Tuesday 14 August 2012
Last Update 14 August 2012 1:05 pm
The PPP-led coalition government has completed over four years of its mandated five-year term and it is perhaps the right time to conduct an appraisal of its achievements during this period.
To evaluate and judge the performance of any government within a specified time-span, it is imperative to look at it in comparison to the challenges that it was confronted with. The challenges that PPP inherited were formidable and intractable. The country faced an existentialist threat from the snowballing phenomenon of terrorism and religious extremism. Balochistan was seething with unprecedented political turmoil. The constitution had lost its soul due to the aberrations introduced by the dictatorial regime.
The reinstatement of the deposed judiciary and constitutional and administrative complexities in this regard needed to be resolved amicably. Provinces and the federal government had severe differences over the distribution of resources out of the Federal Divisible Pool and the issue of provincial autonomy.
The economy was in a shambles, marred by food shortages, power crisis, rising unemployment and burgeoning poverty. Undoubtedly tackling these challenges required prophetic vision, unswerving political will, rock solid commitment and honesty of purpose.
That arguably was not an enviable situation for a representative government to land into. But four years on, it can look back with great satisfaction for having succeeded in resolving some of the major issues, mitigating the threats to the integrity of the country and setting right directions with regard to other challenges. As regards the threat posed by terrorism, the government has successfully halted the advance of the demon. Swat is a ranting example of the success story where the flag of Pakistan has been rehoisted, IDPs repatriated to their homes and the destroyed infrastructure has been reconstructed with the help of the army. The military campaigns against the terrorists in South Waziristan and Malakand Division have also effectively broken the back of the terrorist elements. Although the war has not been won yet, the government is striving to take it to its logical end with unflinching determination.
Through the passage of the 18th Amendment, the constitution has been restored to its original shape and the provinces given the much-demanded provincial autonomy which is a big leap toward good governance. The task was arduous, intricate, and highly sensitive from the political perspective. But the perseverance, determination and spirit of reconciliation shown by the government amicably resolved some of the most contentious issues. It was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a sitting president willingly abdicated his powers to Parliament and the prime minister.
The process of devolution of powers to the provinces has already been completed. The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has been widely hailed by all the stakeholders as a momentous and epoch making achievement of the government. The Nineteenth Amendment, carried out to accommodate the observations of the judiciary on the mode of appointment of judges prescribed in the Eighteenth Amendment and the Twentieth Amendment to ensure Independent Election Commission and the mode of appointment of caretaker setups to oversee the elections, are other marvels of the spirit of reconciliation that deserves unqualified accolades.
On the Balochistan issue also, the government has shown remarkable flexibility and political will by redressing some of the nagging and long outstanding grievances of the province and initiating a process of reconciliation through its “Aghaze Haqooqe Balochistan” initiative. Although the nationalists have their reservations about the package and their response is characterized by the bitterness of the past, the initiative has certainly provided a platform on which to build the edifice of trust. In deference to the wishes of the people of Balochistan, the decision by the Musharraf regime to convert the B areas into A has been reversed. Ten thousand educated youth of Balochistan have been provided jobs and 10,000 have been taken as internees. Well over 5,000 youth have been recruited in the army. To further the process of reconciliation in the province, the government has decided to give amnesty to the Baloch leaders outside the country. President Zardari has also shown his willingness to meet the estranged Baloch leaders and the Prime Minister is feverishly working to convene any APC on Balochistan to find an amicable solution to this festering phenomenon.
The power crisis that the government inherited was another formidable challenge as it was adversely affecting the lives of the people and pummeling the economic edifice of the country. The government accorded top priority to the resolution of this problem and has been able to add 3500 MW of electricity to the system. The PPIB reportedly has initiated work on 39 multiple fuel power projects having a cumulative capacity of 10211 MW which will be commissioned between 2009-2017. Thirteen IPPs with 2487 MW of power generation capacity have already achieved financial close and started construction. A number of projects have also been kicked off to exploit Thar Coal Reserves. In the Hydel power sector as well, PPIB is seized of 17 projects with a cumulative capacity of 5025 MW. Work on Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Power Project has also been started.
Although the major focus of the government has been on tackling the above problems, it did not lose sight of improving the lot of the downtrodden masses and tackling the menace of poverty. It launched Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) under which Rs.85 billion have been disbursed to four million poor families. The scheme has not only been appreciated by the World Bank, UK and Asian Development Bank, but they have also provided financial and technical support for it.
Waseela-e-Haq Initiative and the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme giving 12% share of the state-owned industrial enterprises and the launching of Benazir Green Tractor Scheme for the small farmers, are some of the other steps that are likely to have far-reaching and healthy impact on the social, economic and political landscape.
Not only that, the government has also amicably handled the rehabilitation of the flood affected people and in collaboration with the provincial governments has distributed Rs.29 billion among them. In the budget for 2011-2012 the government allowed unprecedented relief — 50% as ad hoc allowance to the government employees besides raising pensions by 20%. For the first time the pensioners were also given medical allowance.
Grant of self-rule to Gilgit-Baltistan is a huge step toward self-rule and empowerment of the people of the area that will accelerate the process of development in the region. With regard to emancipation of women, particularly protecting them against centuries old detestable practice of domestic violence and safeguarding their fundamental rights as equal citizens, the government has promulgated the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. It is for the first time that the shackles of this social taboo have been undone and the issue brought out of the four walls of the home into the main social stream.
On the economic front also, the government has taken some tough decisions to rectify the maladies afflicting the economy, without caring for the political fallout. The imposition of RGST despite stiff opposition by the political forces on the other side of the divide and expanding the tax net by shifting focus on direct taxes with a view to protecting the poorer sections of society from the adverse effects of spiraling prices, represent a positive paradigm shift in the management of the economy that could rightly be described as a pioneering initiative toward self-reliance and sustainable growth.
The judiciary has been restored and media enjoys unfettered freedom of expression, which is ungrudgingly acknowledged by all the stakeholders. There is no political prisoner in the country; yet another unprecedented happening considering the politics of vendetta that has marred the development of democratic institutions in the country. The resolution of the issue of net hydel power profit for NWFP and Gas development surcharge to Balochistan amounting to Rs.120 billion over a period of 12 years pertaining to the period from 1954 to 1991, are also unprecedented and imaginative measures of the PPP government in the context of promoting national harmony and integration.
In the domain of foreign relations also, a discernible change is evident in conformity with the emerging geopolitical realities. The government is revisiting its relations with US. The major emphasis is now on improving and strengthening relations with the neighboring and other regional countries like China, Russia, Afghanistan and India. These measures will have a decisive, far-reaching and positive impact on the social, political and economic profile of the country besides improving international image of the country, which must be honestly acknowledged and narrow political considerations should not be allowed to overshadow or obscure their significance in the process of nation building.
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