More thorns than roses.The government remains under pressure from all sides, the public, the civil security, the opposition, the military, the religious elements, the media and the judiciary. These are internal pressures.

Add to these, externals. A hostile neighbor on the east with borders off and on under fire, a difficult western statewhere an unstable government is at war with militants, spawning injurious fallout in Pakistan. There is also the overwhelming challenge of implementing huge infrastructure projects aided by a friendly and generous superpower.

In addition, there are formidable, inherited problems of energy shortage, taxation deficiencies, corruption, terrorism and breakdown of law and order in Karachi and Balochistan.

There is also the responsibility of keeping democracy afloat and seeking to strengthen democratic institutions and practices.

If one were to go by what is being said on some of our TV channels and written in the print media, government’s performance will appear resoundingly unsatisfactory, if not poor.

In these constraining circumstances it is an achievement on the part of the incumbent government to have survived by itself and having managed to muddle through.

To a large extent, future of the ruling elite will depend on how it deals with the military and the opposition while tackling the daunting problems of governance, economy and managing security issues.

Pakistan is fortunate today in having an independent higher judiciary. By and large, the Supreme Court has played the role of a benign watchman and corrector of thedeviations and faulty courses pursued by the Administration. By its recent majority judgment on military courts, it has highlighted the supremacy of the parliament and indirectly focused on the vital role expected to be played by the chosen representative of the people. Analysts have also underscored the failure of the authorities that be, to bring about a reform of the criminal justice system. Lower judiciary, which deals with the public at large, suffers from severe inefficiency and corruption. Millions of dollars provided by an international aid agency to bring about a change for the better were ill spent and yielded hardly any positive results.

Here is a case for both higher judiciary and the government to join forces to undertake an effective programme for reform.

The government claims success in taking much-needed steps to stabilize the economy. The Finance Minister cities the considerable increase in the foreign exchange reserves, lowering of the deficit and inflation as also keeping the strengthened currency stabilized. His detractors bring up the deficiencies in governance and point out the continuing misery of the people. Where is the relief promised at the time of the elections, they ask?

Two crucial areas where government must invest its imagination, funds and energies,are the urgently required increase in the supply and management of electricity and the reform of the taxation system.

With the rapid increase in population, unchecked urbanization and rise in extreme temperatures, the demand for power is expected to double by the year 2020. With the present shortages adversely affecting industry and the lives of the people, with little sign of increase in the coming years, how will government face the agitation from various segments of the society and manage to run the economy? The coal resources remain unexploited. There is little progress in adding electricity through hydel projects. Will the Chinese investments be speedily implemented? It will be advisable for government to come up with a White Paper on how it will address the energy challenge, during the remaining three years of its rule. Its failure on this account may cost it an ouster in the next elections.

The question of taxation reform is also of great importance and urgency. Most of the current receipts come from indirect taxation putting a having burden on the masses. A considerable part of the corporate elite contributes very little.The agricultural elite is hardly touched. More of the direct taxation needs to be undertaken. Exemptions and SROs must go. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) too requires to be drastically reformed. The country cannot afford any more the economy subsisting on loans. This is no way of working for a secure economic future. There is need for drastic changes in the way resources are allocated and used. There is no room for extravagance and waste. White elephants wildly consuming scares resources need to be eliminated and replaced by efficiently working, viable institutions.

Stories in the media are current about government choosing to look the other way in pursuing widely known cases of corruption against a former Prime Minister and a senior minister. Nawaz Sharif is on record for declaring zero tolerance for corruption in his speeches and statements. Political expediency cannot beallowed to bar government from taking to theright and desirable course. NAB must be strengthened and supported in doing its duty efficiently and expeditiously. The Sharif brothers should respond to criticism frequently hurled at them for their investments abroad and indulging in objectionable practices to further their interests. They must come clean of these allegations and changes. This will help them to fortify their political standing and capacity to deliver. Image matters, all the more so when determined detractors are willfully upping the anti.

The return of PTI to Parliament is bound to infuse a new life into our leading national institution. There is a new and a constructive role cut out for Imran Khan and his senior colleagues to play the role of monitors and guides to the incumbent government. This is how PTI could add to its image as a positive and constructive entity.

This scribe is of the firm view that the real underlying cause of faults and foibles in our political, economic, administrative and social systems is the rampant feudal culture which thrives on the negation of law and procedures. How this deep-rooted disease can be cured is a subject requiring extensive study of the factors and forces at work in our society. Good values need to be revived and practiced. There is no alternative to this basic reform if conditions have to change and if the changeis to be sustained.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.

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