The sitting governments all over the world have the disadvantage of incumbency. The opposition parties try to belittle the achievements and policies of the ruling parties using the touchstone of their own perceptions and stated positions on particular issues, which is quite understandable in the democratic dispensation. However, in the more established democracies. the opposition to the government’s policies and strategies is more or less based on set democratic traditions in a way that it does not jeopardise national interest. But in nascent democracies and in the third world countries, like Pakistan where no such traditions exist, opposition means denigrating the sitting governments no matter how good their policies and performance is. Sometimes the focus is also on destabilising the sitting government as has been the case in Pakistan.

There are also lobbies within the political parties and society who are essentially hostile to the government and never let go an opportunity to have a swipe at it or its leaders. This phenomenon sometimes descends into the realm of cynicism which is a state of mind when people lose the faculty of distinguishing between wrong and right and invariably tend to look at the darker aspects of everything. Unfortunately, our political culture is more prone to cynicism than healthy and constructive criticism which is a nourishing ingredient of a democratic set up.

The latest example of cynicism shown by some political circles and even some sections of the media is the scathing criticism on Prime Minister using the dedicated PIA aircraft for his journey home from UK after recovering from the open heart surgery, without evaluating the situation in its proper context and the inevitable circumstances that demanded his travel on a chartered flight. Prime Minister’s return journey on a chartered plane is not something out of this world. It is a universal practice that heads of the state and governments invariably travel on special dedicated flights on their visits abroad and coming back home. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being the Chief executive of the country, is entitled to medical treatment and use of dedicated flights. It is pertinent to note that while in UK, except for a few days he was in the hospital, he has been attending the official business and for the purposes a camp office of his secretariat had been established in UK to assist him on carrying out the official business. So while being away from the country he was very much a functional Prime Minister.

In this particular case, it was under the advice of his doctors that he had decided to travel by a dedicated plane. The Prime Minister, while going to UK had used a small seven-seater ‘Gulf Stream Jet’. However, it was not advisable for him to travel back in the same plane after surgery because of abrupt changes of pressure inside a small jet. Long travelling time and consequent long hours of immobilisation involved could produce blood clots in the legs. It was important for him to travel by a plane wherein he could walk about and move frequently. Therefore, in view of his medical condition no risk could be taken. I have spoken to some highly reputable cardiologists in Islamabad who have endorsed the use of a dedicated flight by the Prime Minister on medical grounds. The camp office and its staff also had to be moved back to Pakistan. It was by all means an official undertaking rather than a private affair as the critics are striving to project it.

As already clarified by PIA, the provision of this plane for repatriation of the Prime Minister to Pakistan did not disturb the schedule of its other flights, as alternate arrangements were made beforehand. Similarly, the figures regarding the cost of the flight quoted by these critics were also highly exaggerated. Those who are trying to rub in the notion of the Prime Minister acting indiscreetly and causing a loss to the national exchequer besides causing inconvenience to the travelling public, are actually trying to mislead the public and gain political mileage out of a non-issue, which is very much regrettable.

It would perhaps be pertinent to point out that all the Chief executives of Pakistan for the last seventy years, including Benazir Bhutto, Shaukat Aziz, Pervez Musharraf, Yusaf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Asif Ali Zardari have been using special planes from the national carrier for their trips abroad. Former President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz not only travelled themselves in special VIP flights but they also took cultural troupes comprising of 70-80 people in separate boeings to international capitals for performance on the pretext of creating soft image of the country.

The tirade against the Prime Minister, is probably part of the on-going campaign to malign his person, rather than promoting a national cause, which is a matter of shame. Instead of focusing on the crucial national issues and joining hands with the government to find plausible and durable solutions to those challenges, these elements are incessantly engaged in a smear campaign against the person of the Prime Minister.

In a democratic dispensation government and opposition are two sides of the same coin and are supposed to collectively work for the overall well-being of the people and serving the national interest, rather than wasting their time in settling personal scores. We have had enough of the crass politics. The country needs a break from politics of self-aggrandisement in view of the diabolical challenges that it faces.

There is no denying the fact that the PML (N) government headed by Nawaz Sharif has introduced a culture of political tolerance and consensus politics on crucial national issues. Launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb with the support and consensus of all the stakeholders including the political parties represent in the parliament, formulation of NAP and giving national ownership to CPEC are some of the rating examples of this new political narrative. In view of the deadlock on the TORs for the Judicial Commission to probe Panama Leaks, the Prime Minister immediately after his return has advised his colleagues to re-engage the opposition in a dialogue on the issue and also evolve a consensus on the appointment of the ECP members, which indicates his unswerving commitment to the new political creed.

It is said that no issue or problem is intractable. It requires sincerity of purpose, commitment and political will to resolve it. The present political crisis can be amicably resolved if the opposition parties act with this spirit and show flexibility in their stance. The country cannot afford yet another round of madness on the streets. The government is also well advised to do its utmost to avoid the spectacle of violence and lawlessness that could undermine the achievements that have been made during the last three years of its incumbency.

I have spoken to some highly reputable cardiologists in Islamabad who have endorsed the use of a dedicated flight by the Prime Minister on medical grounds.