Taking responsibility

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 –


Ali Ashraf Khan

TAKING responsibility for failures is not very much in vogue anywhere in the world. That is why the saying is that ‘Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan’. In politics this rule might be even more common than elsewhere. It is not very surprising that the current government of Nawaz Sharif has come under critique not only by the political opposition the job description of which is to be critical of government policy but even by people who were putting some hope in this government.

The government had set out to achieve ‘change’ in two major fields; one was economy, especially energy crisis and secondly in the security field, with the central project of talking to the Taliban. After one year in office the signs are dismal for any improvements on either subject. Economy-wise the second budget of this government again has failed to care for the poor of Pakistan and is trying to create economic growth by pampering the rich of the country, while the much needed jammed wheel of national productivity could not be given a jump-start as was expected from a Prime Minister coming from business background. Take the figures of textile made-ups export that is declining every month as compared to the corresponding period of last year, input cost of utility services is on the rise destroying the marketing competitive edge for exports, national infrastructure is dilapidating day by day.

Agriculture that is considered as backbone of any agrarian economy is badly neglected due to vested interest of multinational corporations agents manoeuvring government policies, fear is that like India our mangoes export to EU and UK will also come under embargo as UK’s food department has found our recently exported shipment infested with fruit flies; where was our Plant Protection department? That is now advising growers in Sindh and Punjab to arrange hot water treatment facility on their orchards. Irrigation system is getting obsolete no programme of bhal safai of river – and canal beds has been undertaken for years. Growers are at the mercy of commission agents who are undervaluing the produce and eating the cake themselves.

Energy crisis has worsened if anything which is because of bad governance and failed policy of neglecting root causes of the crisis like line losses, corruption and circular debt: We all remember the rushed and thoughtless paying of circular debt by the new government without tackling the root cause of its existence which has led to a new circular debt and a loss of millions of rupees. Circular debt can be attributed to political interference in Wapda like other departments: during Ziaul Haq regime a famous joke about Wapda was when a villager came to meet his friend who worked in Wapda House, he was allowed in after body search at main gate he went around every door reading the name plates on ground floor then first till 7th floor in this round shaped building and then he came back on the main gate and asked security staff that I had come to visit WAPDA House but you have sent me in GHQ building. Since 1974 when the Tarbella mishap took place we are only utilizing 30% of our water resources for hydel power generation, which costs under a rupee per unit but our successive rulers are criminally patronizing IPP’s and RPP’s and present one’s are announcing Coal fired power houses from China, when China is planning to convert its power generation on gas purchased from Russia to come in line with requirement of laws being framed on global warming to contain carbon emission. All the megaprojects that Nawaz Sharif is initiating will bear fruit –if at all- after many years and their success will also depend on the security situation in the country.

That brings us to the security situation in Pakistan that has seen a dramatic change to the worse in recent time. So much so that even after almost a year of ‘operation’ in Karachi security is so much under threat that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised diplomats and international organizations to restrict their movement in Karachi over security reasons. The attack on the Karachi airport, the firing at a PIA aircraft in Peshawar and the refusal of landing in Islamabad for a scheduled commercial airliner of Emirates has resulted in several international airlines shunning Pakistan which is not only a loss of prestige but will bring hardship for Pakistanis to travel abroad and foreigners visiting Pakistan and after Eid commencement of Hajj operations from Peshawar.

The ongoing military operation in the tribal areas of Pakistan has another security related outfall with the fear and probability of terrorist attacks rising. And finally, the talks of the government with the Taliban – a pet project of the Prime Minister- have not failed but never taken off. While the Prime Minister says that it was the terrorists who were responsible for the dialogue process not succeeding and thus pushing the responsibility away it is quite clear that this is less than half truth. It was the clumsiness of the government and their failure to take the army on board that prevented the exercise from fruiting. The Taliban seemed hell-bound to make peace with Pakistan for their own reasons. But Nawaz Sharif could not sacrifice his ego insisting on the trial of his adversary General Musharraf: This insistence and his dropping out of an already made deal with the military widened the breach between government and military instead of bridging it and resulted in the single-handed launching of the military operation in Fata by the Pakistan army. The government was not ready for it: The outfall of negligence of the needs of IDPs is that scores of Pashtun families are seeking shelter in Afghanistan and blogging that they fail to feel like Pakistanis anymore and the half a million or more IDPs in Pakistan have been refused entrance and shelter by Punjab and Sindh provinces: This will further undermine the anyway weak and torn national fabric of Pakistan. Given the scorching heat and the nearing of the holy month of Ramadan if the plight of the IDPs is not eased soon this situation will alienate more Pakistanis which doesn’t bode well for time to come.

Nawaz Sharif who is the Prime Minister for the third time should have learned by now that the government and the Prime Minister are responsible for governance, security of lives and properties of the people, for smooth functioning of the state institutions. If this responsibility is too much to take he should not have stood for election or should resign. Such evasion of responsibility results in law and order situations and attracts people who want to take advantage of the situation; they are even flying in for that. The hapless reaction of the government and its functionaries that could have been avoided with only a bit of effort shows that the state is failing to perform. This is not a matter of prestige of one person or party; it is a disaster for 180 million people. God bless Pakistan.

—The writer is Karachi-based senior columnist.

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