Malik M. Ashraf
For the first time Pakistan is really at the cross-roads courtesy the shenanigans of our successive rulers who never ever made a sincere attempt to change the economic conditions of the masses but focused more on building their own fortunes through the avenues of corruption in-built into the present system of governance. They have had vested interest in the continuation of this exploitative system and therefore have been using all their energies and resources to perpetuate it rather than taking the country to the path envisioned by its founding father.
They have been taking the masses for a ride and making false promises to them to win their franchise and ensuring access to political power. On the eve of elections they come up with manifestos which even a country with resources like US cannot implement. Using their skills as demagogues the leaders of these parties present their programmes in such a way as if the moment they would come into power miracles will happen and era of prosperity will be unleashed. What a web of deception?
The other day I was listening to the speeches of IPP leaders at their first ever public rally in Jhahanian (Bahawalpur). What the chairman of the party Aleem Khan said about their plans to change the fate of the people gave me a sickening feeling as it was the same old medicine presented in a new bottle with no curative value. Keeping up the traditions he first of all lashed at his former leader Imran Khan for making false promises with the people and patronising corruption and then tried to present IPP as a new messiah for the masses saying that the party would reduce the price of petrol to half of the current rate; provide free electricity for tube wells that supply water to farmers with at least 12.5 acres; establish free dispensaries at every union council; provide free medical treatment for women and senior citizens and supply free medications; install filtration plants for clean drinking water, offer interest free loans to enable individuals to become self-sufficient and earn a livelihood; provide 3 Marla plots to homeless people on government land, provide free electricity to consumers of 300 units and above all rid the country of corruption.
There is a proverb “If wishes were horses beggars would ride” It is quintessential of what Aleem Khan claimed and what the other demagogues and politicians have been saying to dupe the people. The wish list provided by him would require trillions of dollars to accomplish them. Considering the current state of the economy and the intractable challenges confronting the country it only seems a day dream. There is no bar on day dreaming though. These people make such claims unabashedly while fully knowing that they were unachievable wishes. While presenting their manifestoes they hardly bother to tell how much these projects would actually cost and from where they propose to get required resources? So any body can say anything he likes to deceive the people.
Who would actually believe in the ability of IPP party and its leaders to turn the tables? They are a conglomeration of the migratory birds which keep changing their abodes seasonally. They have no political ideology. There is no leader of national stature among their ranks. Most of the leaders are members of different mafias who have benefited from the exploitative system of governance. They joined PTI in hordes when they were given to understand where the political power would lie in future and where their vested interests would be best served. Now that PTI is in hot waters they have made a beeline to abandon it and form different splinter groups. How can people with such dubious credentials winch the country out of the quagmire it is stuck into? The first thing is that IPP would never achieve the perceived success. There are much stronger contenders for political power in the arena and ultimately some of IPP leaders might have to seek refuge under the wings of those claimants to the political power.
Similar unachievable and false promises were made by PTI under the stewardship of Imran Khan. A sustained and well thought out campaign was unleashed to project him as a messiah who could take the country to its desired destination and give it a new dimension. The programme that he gave was over-ambitious to say the least and did not conform to the economic realities. It was like building castles in the air. Things could not be managed merely on the basis of propaganda. Though temporarily the people did believe in what was being propagated but ultimately the ground realities had the last laugh. The country drifted to the edge of precipice. These are undeniable realities and worth taking lesson from. But I think our politicians will never learn from it and would continue to behave in the same manner.
I am not trying to propagate for any other party but making endeavours to spotlight the realities of our politics. It is my considered view that none of the political parties can actually revive the economy in the short term because it would at least require a decade to rectify the situation and put the country on the path of sustained development provided the political parties through their collective wisdom and by learning from the history, make the much needed systemic changes in the system of governance; evolve a charter of economy and change the way we elect the public representatives.
Top priority in this regard will have to be given to switching over to system of proportional representation to break the hold of the elitist classes and landlords on the political power. The system of single constituency helps them to monopolize political power in the country and safeguard their vested interests at the cost of masses. Proportional Representation system will act as a bulwark against all corrupt political practices and corruption as a whole which has been the bane of political stability and socio-economic development in the country. Unless the proposed reforms are not implemented the country is not going to move forward.
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.