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A Balance Sheet of the PML-N Government (Editorial June 2018)

A Balance Sheet of the PML-N Government (Editorial June 2018)

After the 2013 general elections, Pakistan witnessed a historic turn of events. With a resounding victory in the polls, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the majority party and formed the government with Mian Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. His swearing-in earned him a unique honour: he became the first person elected as country’s chief executive for a record third time. The occasion was historic also in the sense as this marked the first civilian-to-civilian transition of power in Pakistan’s political history. Under the stewardship of Mr Sharif, the country gained a lot of successes – and failures as well. Then, on 28th July 2017, the long proceedings of the Panama Papers culminated into Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification for life by the Supreme Court of Pakistan after the submission of a damning report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). After Mr Sharif’s ouster, his party PML-N continued to govern the country with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the helm as Prime Minister.

Now that the PML-N government has completed its tenure, it is opportune to take a stock of what it achieved and where it failed, over the course of five years.

The PML-N government, no doubt, has many achievements to its credit, the game-changer project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being the most conspicuous and most gigantic of them. Although this mega project was claimed to be a source of radically transforming the lives of the Pakistanis, the current socioeconomic indicators point to something otherwise, and negate the claims made by a bevy of ministers during the past few months. On the domestic front, however, the PML-N government faced myriad challenges including the three-month-long sit-in in Islamabad by PTI and PAT, heightened civil-military tensions, especially in the wake of Dawn Leaks, and, of late, judicial activism.

On the external front, the disappointing performance of the government is clearly depicted in Pakistan’s growing isolation in the international arena and the inclusion of its name in the Grey List of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Kulbhushan Jadhav case presents yet another evidence of the incompetence on the part of those running our foreign affairs as they failed to capitalize on his arrest and exposing India’s nefarious designs against Pakistan.

No sane person would deny that the government largely failed in mitigating the problems faced by the masses owing, mainly, to its imprudent policies and mismanagement. Following are some facts in this regard:

To start with, the most perplexing problem Pakistan is faced with is the unending acute energy crisis. The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2017-18 suggests that the country’s installed capacity of electricity generation had reached 29,573 MW in February 2018, posting a growth of 30 percent from the FY 2012-13. However, this seems only playing with the words as these figures belie the ground realities. Even today, hours-long outages in different parts of the country, especially in Karachi – the country’s financial hub – are not only tormenting the masses but are also crippling the already incapacitated industrial sector.

The government also takes credit of lowering the oil prices in the country. As per a report of the Ministry of Finance, the prices of petroleum products declined significantly during the PML-N government’s tenure as price of petrol came down from Rs. 106 per litre on March 1, 2013 to Rs. 88.07 per litre on March 1, 2018 while the price of diesel declined from Rs113.56 per litre on March 1, 2013 to Rs. 98.45 per litre on March 1, 2018. But, here arises a question: when the prices of petroleum products are linked with international market, how the government can take the credit for that?

A report published by a prestigious think tank ‘Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (Prime)’ also digs deep into the performance of the outgoing government. According to the report entitled “PML-N Economic Performance: Light at the End of the Tunnel,” although there were some improvements during this tenure of the PML-N government, it failed to reduce current expenditure, bring the informal sector into the tax net, curtail circular debt and privatize power distribution companies. It also failed to fulfil its promise of reducing the current expenditure for the sake of economic revival in the country.

On the issue of bringing more and more taxpayers into the tax net, the report suggests that no serious efforts were made in this regard. Tax base could not be expanded, which continues to threaten narrow resource base and burden the existing taxpayers.

In all, it can be said that though the PML-N government garnered success on many fronts, the magnitude of its failures in making the life of the common man easier, has eclipsed its successes.

Another important issue that needs to be mentioned here is the staying of the examination process under FPSC by the Islamabad High Court on the plea of the fixation of quota for the residents of Islamabad Capital Territory in recruitments. The decision halted the interview process that was on for CSS-2017 written-qualified candidates, for more than a month. Although the courts have every right to decide on the cases brought to them, they should be cautious that the rights of others, especially who have fulfilled all the requirements of the FPSC, are not infringed upon. The stay granted by the IHC had caused and unnecessary delay in the announcement of the final result for CSS 2017. It is encouraging that the stay has been vacated; however, we expect extreme prudence from the courts while deciding on such issues.

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