President Asif Zardari is probably not satisfied with the reactions to his last address to the Parliament at the start of a parliamentary year. The address also marks the beginning of the fifth and final year of the PPP government, as well as his term. Perhaps, the symbol of the reaction was the PPP’s own MNA, Syed Nasir Ali Shah, who staged a walkout and later said that the speech made no mention of roti, kapra aur makaan, the main plank of PPP’s manifesto. Mr Shah further pointed out other significant omissions from the speech, which included the Balochistan issue, as well as the government’s failure to prosecute the murder of Ms Benazir Bhutto, the President’s wife. As the President’s speech hardly contained the proposed policies of the government in the coming year, Mr Shah was saying that the government had no apparent policies in this regard.

The Opposition’s protest during the speech may be regarded by the President as a piece of partisan politicking, but he should also keep in mind that if the government had done as well as he claimed, the Opposition would have not chosen to register a protest on this particular occasion, where a protest is not expected to be registered. However, that it chose to do so shows that the government has done badly enough for the opposition to feel the need to express its distance from it. Instead of resting on its laurels, as it seems inclined to do from the presidential address, the government should think about carrying out those policies which the people want. It should be particularly aware of the situation in Balochistan, and remember that Mr Shah might just be the thin edge of the wedge that means it will not, as this time, form the Balochistan government. The President should also consider the fact that his address, which is supposed to be the highlight of the parliamentary year, did not enthuse the general public. The government needs to reflect on whether that means a general disaffection with it, or with the political system generally. In either case, the PPP is going to be in trouble in the elections it must call in the coming year.

Whether there is enough time for the government to change course is a debatable point, but since the government has spent the whole year lurching from crisis to crisis, it does not seem it will change in the year to come, meaning that it will go into the next election with the burden of inflation, loadshedding and shortages, as well as an unpopular foreign policy.