Six Months of PML-N Government

Courtesy: Malik Muhammad Ashraf

In view of the formidable, intractable, convoluted and debilitating challenges inherited by the PML (N) government, six months are perhaps too short a span of time to judge its achievements in concrete terms. Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that this government has shown greater determination and commitment in dealing with those issues as compared to the previous regimes. To begin with, it made a conscious decision to persist with the policy of reconciliation and accommodation designed to choreograph a new political culture attuned to the real democratic values. Unlike the crass politics of nineties it demonstrated large heartedness by honouring the mandate of other parties in Sind, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and installing a Baloch nationalist as Chief Minister in Balochistan in spite of the fact that it was in a position to form the government there.
Similarly it did not support the bid to destabilize the PPP government in the AJK. It has also made relentless efforts to keep all the political parties in the loop while firming up strategies for dealing with the situation in Karachi and Balochistn and above all orchestrated a consensus approach for dialogue with the TTP by holding APC on 9th September 2013, wherein the government was given unanimous mandate to devise an appropriate methodology in that respect. In pursuance of the mandate given by the APC the government made credible efforts to engage the TTP leadership, through intermediaries, in finding a negotiated solution to the menace of terrorism within Pakistan. And undeterred by the blow that this process received in the wake of killing of Hakimullah Masud, it persisted with giving dialogue a chance as a first priority. Reportedly the process has restarted and even the TTP spokesman has confirmed contacts with the government through Maulana Samiul Haq of JUI(S). Whether these contacts lead to a productive dialogue or not cannot be predicted at this moment but the very fact that a beginning has been made, reflects the honesty of purpose with which the government is working on the issue. A very significant aspect of pursuing dialogue as a first priority with the TTP is that the PML (N) government was successful in convincing the military leadership of the desirability of dialogue with TTP and enlisting their unqualified backing and support to this initiative. Bringing the civilian and military leadership on the same page in regards to the strategy to fight terrorism and future shape of relations with Afghanistan, abandoning the strategic depth narrative, is undoubtedly a visionary and reality-driven approach adopted by the PML(N) government.
It needs to be understood that dialogue is not the only option to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism. The government is determined to establish the writ of the state and to get rid of the menace of terrorism. Another imaginative decision of the government in this regard has been to activate the Cabinet Committee On National Security(CCNS) and giving it the status of a decision making body on matters related to national security and terrorism. This has bridged the gulf between the top civilian and military leadership that existed before and created a forum where decisions can be taken with consensus of all the stakeholders, eliminating any chances of friction between the two. The CCNS in a meeting held on 17th December formalized a strategy for national security that prioritized talks with TTP and envisaged enhanced security on the Afghan border. Another high level meeting presided by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by COAS and other high ranking military officers on 30th December, reviewed anti-terror laws and discussed ways and means to make them more receptive and effective in dealing with terrorism. The Prime Minister speaking on the occasion said that attacks on the innocent civilians and the personnel of law enforcement agencies were intolerable and the government and the military were on the same page about tackling the menace of terrorism. Given that harmony of views between civilian and military leadership on dealing with terrorism, the chances of success are surely very bright.
The resolve and strategy evolved by the government to deal with the situation in Karachi, is also showing encouraging results though the merchants of death are still active in the city. It is a wheel within wheels situation in Karachi and it would require a persistent and long term effort to bring normalcy to the city. Let there be no doubt that the forces with vested interest in the continuing turmoil in Karachi, would continue to undermine the government endeavours in this regard unless completely routed by the law enforcing agencies. The government has exhibited unswerving determination to accomplish the task and given the political will it would succeed despite the heavy odds.
The government has also made concrete and discernible efforts to surmount the energy crisis with a fair degree of success. It has added 1700MW of electricity to the system by retiring the circular debt. Work on ten coal based projects with a cumulative power production capacity of 6600 MW at Gaddani has already started. The Prime Minister performed the ground breaking ceremony of a nuclear power plant at Karachi which will be built with Chinese assistance. The plant which will be completed by 2017 will generate 2200 MW of electricity. Plans have also been set rolling to change the production mix with a view to produce cheap electricity and consequently many oil-based power plants are being converted to coal-based production units. Similarly the government is also seeking help from USA in exploiting shale gas reserves and setting up of power generating units. The completion of Neelum-Jhelum likely to produce nearly 900-MW electricity and the stalled Nandi pur project has also been fast-tracked.
The economy which showed a GDP growth rate of 3% during the last five years is also showing signs of revival and it has been claimed by the Finance Minister that the GDP growth rate during the August-October quarter stood at 5.1 per cent as compared to 2.1% during the corresponding period of the last year. IMF has also shown confidence in the structural reforms made by the government, its efforts to curtail expenditure and broadening the tax base and released the second tranche of the 6.3 billion load. Similarly the stock market has also shown bullish trends and international capital markets have also shown interest in investing in the planned issue of Euro bonds by Pakistan. Hopefully all the foregoing steps and trends set by the government will eventually winch Pakistan out of the quagmire that it is stuck into.