Machiavellian politics

Muhammad Hassan


Last week, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed the
publication of a survey in newspapers, which according to it, was conducted
by a team of scholars from Harvard University and Lahore University
of Management Sciences (LUMS). According to the survey, a large
majority of Pakistanis think only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif can make the country a developed nation.
However, both prestigious organizations denied conducting any survey
few days later.
According to the bogus survey, a big majority of people think it is not
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan but Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif who can lead the country into the
league of developed nations. The survey was supposedly conducted in
three constituencies of Lahore — NAs 121, 122 and 124, strongholds of
the ruling party. The voters were most concerned about economic issues
such as their dwindling purchasing power and unemployment. "Corruption
is an important issue for a sizeable minority but anti-corruption campaigns
that do not tackle economic issues are unlikely to resonate. Several public
services, including education, health, water, electricity and security matter
for voters, but improvement in no one service is likely to swing the election,"
the bogus report added.
The phantom survey observed, "There is cautious optimism among voters
regarding their own financial condition. They are also giving measured
praise to the PML-N for its performance in tackling their issues. While voters
are polarized on the question of Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif's honesty,a big majority thinks they are capable of taking Pakistan into the league of
developed nations. An overwhelming majority rejects that Imran Khan is
dishonest, but at this stage of Election 2018, and in these three constituencies,
he is seen less favourably as a leader to take Pakistan into the league
of developed nations."
The Punjabi English used in the survey says all. Besides the poor language,
the survey had many serious flaws, which make it impossible to
believe. A survey of three constituencies cannot tell the true picture of the
whole country. Why were three constituencies in Lahore chosen for the
survey, which are stronghold of the ruling party? Why was NA-126 not chosen
where PTI's Shafqat Mehmood is the MNA? Could the results be the
same if people had been asked similar questions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,
interior Sindh, Balochistan, Karachi and south Punjab?
In February this year, the ruling party came up with two bogus reports
of its rising popularity and economic growth of the country. According to
the first survey, about 63 percent Pakistanis preferred Nawaz Sharif to any
other political leader in the country with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)
Chairman Imran Khan in second place, getting 39 percent votes. Bilawal
Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stood third, gaining the appreciation
of 32 percent citizens. It said 85 percent citizens disliked Muttahida
Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, closely followed
by Asif Ali Zardari with 80 percent and Tahirul Qadri with 79 percent dislike
votes. The Punjab stood first in governance, with 79 percent votes, Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa second with 72 percent votes, Sindh third with 54 percent
votes and Balochistan last with 48 percent votes. According to the local
media, the survey was conducted by the International Republican Institute
(IRI), which is known for its credible election assessments all over the
world. Interestingly, the survey report did not exist on the IRI website. The
website still contains its survey on Pakistan before the 2008 election. It
had to remove its survey on the 2013 election in Pakistan, after it found
some anomalies in it. The government managed the publication of the fake
survey, without realising that some people could visit the IRI website.
In another report, published in the foreign media, "Pakistan has developed
a burgeoning middle class in recent years that is fueling economic
growth and bolstering a fragile democracy." However, the ground realties
are different from the report. Pakistan's exports have continuously declined
under the present government, which considers itself an expert on the
economy. The declining trend in export continued in July-November 2016-
17, and total exports of the country stood at $8.189 billion, down by 3.94
percent, as compared to $8.542 billion in the same period last year. In another
alarming development, Pakistan's net revenue receipts failed to meet
the requirements of even debt servicing during the first quarter of the current
financial year 2016-17, indicating that the country is plunging towards
a debt trap. It has not happened in the country's history. Pakistan's debt
burden has increased more than thrice since 2008. Internal and external
debt and liabilities during the last three years are almost equal to what the
country had borrowed in almost 60 years of its independence. According
to the State Bank of Pakistan, total public debts and liabilities were Rs
16,228 billion by end June 2013, which have increased to Rs 22,461 billion
by November 2016. Each Pakistani had debt and liabilities of Rs 96,422
by September 2013, but now the burden on each Pakistani has increased
to almost Rs 124,000.
Last year, the government released two survey reports, which claimed
most people were satisfied with the performance of Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif and his government and the poverty rate in the country had fallen
to 39 percent in 2015, from 55 percent in 2004.
The ruling party has started preparations for the next election. It had
won the last election through rigging, making some "showy" projects
and controlling big media houses, who consider themselves as "kingmakers"
in Pakistani politics. Its last election slogan was electricity, but
outages have returned to the level of 2013, when it came to power. It
is trying to convince the people through the media that the situation has
improved in the last four years. But the bogus survey reports cannot
change the re