A striking phenomenon of the post-election politics in Pakistan is that the considerable good work done by the PML-N governments at the Centre and in the Punjab has evoked little appreciation and in fact, most of it has been obscured and even ignored. What is worse is that the media especially TV channels, elements of the civil society and of course the opposition are prone to finding faults in almost anything noteworthy.

Why is it so? One plausible reason is that over the years, some of our TV channels, vie with each other to vociferously subject government’s acts of commission and omission to generally scathing criticism. This they do in their talk shows where vocal reps of political parties are encouraged to plunge into a free-for-all and often loud-mouthed exchange of unvarnished articulations of one-sided opinion. One may here also refer to the behaviour of some of the anchors who join the players in the ring and keep the pot boiling.

Linked to this phenomenon is the enormity of the problems and challenges inherited by the government. These problems are complex and require time to be addressed. Solving the electricity shortages and putting the economy on an even keel are bound to take years. Inflation, lawlessness and terrorism are not easy to resolve. Terrorism has also an international dimension and demands a civil-military integrated approach to manage it. Since this is bound to take a huge effort and lot of time, insecurity, more or less will continue to prevail in the length and breadth of the country. This violent lawlessness coupled with escalating extremism adds to the factors which inhibit investment and desired economic growth. Thus, this government is overwhelmingly beset with inbuilt constraints.

To restate the question posed above, why it is that the government gets a raw deal and instead of bouquets for its many commendable deeds gets brickbats?

In addition to the reasons cited above, it is the way the PML-N leaders deal with issues and challenges, the manner in which they act and how they relate to the opposition and the media, the tactics they opt for, even when their policies or strategies are not bad at all, that create the irksome situations for them. Also, many a time, they fail to realize that a lethargic approach or not taking the bull by the horn, could land themselves in a troublesome crisis. Further, a failure to assess the mood and the mind of the opposition, aggravates an otherwise an easily resolvable problem.

There are many instances of such slip-ups. The upright and hard working Minister for Interior often times finds himself in trouble because of certain remarks which are immediately picked up by the opposition. Recall the walkouts in the Senate and the National Assembly and unprecedented sessions of the Senate held by the PPP and some other parties outside the Senate building. Again there is this recent hullabaloo over Chaudhry Nisar’s use of the word “tamasha” in regard to the PTI’s demand for the verification of thumb marks on the ballot papers. Nisar did not realize that the opposition was itching for an opportunity to turn a molehill into a mountain.

Another telling lapse on the part of the PML-N government was its conduct over the demand of the PTI to reexamine the voting record in four National Assembly constituencies. This was a matter entirely to be dealt with by election tribunals and Election Commission of Pakistan (and Courts as and when approached). There was no need for the federal government to be controversially involved in it. The Nadra chairman’s dismissal (and his reinstatement by the Court) has only added to the government’s discomfiture.

This brings us to the way appointments and dismissals of government servants have been handled. The delays in the foreign office assignments and changing of orders paint a picture of an inept administration. Not enough thinking and planning is done while taking such decisions.

A few days ago there was a split in the National Assembly over the stand taken by PML-N and some other parties about the execution of a Jamaat-i-Islami leader in Bangladesh. A wise approach would have been to first debate the issue in a Parliamentary Committee.

The PML-N and PTI relationship and how the differences have assumed alarming proportions needs to be analyzed and understood, It was good that PLM(N)  in an act of statesmanship, let PTI form the government in KPK. Nawaz Sharif should have sustained this attitude in subsequent dealings with Imran Khan. When he expressed the desire to stop the NATO supplies in KPK, Nawaz Sharif might have invited him for a talk on the issue or had gone over to meet him. A proper course could have been devised and agreed to, in the light of all possible repercussions. Instead, the PML-N leaders started a vilification campaign against Imran and his party taunting him for diverting attention from the alleged failure of the PTI to fulfill its promises to the people. Imran has not only stuck to the blockade of Nato supplies though KPK, he has moved ahead to announce massive rallies of protest against the government for its failure to reduce inflation and bring down prices (which has resulted in a considerable increase in people’s misery).

We thus see that because of PLM-N’s somewhat unwise handling of issues relating to the opposition and an unprofessional approach to governance matters, it has landed itself into a problematic state of affairs.

Further, may one ask the Prime Minister, with all the good work you have been doing, day in and day out, in Pakistan and abroad, how do you explain your prolonged absence from the parliament? Your presence could have softened the possible damage done by PML-N stalwarts while articulating their policies and performance.

As stewards of a zigzag democracy, the PML-N leadership can ill afford the political pitfalls it is fast falling into, the rising confrontations between government and the opposition with PTI and Tahir-ul-Qadri threatening to bring masses to the streets, with PPP playing hide and seek and the Taliban and extremists stepping up strikes. Immediate steps are needed to manage and contain the worsening scenario.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.