Inayatullah Little is left of the spirit of the Charter of Democracy (CoD), so fondly forged by Mian Nawaz Sharif and late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Discerning eyes could see soon after it was signed that the Peoples Party had only partially accepted it. The party leadership had a hidden agenda of its own and it didnt take long to open negotiations with dictator Musharraf, which later culminated in the infamous NRO deal. After Benazirs assassination, the relationship between the two parties for quite sometime did reflect the realisation that democracy, as the desired system, must be preserved and past practices of vengeful politics shunned. By sheer quirk of circumstances and one may add, because of a remarkably quick and clever handling of the situation arising after Benazirs untimely demise and after the party performing well in the elections, Zardari managed to get himself elected as President of the country. Shrewdly enough, he was able to successfully pursue a policy of cooperation and collaboration with PML-N and other parties, both at the centre and in the provinces. The first CoD test came when in pursuit of its provisions, Nawaz asked Zardari to restore the senior judges dismissed by Musharraf in a blatant violation of Pakistans Constitution. Zardari promised that he would do so. He, however, reneged on his pledge. Nawaz kept reminding him, even making him yield a written commitment only to find that the PPP Co-Chairman had no intention to keep his word. For his image of unreliability, he just couldnt care less. In spite of this bitter experience, and even after the parting of the ways at the centre, walking out of the coalition government, Sharif kept up a position of positive relationship with Zardari and his party. He often spoke of going an extra mile to save the democratic system at any cost and frequently assured the PPP of his support. More than once he pledged his partys support for the PPP till the next elections. Call it a sincere belief in sustaining the democratic order or sheer naivet, Nawaz practically stood by PPPs government, earning the sobriquet of a friendly opposition for PML-N. Call it a strong faith in the democratic principle, or just simple-mindedness, it has taken two and a half years for Nawaz Sharif to discover that the PPP had all along hoodwinked him and his party, nay, it was determined to weaken and even destroy it. He failed to understand that Taseer and Wattoo had been commissioned to harm his partys government in the Punjab. He did not strongly react when serious efforts were hatched to make him and his brother, the Punjab CM ineligible for contesting elections and even after the dismissal of the provincial government. He failed to avail the opportunity of having a hostile Governor removed when as the acknowledged leader of the lawyers movement, he emerged as the most influential politician of the country. His post long march career has left much to be desired. More about it later. Nevertheless, the PPPs performance in governance and in managing the economy has been quite poor. High inflation and mounting unemployment have made the lives of the masses miserable. Soaring utility rates; frequent loadshedding; excessive and erratic increase in the price of petrol, diesel and gas; rampant corruption and lack of personal security (as well as frequent bomb blasts) along with recurring crises arising out of shortages of sugar, wheat and other commodities of daily use and steep increases in their prices, have severely damaged the image and standing of the government. On many occasions, the people across the country have gathered to protest against the governments policies and behaviour. Add to all this, dozens of alarming scandals of corrupt practices and flagrant misuse of authority - many of which have been taken notice of, suo motu by the Supreme Court. Quite a few involving the loss of billions of rupees are, even today, being examined by the higher courts. Over and above these lapses, there is a continuing defiance on the part of the government of the rulings and orders of the Supreme Court regarding its malpractices, brazen display of extravagance and wasteful expenditure. Mention may, particularly, be made of the judgment given about the NRO and specific directives about the follow-up action. Many of these, even after the lapse of a year, have not been complied with on one excuse or the other. Reference may also be made to the governments failure to follow in letter and spirit the resolutions passed jointly by the National Assembly and the Senate about the policy to be followed with regard to action in the tribal areas and also about the drone strikes, which still continue to violate international law. All this taken together was grist to the mills of an intelligent and astute opposition, but all the opportunities were not availed of. On the other hand, the PML-N leadership is presently facing severe attacks on their performance in the Punjab. The ever-ready Governor and the razor-sharp federal Law Minister do not let go any occasion to push the Sharif brothers on the backfoot, highlighting the deficiencies and weaknesses of the provincial administration. At the same time, it will be unfair not to acknowledge the fearlessness, wilfulness and tenacity of the PPP leadership. How it has kept its cool in the face of one crisis after another and one scandal after another - knowing that there is a severe shortage of funds, despite criticism, it has maintained a huge Cabinet of more than 70 ministers; restored thousands of dismissed jiyalas in already over-staffed government organisations; and has been spending millions of rupees every month on expenditure incurred in maintaining the presidency and the Prime Ministers House, demonstrating how tough and unconcerned one can be while facing public demands for prudence and frugal use of resources - it has exhibited a certain kind of self-confidence and strength to keep a straight face when lapses and faux pas occur. The latest example of it was first a statement by the honourable Interior Minister that Pakistans foreign debt of $50 billion be written off, and then a rebuttal by the Finance Minister the very next day that it was unwise to ask for it. It is interesting, in the context of above observations, to look at the letter Nawaz Sharif has written to President Zardari. It asks the latter to: ? Bring an Ehtisab Bill before Parliament, as regrettably two and a half years have elapsed and no accountability law is in place. ? Replace the management of loss with well reputed and talented professionals from home and abroad. ? Implement all judgments of the Supreme Court in totality without further delay. ? Cut down non-productive expenditure by reducing the size of the Cabinet. ? Stop leakages in the tax regime, instead of accentuating the suffering of the already distressed citizens. ? Hold a thorough debate on the measures to encourage savings by cutting wasteful expenditure. ? And appoint a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the sugar crisis and take action against those who failed to ensure timely import of sugar, despite repeated written requests of the Punjab government. Whatever be the reply received, it would be unrealistic to expect that there shall be a credible change in the thinking and behaviour of the government. A few palliatives perhaps The writer is a political and international relations analyst. Email: