica of the no­tion of the ideal rulers de­rived from the ear­li­est pe­riod of Is­lamic his­tory. The so­lu­tion to the prob­lems lies in rais­ing the right ques­tions to im­prove po­lit­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic prob­lems, mak­ing use of the ex­pe­ri­ence of other so­ci­eties and avoid­ing clichés that do not re­spond to the chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury.

The PPP-led fed­eral govern­ment, and es­pe­cially Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari, were un­der pres­sure by the su­pe­rior ju­di­ciary and po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries. The Supreme Court (SC) judg­ment on the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Or­di­nance on De­cem­ber 16, 2009 re­opened the cases against over 2,000 peo­ple, which in­cluded 34 po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing 10-12 lead­ers from the PPP. How­ever, the whole fo­cus of the op­po­si­tion was on the PPP lead­ers and es­pe­cially on Pres­i­dent Zar­dari. The SC and the op­po­si­tion lead­ers in­sisted on the re­open­ing of cor­rup­tion cases against Zar­dari while ig­nor­ing the con­sti­tu­tional im­mu­nity from crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion af­forded to the pres­i­dent. An ap­peal is also pend­ing against the pres­i­dent in the La­hore High Court (LHC) for dis­al­low­ing the pres­i­dent to hold party of­fice. Though the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion de­bars the pres­i­dent from hold­ing an of­fice-of-profit only, the LHC is pur­su­ing the case while the lawyers from the pres­i­dent's side have with­drawn in protest at what they de­scribe as not get­ting the proper at­ten­tion of the court to their pleas.

The su­pe­rior courts have to deal with more po­lit­i­cal cases now than in the past. Most of these mat­ters should be set­tled in the po­lit­i­cal do­main or by par­lia­ment. The prin­ci­pal rea­son for the fil­ing of po­lit­i­cal ap­peals is the widely shared per­cep­tion in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles that the re­la­tions be­tween the PPP and the su­pe­rior ju­di­ciary are strained. There­fore, t he PPP ad­ver­saries are hop­ing that the su­pe­rior j udi­ciary may rep­ri­mand or em­bar­rass the PPP govern­ment, which they think could lead to a clash be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive and the ju­di­ciary, fur­ther un­der­min­ing the work­ing of the present po­lit­i­cal or­der. This also cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for the op­po­si­tion to de­mand the res­ig­na­tion of the PPP govern­ment, its pres­i­dent, or both.

How­ever, this self-cul­ti­vated hope of the PPP ad­ver­saries did not ma­te­ri­alise and the su­pe­rior courts and fed­eral govern­ment main­tained work­ing re­la­tions. The SC's de­ci­sion to ap­proach par­lia­ment for some changes in the pro­ce­dure for the ap­point­ment of judges was a good ges­ture, which par­lia­ment hon­oured by pass­ing the 19th con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment this month.

The most no­table ac­com­plish­ment was the unan­i­mous ap­proval of the 18th con­sti­tut i onal amend­ment by par­lia­ment to re­move most of the dis­tor­tions made in the 1973 con­sti­tu­tion by Gen­eral Zi­aul Haq and Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf. Prior to this, an all-party con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment com­mit­tee de­lib­er­ated for sev­eral months to pre­pare the draft bill for the amend­ment.

The fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments were un­able to en­sure gov­er­nance to the sat­is­fac­tion of the peo­ple. There were se­ri­ous com­plaints of mis­man­age­ment, neg­li­gence and par­ti­san use of of­fi­cial dis­cre­tion and state pa­tron­age. The com­plaints of cor­rup­tion and money mak­ing sur­faced in the me­dia against all gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially against the fed­eral govern­ment.

The econ­omy con­tin­ued to be a ma­jor threat to Pak­istan's sta­bil­ity. Pak­istan re­lies heav­ily on ex­ter­nal fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and re­mit­tances from over­seas Pak­ista­nis. The IMF re­struc­tur­ing pro­gramme, worth over $ 11 bil­lion, was to con­clude by the end of De­cem­ber. The Pak­istan govern­ment has re­quested for an ex­ten­sion be­cause it has failed to con­vince par­lia­ment to pass the Re­formed Gen­eral Sales Tax (RGST) this month as a con­di­tion for re­ceiv­ing the last in­stal­ment of the re­struc­tur­ing fund. This de­lay has em­bar­rassed the govern­ment at the in­ter­na­tional level. In mid-De­cem­ber, Pak­istan's ex­ter­nal debt amounted to $ 53.7 bil­lion.

The econ­omy re­ceived an ad­di­tional set­back as the floods dev­as­tated all the four prov­inces and Gil­git-Baltistan in Au­gustSeptem­ber, af­fect­ing 20.2 mil­lion peo­ple. Other losses in­cluded 1.9 mil­lion houses dam­aged and de­stroyed, 1.2 mil­lion live­stock lost (ex­clud­ing poul­try), 10,865 schools dam­aged or de­stroyed and 1,961 re­ported deaths.

Or­di­nary peo­ple were hit hard by the price hikes of all food items and es­sen­tial com­modi­ties for house­hold use. It seemed that the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments were un­able or un­will­ing to man­age the price hike. This was cou­pled with acute short­ages of sugar, wheat flour and cook­ing oil on dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions in the year. Such short­ages were manipulated by big busi­nesses, traders and in­dus­tri­al­ists, en­abling them to make a lot of money. This in­creased poverty and de­spon­dency in Pak­istan. The in­abil­ity of the govern­ment to sal­vage the econ­omy and ease eco­nomic pres­sures on the peo­ple dis­cred­ited the PPP govern­ment more than any­thing else.

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