Tabdeeli in August

August seems to be a month for political action and possible change


Kamal Siddiqi July 24, 2016
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

August seems to be a month for political action and possible change. There are breaking of political alliances and a return to dharnas in the coming month. Maybe more is in store. 
Imran Khan has announced plans for party members to stage a sit-in outside NAB headquarters in order to push the body to go after the PM on the issue of the Panama Papers. So far, the situation has been under control of the powers-that-be through postponements and recesses. The PML-N and its allies, some of whom are also directly or indirectly named, are happy to slow-track the process. Parliament has lost its way in the ToRs.
Not Imran Khan though. Stung by poor showing in the AJK elections, the PTI is spoiling for some action.
To set the scene, Dr Tahirul Qadri has arrived in Pakistan. He is at his best gathering supporters. PAT seems to have smelt blood. But in the past, too, both PTI and PAT tried their best.
The difference of course this time is that the PPP has said it may join in. Bilawal Bhutto, who appears to have taken some charge, is upset over what he sees is rigging in the AJK election. He says he is in the mood for a confrontation.
During the 2014 dharna, the PPP and other parties had stayed away from the action. Now, the scene has changed.

After a 40-day break, our PM has finally returned home. From his political statements it seems he is not too worried over how things are shaping up. His party’s showing in the AJK elections has buoyed his sentiments. While we know traditionally that the ruling party in Islamabad ends up making the government in AJK, this time round there was some hope that the cycle will be broken. It was not to be.
Now we look at the future. Many are worried about how things will shape up in the coming months. Political uncertainty has always been an issue for investors in Pakistan. Our economy has performed very well in the past year. Will it be affected by the political climate?

Sensing sentiments of investors, the government has started to give concessions and exemptions to some favoured quarters. It will use all at its disposal to ensure that the business lobby is kept happy.
But the government does not seem to have a long-term strategy to deal with its detractors. It has little to show for. There is a lot of criticism on how it has managed the country. On the issue of governance, it continues to fall short of expectations. Its record on fighting corruption has been disappointing and what we have seen is that most of what it has delivered has been in Punjab only.

There is growing anger, as has been the case in the past, with the prime minister, but it seems all the criticism does not bother him. At least till now. Things are changing in the home province and this is uncomfortable for the ruling party.
There is pressure for action against militant groups that have been operating with impunity with bases in South Punjab. As the army draws in for a clean-up, we can see reluctance on the part of the ruling party to move at the same pace as these groups are in some cases also political allies. Who can forget Shahbaz Sharif’s appeal to the TTP some years back to spare Punjab?

Crime too has reached new heights. While Lahore and Raiwind stay safe, the rest of the province has seen a rise. Some of this has to do with the patronage extended by politicians allied to the ruling party. They have not been kept in check and given a free hand. The politics of patronage is thriving.

The question is how the next couple of months will fare for the ruling party. There are challenges from many sides. Political allies are drifting away. The establishment is unhappy. People are frustrated with reading about the mismanagement and corruption that plagues the government. So far the prime minister has not shown his cards. In the past, we have seen that the government acted very late. But due to a change in circumstances it was saved. One wonders whether the same will happen this time round as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2016.

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COMMENTS (5)

oats | 5 years ago | Reply I don't think most Pakistanis will want the phoney Tabdeeli of Imran Khan. They will prefer the real Tabdeeli of safety and improved economy of Nawaz Sharif which is why PML N won elections in AJK.
Parvez | 5 years ago | Reply @Humza: I don't need International Rating Agencies to tell me what I can see with my own eyes and experience every time I go out........let me remind you that these very same agencies gave the US banking sector ( huge sector by any standards ) .... a big thumbs up in 2008. What followed is history.
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