NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 11

What if the present government fails?

The performance of the federal government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition is far from satisfactory and it seems that the cabinet has failed to deliver on multiple fronts. Of late, Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed to have pulled the country out of the worst economic situation and said 2020 would be the year for multi-dimensional development. However, the situation on the ground suggests a totally different picture. Even three key coalition partners of the PTI-led government have shown serious concerns and admitted the failure of the government to improve the lot of the common man.

According to the coalition partners of the PTI government, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and the Muslim League-Functional, the “transformation” mantra of the PTI leadership is just lip-service. As the PTI government has a thin majority in the National Assembly to keep its power intact, therefore, it has to be totally dependent upon its collation partners for survival. The collation partners would also like to be in power but if the government is not performing, then they could hardly do anything. It seems that the PTI government, with Prime Minister Imran Khan as the spearhead, has failed to implement even a single point of its election manifesto and the slogan of eliminating corruption has also vanished into the thin air. It can be gauged from the fact that the PTI government permitted convicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to leave the country and curtailed the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against civilian bureaucrats by increasing the upper limit of misappropriated public money.

One would like the PTI government to complete its tenure but it seems very difficult. The government can only keep itself in power if it performs extraordinarily in different sectors of governance, particularly in economic and administrative affairs. However, the economic performance of the government leaves a lot to be desired. So, the only way forward for the present government is to perform. Why one would like the present government to remain in power and perform have several reasons? The foremost reason due to which it is important that the PTI government remains in the saddle and completes its five-year tenure as the future of democracy in Pakistan hinges on it. Sustained democracy is the only option for Pakistan and any other country of the world to develop and improve the standard of living of its citizens. Pakistani democracy has been quite weak and there have been several causes of the weakness, including corruption among politicians, the past practice of repeated interference and lack of oversight by citizens. Now when all other countries in the world have either become democratic or polyarchies, as has been explained by famous political scientist Robert Dahl, or are democratizing, Pakistan could not afford to get derailed from the path of democracy. The world has come to realize that democracy is the only way forward for each and every state and there can be no development, security and welfare without democracy.

Another important reason due to which the PTI government should complete its tenure is that the future of the country depends upon political forces performing and steering the country out of the present mess. The PTI is a political party and it is the third among mainstream parties that have remained in power at the Centre in the last 30 years. The other two parties which earlier ruled the country alternatively, including the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), could not steer the country out of the crisis despite remaining in power thrice each at the federal level and in Sindh and the Punjab several times. The PTI rose as the main challenger to the PML-N and the PPP and the people supported it to drive the country out of the multidimensional crisis and conflicts. If the PTI fails it will not only be a blow to the political system but also the people’s faith in politics would vanish completely. It will be really disastrous for the country and its future as the entire state structure would become dysfunctional without the participation and ownership of the system by the people. If it happens at a time when external threats, like aggressive and bellicose posture of archrival India has posed existential danger to the security of Pakistan and internal threats, like a low-intensity conflict in Balochistan and lack of social cohesion, pose serious problems for the state, the latter would have no consensual response-mechanism to cope up with the threats.

The failure of the third elected government to perform to the expectations of the people and to their satisfaction would create a political and governance vacuum which would be hard to fill unless a new and untested political force and leadership emerge from nowhere. However, such a political force and leadership would take considerable time to win support and favour of already highly dissatisfied people. But the emergence of such a new political force and leadership in the situation prevailing in Pakistan, marked by complete distrust, uncertainty and chaos, is almost impossible. Imran Khan is one of the last few quite familiar and popular figures in the country and his popularity was not politics but sports and philanthropy. Today in Pakistan, no former general, judge, civilian bureaucrat, journalist, academician or any other public figure is so popular to enter the political arena as a messiah for the people. Now keeping in view the entire situation in the country, if the PTI government fails to perform and clean up the Aegean stables forthwith, the military as an institution would have no choice but to take up the reins of the government as a last option. But the military rule willingly or unwillingly is not the best option to run the affairs of the state due to the diametrically different nature of roles as a military general and chief executive of the state. The main training of a general is to fight whereas the main task of a chief executive of the country is to manage the affairs of the state, not by fighting but by reconciling and dovetailing the interests of so many different interest groups and people living within the state. This is only possible through the political process and when the political process breaks down, legal and appropriate ways of pursuing ones interests also get clogged. With this, every group starts pursuing its vested interests without any regard for the national or social interest. Thus, the political process and democracy in Pakistan must go on but the crucial condition for it is that the PTI government starts performing.