Finally, Raja Pervez Ashraf got installed as the new Prime Minister and this sent a wave of pessimism all over the country because of ‘confident’ statements, made in the capacity of Minister of Water and Power, and subsequent utter failure, of his claims to end loadshedding by a certain date which is long since gone. Unfortunately, this happens to be the one single factor that, apart from ruining businesses and industry, and depriving people of their source of livelihood, is affecting every single individual from infants, right up to the elderly people, not leaving unaffected those who come in-between, more so when the weather is at its hottest. Widespread anti-loadshedding riots have been reported from nearly all parts of the country, with some deaths already reported, which gives a clear indication of the anger and frustration of the people over this issue. In these circumstances, holding of an energy conference by the new PM is a hopeful sign but the people, having been exposed to optimistic statements earlier, are unlikely to be too impressed with mere announcements and declarations and would want some actual improvement in the situation. Having been a water and power minister formerly, at least the PM is expected to be aware of different aspects of the problem and the bottlenecks, like plants being unable to produce because of non-supply of fuel, which prevent utlization to the full of even the installed capacity. There were reports that even sugar mills are in a position to supply surplus electricity to the government but this facility has not been used because the government has not as yet devised a ‘policy’ to buy this surplus electricity. As a Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf would definitely be in a far better position to secure co-ordination between different ministries in order to solve this problem. This could also be a test-case for him because if he cannot bring some improvements even in the field in which he has some experience, he could hardly be expected to perform well in other areas where he had little exposure. Unfortunately, early indicators are not good because the first Sunday after his coming to power has been worse than the last few Sundays, but let us give him some more time. In any case, there is not much else we could do except that the worst-effected among us, who are even running short of drinking water due to long periods of load-shedding, could become more vocal and physical in order to vent their extreme anger and frustration, not that it would be the best of things to do.

We also know that before long, the new PM would be asked, very much like his predecessor, to write a letter to the Swiss authorities, with the anticipated consequences in case of his likely refusal to oblige. Let us hope it does not come to that but at the same time, we can’t entirely rule out the possibility that we could be looking for yet another prime minister, in the not-too-distant future.

Coming back to the home-front, it would be no exaggeration to say that things are in a pretty bad shape all round. What is worse is that getting entangled in various fights, the top state officials seem to spend most of their time and energy planning and fighting these little wars which, unfortunately, does not leave them much time to attend to more serious issues affecting the masses and for nation-building projects. At a time when we are facing huge internal and external problems, we need a very strong government but what we have got is just the reverse, with no hope of things getting better with the present setup remaining in saddle whose main objective seems to be to complete its term, come what may.

So, could we go for the democratic option that is available and is normally used in such circumstances, which is holding early elections. Ruling coalition partners owe at least this much to the hapless people of Pakistan. With the government already in its fifth year, going for such an exercise won’t be much of a hardship to it anyway.

S.R.H. HASHMI,

Karachi, June 25.