NationalVolume 12 Issue # 18

Machiavellian politics

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