Sitting governments all over the world have the disadvantage of incumbency. Opposition parties try to belittle the achievements and policies of the ruling parties using their own perceptions and stated positions on particular issues, which is quite understandable in the democratic process. However, in the more established democracies, the opposition to government policies and strategies is more or less based on set democratic traditions in a way that it does not jeopardise national interests. But in nascent democracies and in the third world countries, like Pakistan where no such traditions exist, opposition means denigrating the sitting governments no matter how good their policies and performance is. Sometimes the focus is also on destabilising the sitting government as has been the case in Pakistan.
There are also lobbies within the political parties and society which are essentially hostile to the government and never let go an opportunity to have a swipe at it or its leaders. And when this phenomenon descends into the realm of cynicism – which is a state of mind when people lose the faculty of distinguishing between wrong and right – those suffering from it invariably tend to look at the darker aspects of everything. Unfortunately, our political culture is more prone to cynicism than healthy and constructive criticism, which is a nourishing ingredient for a democratic set up.
The phenomenon of cynicism has been more pronounced in Pakistani politics during the last four years, notwithstanding the fact that the country under the present government has been able to surmount some of the more formidable and debilitating inherited challenges and these achievements have been duly acknowledged and appreciated at the global level.
The most appreciated and endorsed achievement of the present government has been the revival of the economy through prudent economic management, which saw the GDP growth rate rising to 5.1% (highest in the last nine years) in 2017 from a dismally low rate of 3% in 2013. International lending and rating agencies have repeatedly acknowledged and endorsed the economic revival. IMF has attributed this success to consumer confidence and fiscal reforms. Not only that; it has also predicted GDP growth rate of 5.5% and 5.8% during 2018 and 2019 respectively, which is very encouraging news. The prospects of progress and prosperity are much brighter in the future and the economists believe that the implementation of CPEC would add another 2% to the GDP growth rate.
To be honest, the government has not only succeeded in reviving the economy but has also tamed the existentialist threat posed by terrorism and religious extremism to a great extent and the fight against this scourge continues with ever greater success. Karachi, notwithstanding sporadic flashbacks, has become more peaceful than before and gives off a semblance of normalcy. Insurgency in Balochistan has been contained and every now and then we hear the news about surrender of the insurgents before the security agencies. The energy crisis may not have been overcome yet, but the fact is that power outages have been reduced considerably and hopefully the country will get rid of this problem by the end of 2018 when all the power producing projects launched under CPEC would add 10600 MW electricity to the system.
The foregoing developments are almost irrefutable. But our opposition parties are not prepared to acknowledge them and are perpetually engaged in denigrating and belittling these achievements succumbing to their streak of cynicism. They are also engaged in the efforts to destabilise the government, particularly PTI, whose focus has been on political vendetta rather than on strengthening democracy and state institutions which are imperative for peace and progress of the country. The party has recklessly indulged in mud-slinging at national and constitutional institutions and shown disrespect and lack of trust in them besides unleashing an unending smear campaign against its political opponents, particularly the Prime Minister.
The intensity of anti-government sentiment among political opponents of the government sometimes blurs their ability to draw a line between their political motives and national interests and security, an example of which was the interim decision of the International Court of Justice in the Kalbhushan Yadav case, when the opposition parties, in an attempt to have a swipe at the government consciously or unconsciously reinforced the narrative of the enemy.
Unfortunately, the syndrome of cynicism among our politicians has been the bane of our socio-economic progress. Its continuity and refusal by the politicians to learn from the bitter experiences of the past, does not augur well for the country. The politics of self-aggrandisement must give way to politics of sanity, respect for the mandate of the people and an uncompromising commitment to national causes.
The Panama case is a classic example of disgruntled politicians getting together to destabilise the government of an opponent party which realistically speaking is the most popular political entity as reflected by the results in the general elections, local bodies polls, public franchise in AJK and the outcomes of almost all the by-elections. It is motivated by political vendetta, rather than an honest move to deal with the problem of rampant corruption or putting in place a fool-proof legal framework for ensuring across the board accountability. It clearly presents a spectacle of a witch-hunt and burning witches with relish.
Can any of the politicians and parties which have petitioned the SC and others who consider themselves the custodians of national morality declare on oath that they fulfil the requirements of Article 62 and 63? The answer regrettably, is an emphatic ‘no’. They know that they cannot reach the corridors of power through genuine means i.e. through ballot. It is a typical pattern that we have been witnessing in the past, with disgruntled politicians getting together to orchestrate a regime change or malign the sitting government to settle scores with it. This time, instead of conniving with the security establishment, they are trying to use the judiciary to achieve their objective. The Panama case has become a highly politicised issue and the court decision could have wide-ranging long term repercussions for the future landscape of the country. It is hoped that the apex court would keep all these factors in view as well as the demands of justice while delivering its verdict on it.
My personal view however is that in view of the controversy that surrounds the whole exercise and the doubts created about the integrity of the JIT members, the best course for the SC would be to refer this case to the state agencies established under law to investigate and prosecute cases like this and also order probing the cases of all those named in the Panama Leaks. It is imperative to erase the impression of a witch-hunt as well as to meet the demands of justice.