The Deepening Political Polarisation

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M Alam Brohi

With the prolonged sit-in of PTI in Islamabad in 2016; the revelations of Panama Leaks involving Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family in corruption; his disqualification by the Supreme Court in 2017; the PTI victory in the general elections of 2018; the refusal of mainstream political parties including PML-N, PPP and JUI to concede defeat on the plea that the elections were rigged; the formation of the federal government and two provincial administrations in KPK and Punjab by the PTI; formation of the PDM and its subsequent long marches to Islamabad spearheaded by PML-N, JUI and PPP, the country has undergone a long spell of political polarisation spanning over six years impacting negatively its economy, foreign and security policies, national institutions, national harmony and political accommodation in the polity.
All the political parties dominating the national landscape and the all-powerful establishment could not escape the egregious charge of subjecting the nation to a protracted agony for their narrow and selfish political, factional and institutional interests. They continue to punish this nation. The political wrangling has obscured the devastation caused by the torrential rains and flash floods and the agonizing misery of the people. Over 60 per cent of Sindh is underwater; the hapless people are bracing the biting winter in improvised camps on roadsides, canal banks or their half-destroyed houses with their staple crops, including paddy, cotton, sugarcane, mustard, vegetables, destroyed and entertaining no hope for good wheat yield. The political boss of the province is engaged in upstaging the PTI-dominated coalition administration in Punjab, while his supporters are preparing to display a power show on the foundational day of PPP on November 30; pretending business as usual.
The announcement of the PTI to have the two provincial Assemblies dissolved or walk out of them along with its coalition partners has further exacerbated the ongoing political crisis. Though the PDM leadership is taking this lightly, the ramifications of the ensuing political turmoil would be far-reaching. How will the political system survive with the non-existence of two provincial Assemblies or half-empty houses at the federal and provincial levels? The economy is already in a nosedive, and the options to arrest the current fast slide down would be further drastically reduced; driving away foreign investment, economic and financial aid, and new loans compounding the government’s difficulties with the IMF. Political stability is the sine qua non for any measure of economic rehabilitation.
Have we ever thought why the international community, barring the initial show of concern over and the spirit of help for – the alleviation of the miseries of the flood victims – has not responded generously to our appeal for assistance like it did in the earthquake of 2005 and flash floods of 2010? In August, the UNO appealed for $160 to initially help over 5.2 million flood victims. Later on, the Government of Pakistan, with the technical help UN, the World Bank and ADB, carried out the “Post Disaster Need Assessment”. The report suggested that the flood had caused a loss of $ 30 billion, and the rehabilitation would cost $ 160 billion.
As put by Naseer Memon in an article in a local paper, “the report also suggested that the worst hit province was Sindh suffering from 60-70 per cent of devastation with loss of houses (Rs.1200billion), agriculture, food, cattle stock, fishing (Rs.800). After this report, a fresh appeal was made for $816million in emergency succour to 9.5million flood victims. With the massive loss, and the personal visit of the UNO Secretary General to flood affected areas and his passionate appeal for emergency help, unimpressive financial aid of $171million has been so far received. Before that financial assistance of $126million was received. It brings the total financial assistance received to $297. For the alleviation of the loss of the flash floods of 2010, the country had received $ 3.2 billion in economic aid. The current financial assistance is just nine per cent of it”
Is it the political chaos in the country, the non-serious response of the political leaders to their people in distress or the reduced importance of Pakistan to the Western world in the aftermath of the US and NATO exit from Afghanistan that has negatively impacted the response of the international community? I think the ongoing political tussle, the inhuman attitude of the elite towards their citizens in distress, the rulers’ monarchical way of reigning with large retinues of Ministers, Special Assistants, and Advisors and the lavish squandering of the meagre resources of the country on their perks and privileges with no financial belt-tightening in sight and our glaring compromise on remaining dependent on foreign economic aid have negatively impacted the impression of the aid giving countries about us.
Politics–taken seriously and done sincerely for the good of the people-is the only means to lead the nation to progress and prosperity. The political parties are the vehicles to run the political system strengthening institutions, enforcing rule of law, promoting equality before thelaw, merit, economic equity and social justice and providing education, healthcare, livelihood to the common man and ensuring harmony in a federal structure. We have never given due importance to countrywide and popular political parties. Rather, our establishment tried to disintegrate such political organisations. This is what it did with the Pakistan Muslim League, Awami League, Pakistan People’s Party and now, it is the turn of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
The politicians should take the bulk of the blame for the failure of political governance in the country owing a great deal to their political impetuousness and hunger for power and vying for the crutches of the establishment to climb the ladder. The current political crisis and the renouncement of the interference in the political process by the most powerful institution of the country afford politicians a golden opportunity to evolve a charter of democracy and economy and a code of conduct to follow in the future. Again, the key to this political way forward lies with the PDM leadership. They can take the country out of this political logjam.