Rhetoric and reality
If PTI government really wants to serve the people, it should revitalize the public sector
By Abdul Sattar
The much-vaunted change seems to have turned the lives of millions into a hell, making the government unpopular in various sections of the society. Since PTI Chief Imran Khan had come hard on every one from Zardari to Nawaz and Fazl ur Rehman to Achakzai, the masses started assuming that Khan is the only option that could pull Pakistan out of the myriad of crises that plagued the land of pure. They declared him a messiah pinning high hopes on him.
However, it seems the performance of government is creating disillusionment. The government does not seem to be living up to its promises. From the beginning, things started taking a wrong direction. First the controversy of the PM house dented the reputation of the newly elected chief executive. Then the rumours of PM helicopter journey, VIP treatment of Khan’s dog and the farce of selling cars and buffalos turned the government into a laughing stock. Social media was deluded with jokes about the helicopter, the dog, the PM house’s cars and buffalos. The incident of Pakpattan DPO, the protocol of President Arif Alvi and the interview of Madam Pinky gave more toys into the hands of opposition that is joyfully playing with them.
Despite all that mistakes or rather blunders continued to hit the headlines. Mansha Bomb’s rapaciousness, the alleged abduction attempt of a cop or cops by PTI leader Mehmood ur Rashed’s son in Lahore, the hurling of abuses by a Sindh PTI leader in Hyderabad and the hard hitting statement of a PTI Sindh assembly law maker targeting Jahangir Tarin created a big embarrassment for the party of change. The leaders of the party also made some bizarre claims that do not even merit a debate here.
But what stunned people was the indifference of the PTI leadership toward the plight of a common man and nonchalance of new government that it demonstrated by ignoring the miseries of those living on the bottom layer of social stratification. In the name of removing encroachment, the government launched a ruthless campaign demolishing hundreds of wedding halls, small food outlets, kiosks, thatched restaurants and petty business centers. In a country where more than 60 million people are living below the standard line of poverty, it is a miracle that a large number of them did not indulge in a life of crimes and instead chose to earn their livelihood by setting up small businesses or working as wage labourers at small hotels, wedding halls and restaurants. Rendering such people jobless within a wink of an eye flies in the face of PTI claims of caring the poor.
Only in Islamabad thousands of youths from Azad Jammu and Kashmir who have been working for years in small restaurants and wedding halls have been rendered unemployed after the places of their jobs were razed in the name of fighting encroachment. The same is the case in Lahore and other urban centers of Punjab. The government has made altruistic claims, asserting that these places would be used to construct parks and other public places but people know that some of the prominent land grabbers in the ranks of the PTI have been eyeing such places for a long time and that they were waiting for their turn in power. Now with powers in their hands, they want to turn their dreams into a reality by acquiring these lands from their rivals and other people but such policy may boomerang on the PTI leadership. If thousands of people who lost their livelihood because of this anti-encroachment drive get united, it will pose a serious challenge to government and its writ.
One wonders if removing encroachment is really the goal then why did the government not abolish the encroachment from around the posh hotels despite the court’s order? Why did it not shut down elite schools and other businesses in residential areas of Islamabad that are making tons of money from their commercial ventures and evading taxes by avoiding shifting in commercial and industrial areas? Why has a powerful multinational food outlet been allowed to use a public park in violation of all laws and civic norms? It seems the tool of anti-encroachment is being employed selectively to settle personal scores or achieve monitory benefits.
The PTI emerged as the soul of the soulless and voice of the voiceless but it seems these voiceless people will further by repressed by the ruthless market forces that have been unleashed by the PTI. Before coming into power, the Kaptaan would question the incompetence of the Sharifs, asserting they could not turn state-run-concerns into profitable entities. Khan often claimed in the past that when the Sharifs launched their own businesses, they developed and progressed by leaps and bounds but the government sector always suffered under their rule. This is true and no man with a modicum of political consciousness would deny it. But Kaptaan’s claims convinced a common man that his party would turn these loss making entities into a profit making concerns. But now the PTI is also talking about selling these entities. They created an impression that the party is equipped with highly intelligent professionals and maverick experts who would pull the economy of crisis but the Kaptaan is also following the same policy of privatization, liberalization and deregulation.
The PTI also lambasted Nawaz for approaching international monitory institutions, vowing that it will break the begging bowl but now the government officials are not only bowing down in front of the forts of monitory institutions but also hobnobbing with tyrant dictators in the hope of catching some crumps. Their incompetence in dealing with financial and monitory matters has plunged the country into a new crisis. There has been an immense capital flight from stock exchanges. The rate of dollar skyrocketed within no time, haunting many analysts who see an impending storm of inflation and a vicious circle of debt.
The government has not built even a single house yet. It has not created even a single job yet. It is yet to alleviate the miseries of common people by lowering inflation but what it has done for sure is to increase cement sack by Rs80 and making it difficult for a common rickshaw driver to save any money after spending a hefty amount on CNG, which witnessed a phenomenal hike in its price in recent days. Now, with the government’s decision to approach the IMF, the price of gas, petrol and electricity will witness a further rise. Interest rate will also be increased. This will trigger a storm of inflation, which is sure to undermine the credibility of the government.
If the PTI government really wants to serve the people, it should revitalize the public sector. It should put an end on import regime and make hectic efforts to turn the country into a self-sufficient political entity. Nawaz did not succeed because he preferred the interests of the private capital to common masses. If the PTI follows the same policy, it will vindicate Imran’s apprehensions that he expressed during a gathering of his party leaders. The Khan had said, “If we do not deliver then our end will be worse than that of the N league.” Therefore, stop employing rhetoric and assess problems realistically and come up with a viable solution.