Performance of PTI regime in its infancy – Part 1
Asif Haroon Raja
Midway in his second tenure, Nawaz Sharif (NS) was toppled by Gen Musharraf (Mush) in a military coup on October 12, 1999. His team of eleven charted the six-point development agenda and produced excellent results in first three years of military rule, but then the reform and growth agenda and accountability went for a six with the coming in of King’s Party in 2002.
After getting his foe NS sentenced to life term jail by the Supreme Court, Mush sent NS, Shahbaz Sharif and their families into exile for ten years under Saudi mediated agreement in 2001. Although Mush failed to quash the lawyer movement which had sprung up in support of the sacked Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar in March 2007, but before abdicating power in August 2008, he had deflated the popularity balloon of CJ Iftikhar and the steam of the movement. High expectations attached to the CJ fizzled out during the five-year inglorious rule of PPP.
Once NS returned to power in June 2013 with a heavy mandate, he was faced with worst energy crisis, slumped economy, destroyed state-run enterprises and high intensity terrorism. While dealing with these challenges, he also decided to put former president and army chief Mush on trial in a treason case on account of declaring emergency on November 3, 2007 and interning 60 judges including CJ Iftikhar and subverting the constitution for the second time. NS had not pardoned Mush for the prolonged trauma he and his family suffered at his hands.
Mush who had returned to Pakistan in May 2013 to take part in 2013 elections was arrested, and debarred from contesting elections. His Chak Shehzad farmhouse was converted into a sub jail and multiple courts opened proceedings against him. To avoid indictment, he stayed in fortified AFIC for months guarded by troops of 111 Brigade. He was indicted in a treason case by a trial court and his name put on ECL. He however, managed to escape to Dubai in 2015 under the plea of backache and since then he is an absconder and wanted in several high-profile cases. It is said that the army under Gen Raheel Sharif (RS) had helped him in making good his escape.
It is whispered that Mush while sitting in Dubai decided to teach NS a lesson of his life and for that purpose married up with Imran Khan (IK), Tahirul Qadri (TuQ), Sheikh Rashid (SR), PML-Q and MQM. He also made use of his beneficiaries in the army, who in their bid to protect their rewards are still spewing venom against NS and his family through social media. But for the support of PPP, JUI-F, PkMAP and NP, and RS’s unwillingness to support the offenders, NS regime would have tumbled in August 2014 after the attacks by the workers of PTI-PAT on the Parliament, PM House and PTV building in Islamabad.
The efforts to oust NS from power however continued relentlessly and his detractors ultimately succeeded in their mission of unseating NS on July 28, 2017 and entangling him in three corruption cases, and getting him convicted and jailed for ten years in Avenfield apartments case just before general elections due on July 25, 2018. NS and Maryam left behind ailing Kulsoom Nawaz gasping for life and returned from London, well knowing that they will be straight taken to Adiala jail from Lahore airport.
For five years, IK has been promising moon to the people and lambasting the rulers, dubbing them as looters, characterless and a security risk. He kept the public amused and in a trance, cloned their minds, and they blindly believed that he is a magic man who will get rid of the rotten rulers, doctor all the ailments of Pakistan and transform it into a shining Pakistan in a flash. The more he heaped curses on his opponents, the more he received applauses and accolades.
PTI won the race in the July 2018 elections, but the losers cried out that unprecedented rigging had been carried out on the polling day during the counting of votes. So far parliamentary committee has not been formed to probe the allegations of all opposition parties.
PTI has formed governments in the Centre, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab, and a coalition government in Baluchistan. It is the leading opposition party in Sindh Ministry. It has also easily captured the seat of President, thanks to disgraceful role of PPP. Despite spectacular gains, PTI has achieved simple majority in the Centre and in Punjab where PML-N has a strong presence. In the absence of two-third majority, PTI faced difficulties in achieving the magical figures in National Assembly as well as in Punjab Assembly.
But for a sting operation in South Punjab and other parts of Punjab, PTI couldn’t have formed a government in Punjab. Jahangir Tareen (JT) played a key role in steering the flock of independents towards his party, ignoring what Imran Khan (IK) had been stating against this soul selling lot. Similar kind of efforts were made at the federal level to reach the figure of 172. For this, IK had to make compromises by inducting PML Q, whom he had termed as party of Dakoos, and MQM-P against whom he had been spitting scorn. MQM-P’s 7-point demand-list and BNP-M 6-point agenda were accepted to take them on board. Both agendas are anti-military/intelligence agencies.
Although Gen Mush didn’t take part in the elections and his party APML didn’t secure a single seat, but majority of IK’s federal cabinet are the teammates of Mush. All the coalition partners of PTI are from Old Pakistan and as expected are seeking their pound of flesh and creating obstacles in the way of shaping Naya Pakistan.
Out of 21-member federal cabinet selected by IK, which has now expanded to 28 on Sept 11, 12 ministers are those who were part of Mush regime. Sheikh Rashid (SR) had all along been part of PML-N, and was in very good books of NS. He became a key player in the King’s Party formed by Gen Mush in 2002, and held key Ministries of Information and Railways. He later formed his own party Awami Muslim League (AML) and got aligned with PTI and became the right hand man of IK. After resignation of NS on July 28, 2017, IK fielded SR to contest the vacant PM seat. He has now been awarded his old portfolio of Railways Minister.
MQM-P has only 7 seats in the National Assembly, but it has been awarded two ministries in the federal cabinet. Farogh Nasim had served as a Law Minister in Mush regime and later on Mush had appointed him as his defence lawyer in the treason case framed against him. Farogh has now been given Law Ministry. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, head of MQM-P, who was also part of Mush regime, has been assigned Ministry of Information Technology.
Ch Tarar Bashir Cheema has taken over the Ministry of Frontier Works. An old PPP stalwart and a suspected member of Al-Zulfiqar, he was jailed in 1981, but was released along with other PPP convicts in exchange for the release of passengers of PIA that was hijacked to Kabul. He stayed out of the country till 2003 and then joined the ruling PML-Q. He got elected on PML-Q ticket in 2018 elections.
Another old PPP leader Ghulam Sarwar who had served as a minister in Shaukat Aziz cabinet in 2004 has been awarded Ministry of Petroleum. Zubaida Jalal from Baluchistan contested 2002 elections on PML-Q ticket and soon became the darling of Mush and George W. Bush since she actively pursued Mush’s policy of enlightened moderation to show soft face of Pakistan to the world. She was given the portfolio of Education Minister. In 2008, she was involved in a corruption scam. Rs 50 crore had been embezzled that were to be spent on streamlining Madrassas into national education system. In the 2010 Pildat Report, Zubaida was declared as a second richest person in Baluchistan. Her total assets are worth Rs 5 crores 78 lacs. She has now been assigned Ministry of Defence Production.
Makhdoom Khisro was in Ministry of Foreign Affairs during Mush regime. He has been allotted Ministry of Environment. Fawad Choudhry was spokesman of Mush led All Pakistan Muslim League Party. In 2012, he joined PPP and managed a ministry in in the cabinets of both Gilani and Pervez Ashraf. In 2016, he joined PTI and after gaining complete trust of IK, he became the spokesman of the party. He was among the aspirants for Chief Minister (CM) Punjab chair. Shafqat Mehmood (Education Minister), Pervez Elahi (Speaker Punjab Assembly), Jahangir Tareen, Aleem Khan, Umar Ayub, Amer Kayani, Mirza Shehzad Akbar, are loyalists of Mush. IK himself was a fan of Mush and had fully supported him in 2001 presidential election and had become part of his team in 2002 for a year or so.
The Punjab cabinet formed on August 26 had 23 members and in this 12 were from N and Q Leagues. Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Bakht and Food Minister Samiullah are ex PML-N. While 26 winning independents had joined PTI after the elections, but only one was accommodated, which caused resentment. 17 independents boycotted CM Buzdar’s dinner on August 31, including few PTI ticket holders who had a similar grudge.
Fearing a revolt, 12 additional members were inducted on Sept 12 taking the total to 35. Among the new inductees, M. Aslam, Husnain Jahania, Amjad Cheema and Shaukat Lalika are independent MPAs. Six independent MPAs have been adjusted as advisers to CM due to shortage of vacant ministries. The two MPAs who cribbed the most, Akbar Nohani and Taimur Lali, have again been ignored. Almost one dozen MPAs including the two have not been given any portfolio. The resentful lot will continue to pose a danger to Buzdar.
Punjab Assembly presently consist of 354 MPAs from 5 parties. Out of them, PTI has 175 MPAs, N-League 159, Q-League 10, and PPP 7. From this, it is apparent that PTI has formed a govt in Punjab with a majority of 16 only. If Q-League is included, it takes the strength to 26. In case those who have been deprived ministries opt to rebel, this majority can reduce further. In case at some stage the 7 MPAs of PPP decide to join PML-N, it would add to the problems of PTI govt. To forestall such a development, the PTI with the help of Pervez Elahi are trying to form a forward block of 20-22 PML-N MPAs.
The new regime under IK has made tall promises to build corruption free New Pakistan based on the model of Meesakh-e-Madina. IK has introduced simplicity and austerity and has made a good start by radically reducing the vehicles from 80 to two, and servants from 500 to two employed in PM House. Luxury and bullet proof cars are lined up for auction and it is intended to deposit the amount in national kitty. PM House will be converted in Research University and Governor Houses/state guest houses opened to the public.
IK is determined to bring back the looted amount from abroad and to eliminate the scourge of corruption and for this purpose intends to strengthen NAB and make it independent. He has formed task forces to recover looted money stashed in foreign banks.
He intends to reform the police and bureaucracy, improve civil service and FBR, and streamline education divided into three tiers, and make Pakistan clean and green by carrying out massive forestation. For the benefit of the poor, he plans to create one crore jobs, build 50 lacs cheap houses, improve govt hospitals and schools, issue health cards, provide interest free loans to the youth, make the state responsible for the care of street children, widows and crippled, dealing sternly with child abusers, and improve the dignity of a common man.
Ending terrorism, resolving water crisis, building four new tourist spots every year, improving local bodies system, attending to water and transport issues of Karachi, addressing grievances of Baluchistan, and directing civil courts to complete cases within one year and doing away with VIP culture are other projects in hands.
All those who had milked the tax payer’s money and misused national resources to amass ill-gotten wealth and stash it in foreign banks have been identified. Sooner than later the law of the land is expected to fall upon them to get back over $200 billion. Given the trend of accountability and the rising ire of the people against the looters and plunderers, it is earnestly hoped that the corrupt do not get away this time.
Before the culprits are nabbed, forced to surrender their wealth and get imprisoned, I reckon they still have time and a chance to transfer their foreign accounts into Pakistani banks voluntarily, accept their crimes and apologize to the nation. This way, maybe some mercy is shown to them.
The judiciary, NAB and the Establishment are backing the govt in this regard since Pakistan is going through financial crisis and foreign debts have crossed the figure of $80 billion while circular debt has reached Rs 1160 billion. IMF under instructions from USA is not prepared to give a bailout package without tough conditions.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member PESS and TJP. firstname.lastname@example.org