Pakistan: Can Nawaz Sharif Redefine Priorities?

Prime Minister in waiting
Prime Minister in waiting

The process of oath taking by the elected members has started. On Wednesday the elected members of Sindh Assembly sworn in and shortly members of other provincial assemblies and National Assembly will also take oath. Mian Nawaz Sharif will create the history by becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time. All the fellow countrymen wish him the best and wish his government completes its term. The haunting memories of dismissal of his previous two governments are still fresh.

In these pages it has been highlighted repeatedly that it will not be the bed of roses for the rulers, particularly for Mian Sahib. His party will form government at federal because it enjoys simple majority and in Punjab it enjoys two-third majority. However, his worst critics and opponents will form the government in remaining three provinces.

Since all the parties want to put economy of the country on fast development, resolve energy crisis, curb militancy and establish writ of the government establishing good working relationship is a must because they have consensus on the issues and also on the priorities. The management gurus say ‘a problem well diagnosed is half solved’.

Fortunately or unfortunately all the parties have consensus on four basic issues facing the country that are: 1) balance of payment, 2) energy, 3) law and order and 4) internal and external threats. It may be another thing that they may not priorities the way these have been listed here. During the election campaign political parties have talked a lot about these problems and the root causes. Now the time has come to come up with policies through consensus and implement these in letter and spirit.

To begin with the new government will have to finalize details of Saudi bailout package and IMF extended financial facility.  The two options will help in different ways, Saudi package will help in containing further erosion of existing paltry foreign exchange reserves and IMF facility will provide the much needed breathing space to come up with a home grown plan for overcoming balance of payment crisis. Delaying the decision for next 100 days to witness the impact of policies can prove fatal if desired results are not achieved.

People are disappointed with the statement of Mian Sahib that energy crisis is far worse than estimated. They had got some idea when PML-N leadership extended the period from three months to three years and lost hopes with the announcement that the government needs 500 billion rupees or five billion dollars to overcome the issue. Even the experts wonder how such a colossal amount could be mobilized and what will be the required measures to pay off this debt.

Some cynics say the country does not needs money but a solid plan to resolve the crisis. Both electric and gas utilities have to overcome blatant theft and improve recoveries to improve cash flow. At present about 6000MW electricity is produced at hydel plants which don’t require even a drop of oil and remaining 6000MW electricity is supplied by IPPs.

If NTDC clears all the outstanding amounts IPPs will have enough cash to buy fuel. The much talked about debate that ministry of finance is not releasing the required amount is spreading disinformation rather than helping in resolving the crisis. The federal government can pay the amount pertaining to federal and provincial governments, state owned enterprises and make the deductions at source.

Law and order situation can be improved by taking action against the culprits irrespective of their association with political parties or religious groups. Let one point be very clear that economic prosperity can’t be achieved without ensuring security of people and their assets. Operation in a particular area or against a specific ethnic group can’t resolve the issue.

Once the economy is put on track, the government can address internal and external threats, worst being growing militancy and sectarian killing. The time has come to weed out foreign militants, who are also being used by various local groups for settling scores. Across the board operation is required against the perpetrators, irrespective of their association with local political parties and religious groups.