Prime Minister Gilani will inaugurate the first Benazir Model Village meant to accommodate victims of floods, in Sanawan, Muzaffargarh district, today. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it seems that PPP’s federal government is imitating the Punjab government, which has launched its Ashiyana scheme, on very similar lines. At the same time, the PPP could claim that the scheme represents a move towards partial fulfillment of its manifesto of roti, kapra aur makan, partial because it only addreses the makan (housing) part, and because it only is for flood victims. It is thus to be hoped that the government does not intend to await similar cataclysmic events and traumatized victims before fulfilling the roti (food) and kapra (clothing) parts. As it is, instead of providing these two items, the PPP government has already presided over the impoverishment of the populace, to the extent that there are already widespread compromises being made on these items.

It seems that the PPP has taken its time waking up to the claims of its manifesto. For it to begin on only one item of its agenda in the final year of its tenure, represents a pace that can only be described as glacial. At this rate, it will not be able to face the electorate, something which is due in a year’s time, but which will probably be earlier because of opposition pressure. If for no other reason, it should come out now with whatever schemes it has for the public welfare. It is also noteworthy that the village is being inaugurated in a south Punjab district, and in the Foreign Minister’s constituency. This is an area on which the PPP is concentrating, to the extent of setting up a separate party provincial organization for it, and to which not only Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar belongs, but also the Prime Minister himself, who belongs to the neighbouring Multan district. Because of this, it seems that the latest move does not seem so much a genuine move as an electoral ploy, within narrow geographical confines.

The PPP federal government’s desire to compete with the Punjab government is understandable, but it runs the risk of being seen as cynical. It may find that, if the electorate adopts this view, it will be because its steps are seen as coming too late, and will not save it from a drubbing at the hustings.