President Zardari’s annual address to the joint session of Parliament that he delivered yesterday this year was noteworthy in the sense that it was the fifth in a row that a Pakistani head of state had taken to the august rostrum. However, there was nothing historic about it, as the PPP leaders were heard bandying about and the President proudly said at the very start, “We (the party) are making history (for addressing Parliament for five consecutive years).” Rather, there was nothing to write home about. If anything, it lacked substance. It did not provide any substantive proof of achievements the government had supposedly been able to notch up during the outgoing parliamentary year. Nor one could discern any signs of a roadmap of programme for the future, the last year of the government in power, to raise the hope that the tidal wave of problems the people were facing was, after all, turning. Major local and foreign policy issues, which are of serious concern to the people, were off the President’s radar. Those expecting him to give definite views on certain hot and controversial issues confronting Pakistan found not a passing mention of them: Mehrangate that exposes the army-politicians nexus to derail the democratic process; Memogate that carries serious allegations against the country’s top political hierarchy of seeking foreign intervention in matters that would ultimately lead to the weakening of Pakistan’s defences; the resumption of supplies to the Nato troops stationed in Afghanistan for which the US is anxiously waiting; the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project in the face of US threat to impose sanctions against Pakistan.

While he was claiming to have initiated projects to add 3,300MW of power to the national grid, the country was undergoing long spells of loadshedding. The loud protests the PML-N and the JUI-F made, interrupting, his speech were an apt reflection of the people’s misery and discontent at the unending inflation, the economic slump and its inevitable fallout, joblessness, poor law and order and a wide range of other concerns. With Mr Zardari actually ruling the roost, it was hard to buy his contention that he had transferred all powers to Parliament.

A million dollar question is whether the government, in its last year in office, would seriously and strenuously address basic issues of concern to the nation. The cut-off of Nato supplies provides an ideal occasion to get out of the war on terror that has harmed our interests immeasurably. The Mehran Bank and Memo scandals’ investigations could be used to cleanse the Augean stables of political interference by intelligence agencies and politicians’ harmful manoeuvrings. The natural gas from Iran has the potential to serve as our energy’s life line. Kashmir to which the President alluded in the context of another issue is our jugular vein. One wonders whether these and other socio-economic issues would receive any attention from the government during the current year.