The political and governance impasse continues to tighten its grip on Islamabad. As political uncertainty grows it seems to have got the better of PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who appears shackled and cannot act on his own initiative. The decision-making toolkit hitherto remains with the ousted PM who has centralised control to a point where he looks reluctant to trust his comrade with even the conduct of day-to-day affairs.
Despite the temporary silencing of guns between the civilian and security establishment, governance as a matter of priority remains sidelined. The sole focus of the ruling party is on its political survival and winning the next elections.
Amid the general chaos the fact which is emerging with certainty is that key members of the PML-N, including PM Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son along with certain party stalwarts like Chaudhry Nisar, Khawaja Asif and Raja Zafarul Haq are distancing themselves from the party hawks led by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter whose allegations about their ouster are growing more outlandish. Saner voices within the party are constantly warning the father-daughter duo to avoid walking the familiar path of direct confrontation with the military establishment and the judiciary. Hamza Shehbaz in a recent TV interview advised them to give up the bellicose rhetoric against the establishment and solely focus on roping in the next election through prudence and strategy. The two factions clearly do not see eye-to-eye on the matter and convergence seems to be a forgotten goal.
To analyse the productivity of the current government, let us settle on the attendance of the federal ministers and other officials, including private sector individuals in Pakistan secretariat as a metric or criterion, before and after the emergence of the Panama leaks. Gone are the days when the secretariat used to be jampacked with regular meetings at all levels mulling over matters of the state. The entire focus of the incumbent PM is nested in securing the Senate election for Nawaz Sharif due next May and subsequently the 2018 general elections.
The optics in Islamabad is despairing. An indicted finance minister is unwilling to resign and the PM is finding it impossible to directly ask for his abdication due to his relationship with the former PM. To ratchet up the pressure for his resignation, however, the minister has been stripped off important portfolios, including the privilege to chair the Economic Coordination Committee; a sure-fire sign of frustration on the part of the incumbent prime minister.
Pitifully vying for relevance at the domestic level, the interior minister recently resorted to a strongly worded condemnation of the DG ISPR over the latter’s comments on the economic situation of the country at an economic forum. To be fair, the concept of security is inseparable from political stability, economic success and social harmony; and the general was not wrong in highlighting the plight of the putrefying economic mess that the country is currently marinating in. The fact of the matter is that the government is audaciously refusing to accept the feeble economic condition and is trying to face paint it with detestable figure fudging. Rising debt and rampant corruption are not restricted to the realm of economy only but are inextricably intertwined with national security. Even if it is assumed that the military really is overstepping its mandate, it must be understood that it is the incompetence and complacency of the last two civilian governments that invited the establishment to fill the yawning vacuum of failed governance.
The coming months are perhaps filled with the ominous promise of more turbulence and political upheaval. Amongst looming trials, brewing family feuds and a threat of family’s dynastical hold changing hands within the kin, the PML-N hardly seems like the answer to our prayers. Optimists will keep hoping for better times. Hope, truly, has little to do with reason.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2017.
Source: Tribune News | The Sharif divide