Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has started electioneering, for polls which are scheduled for the next year, but could be held early, with two bogus reports of the rising popularity of the ruling party and economic growth of the country. The ruling family is embroiled in the Panama case, which is being heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The ruling family faces charges of amassing ill-gotten money, tax evasion and money laundering. As the case has progressed in the court and his defence appears weak, the prime minister has embarked on a spree to inaugurate mega projects, some of them he has opened thrice, to divert the public attention from the case. He has also instructed his party members to start the campaign for the next election. According to party sources, Nawaz Sharif, during consultations with party leaders, asked them not to wait for a Supreme Court decision in the Panama case and prepare for the election. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Asif Kirmani has made a schedule of meetings of party lawmakers with Nawaz Sharif. The ruling party lawmakers will be offered developmental funds for their constituencies while the government has already promised Rs 200 million for each constituency.
To boost its election campaign, the ruling party managed the publication of a fake survey, which said Nawaz Sharif was the most popular leader of Pakistan. According to it, 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 does not exist on the IRI website. The website 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 has managed the publication of the fake survey, without realising that some people could visit the IRI website. However, the government has once again fooled the nation through the local media, to which it has released over Rs12 billion advertisements in three years.
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 in the present government, which considers itself an expert on the economy. The declining trend in export of goods 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 each 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 reports came at a time when the government faced the heat of the Panama leaks and agitation by the opposition. The first survey was conducted by Gallup Pakistan, whose findings have never been impartial and credible, especially in politics. Its website carries a disclaimer that Gallup Pakistan is not related to Gallup Inc, headquartered in Washington D.C. USA. The disclaimer shows its findings cannot be trusted. According to another survey report released by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms (PD&R), the poverty rate in the country had fallen to 39pc in 2015 from 55pc in 2004. It says at least four in every 10 people in Pakistan live in acute poverty. The maiden official report claimed the overall percentage of poverty has dropped in the last 11 years, yet a huge difference was reported in poverty rates in urban and rural areas. Poverty in urban areas was 9.3pc; it was 54.6pc in rural areas.
In April 2016, the government had announced that 60 million Pakistanis lived below the poverty line. In its report on poverty estimation, the government said the number of the poor was increasing. The two contradictory reports on poverty in a span of two months exposed the truth. Sensing some adverse ruling in the Panama case, 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. It is yet to be seen whether the old tactics will work again, or not.