“There was a wise man

in the East whose constant prayer was that he might

see today with the eyes

of tomorrow.”

– Alfred Mercier

The failure to reach a consensus on a name for the caretaker Prime Minister means that the political leadership has lost round one of what is going to be a very challenging time ahead for Pakistan, politicians and people.

Nevertheless, failure should not be an option, though it would not only dent the credibility of the politicians, but also lead to the perception that they still have not matured to amicably decide on critical issues facing the country.

It is, however, expected that better sense will prevail and the matter will be resolved by the parliamentary committee. But if it also fails and the issue is further referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), there is no guarantee that the name suggested by it for the caretaker PM will be acceptable to all parties.

Pakistan, needless to say, has travelled a long way to promote and strengthen democracy. It is good that for the first time an elected government has managed to complete its constitutional tenure. A framework for transition to the next elected government has also been put in place and if constitutional provisions are followed and respected, the foundation for a vibrant democratic dispensation would indeed be laid down.

Moreover, it seems that other ingredients of the system - an independent judiciary, a free media and a vocal civil society - have already come of age, which means that the chances for democracy to take root have increased manifold.

While these are the positives that can be seen over the horizon, it is also a fact that the caretaker setup and those who are voted into power will face tremendous challenges. The most important challenge that will be faced by the interim government will  be economic. Lawlessness and terrorism will also have to be tackled. They will not only require urgent attention, but also remedial measures.

As far as the economic outlook is concerned, perhaps, the country will require a bailout package from the international donor agencies, who will without doubt attach strings to it, further crippling the everyday lives of the common man. So it is necessary that economic issues are tackled in an economic way and politics is not allowed to play any role in it.

Another challenge would be the growing energy crisis for which short and long-term practical steps would be required.

One hopes that besides respecting the people’s will, urgent reforms that are required in the economic arena would find enough political support allowing them to become useful tools to overcome the present economic weakness.

Currently, the ground realities strongly suggest that no single party will be in a position to form a government on its own. Keeping this in view, the political parties and their leaders must show some flexibility; and instead of indulging in brinkmanship, they should follow the path of consensus and reconciliation.

The politicians must understand that the entire nation’s salvation depends on compromise and not confrontation: if a consensus is not achieved on serious issues confronting the country, then the people’s faith - that is already low as far as the politicians are concerned - may evaporate altogether creating further mess in the country.

As a final word, it is expected that the caretaker setup, entrusted with the responsibility to govern, will not only create conducive conditions for free, fair and impartial elections, but also play a productive role to meet the challenges facing the country and help alleviate the sufferings of the poor.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com