The developments on the political landscape of the country including the disqualification of the former Prime Minister as a result of the Panama case, fall of the Balochistan government, the detestable horse-trading in the election for senate seats and the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate, the defections from the PML (N) and meddling in the affairs of the PML (N) government in the centre and Punjab, give the impression that a well orchestrated move was on to scuttle the chances of the PML (N) winning the next elections and preferably have a hung parliament.
The regrettable aspect of the entire episode is that the major political parties like the PPP, which has an impeccable record of upholding the torch of democracy in the past and fighting against undemocratic forces, and PTI are part of the dirty game. I am sure Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto must be turning in their graves to see the change of political creed by their successors. One can understand what Imran Khan is doing and has been doing motivated by the desire to reach the corridors of power by hook or crook. Both these parties are bitterly opposed to the PML (N) and never let go an opportunity to hurl allegations of corruption against the PML (N) government closing their eyes to the irrefutable ground realities.
However, notwithstanding the unrelenting barrage of allegations of corruption against the ruling party by its political opponents, particularly PTI, the International Transparency International in its fourth consecutive annual reports on corruption perception index (CPI) has corroborated the fact that corruption in the public sector of Pakistan has been continuously on the decline. That surely constitutes a befitting rebuff to these parties. Transparency International is a credible global agency whose reports are considered to be beyond reproach.
The index for Pakistan according to the reliable sources is based on data from eight most credible sources including World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment, World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey, Global Insight Country Risk Ratings, Economist Intelligence Unit County Risk Ratings, Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index, World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, Political Risk Services International Country Risk Guide and Varieties of Democracy Project.
The nosedive in corruption did not come about itself and undoubtedly is the result of the targeted policy interventions by the PML (N) government, particularly the technology-based interventions that helped in enhancing transparency and efficiency.
There is also verifiable and irrefutable evidence of the fact that the PML (N) government in spite of egregious circumstances, resource constraints, huge expenditure on the fight against terrorism and political instability fomented by its opponents worked with unruffled focus in reviving the economy which was almost on the verge of collapse and even faced the prospect of default on IMF loans. When the PML (N) government assumed power the economy was almost stagnant at 3% GDP growth rate and the budgetary deficit which is the mother of all economic ills stood at 8.8%. The GDP growth rate has been enhanced to 5.3% and the budgetary deficit pulled down to 4.4% though it has gone slightly above beyond 5% recently. And above all the energy crisis which badly affected the industrial as well as agricultural sectors and caused inconvenience to millions of house-holds across the country has been surmounted to a great extent and the country is fast heading towards becoming an energy surplus country.
The list of emerging economies issued by the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan far above the Indian economy with former occupying 47th position as against 62nd place earmarked to the latter. The IMF in its update on world economic outlook issued on the eve of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos acknowledged that Pakistan attained a growth rate of 5.3% during 2016-17 which would continue its upward swing during 2018 and 2019. The economic revival has repeatedly been endorsed by the international lending and rating agencies. That revival surely occurred due to prudent economic management by the government. The foregoing are irrefutable ground realities.
The country is heading towards next general elections and the incumbent government would be completing its mandated tenure in May. Non-partisan and independent political analysts believe that the performance of the PML (N) has surely paid dividends in the form of ever growing confidence and support for it, which was amply reflected in the wins in the by-elections. According to the statistics the PML (N) won 54 by-elections including seventeen NA and 37 Provincial seats since 2013. It even snatched NA-182 (Sahiwal) NA-154 (Lodhran) and PP-7 from PTI which it had won in the general elections. These developments amply demonstrate that the people of Pakistan had rejected the politics of violence, chaos and sit-ins on which the PTI remained focused instead of delivering to the masses and contributing positively to the process of legislation designed to introduce reforms in the system of governance. It also indicates the damage that the PTI has inflicted on itself because of its negative brand of politics mired in impulsive propensity of its leader to churn out unsubstantiated allegations against the political opponents and the state institutions obsessed with the syndrome of self-righteousness.
The majority of the political analysts and surveys conducted by credible poll agencies maintain that the PML (N) is likely to win the next general elections if they are held on schedule without any intervention and engineering of the electoral results. The decisions by the SC to disqualify Nawaz Sharif, declaring him ineligible to remain President of the Party and providing relief to Imran Khan do not seem to have done any damage to the popularity of the party. It has instead strengthened the notion of witch-hunt and added credibility to the narrative of Nawaz Sharif. He has gained tremendously politically as is evident from the results of by-election in Chakwal and Lodhran that were held after the SC verdicts.
The performance of the party during the last almost five years, negative politics of its opponents and the controversial SC verdicts, according to the political analysts have enhanced the chances of the PML (N) to win the ensuing general elections. They believe that even if Nawaz Sharif and his family members were convicted in the NAB cases being tried in the Ehtsab court, it would have no adverse impact on the fortunes of the party and it may even get a boost from such a scenario. Another factor going in the favour of PML (N) is that in spite of overt and covert efforts to foment desertions from the party it stands united behind Nawaz Sharif. PML (N) win in senate elections also testifies to this reality as the party has won according to its expectations.
In view of the obtaining ground realities, all those political elements which have been trying to dislodge the incumbent government through non-democratic means and expecting negative and debilitating impact of SC verdicts on the politics and popularity of PML (N) will have to look for other machinations and strategies to pursue their objectives.
The writer is a freelance columnist.