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The five men in charge

There are five men who will call the shots for some time to come in the political arena of Pakistan. They will lead decision-making on key issues and oversee the process of setting the policy agenda for the country. One is the nominated prime minister and the other four are the selected chief ministers of the four provinces.
After the devolution of power to the federating units from the centre and the abolition of the concurrent list under the 18th Amendment to the constitution, provincial governments and their chief ministers have gained more importance and executive authority than ever before. The challenges for all of them are enormous in their own particular ways and the environment for at least two is excessively hostile.
What is it that they can do differently from their predecessors or even their own previous tenures as in the case of Sindh and Punjab? Have they learnt from the mistakes committed by their political ancestors or – in the last few years – by themselves intentionally or otherwise? I maintain that Punjab has voted for electricity, Sindh has voted in the name of Benazir Bhutto, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has voted for peace and Balochistan has voted for Punjab. I will try explaining that later.
Shahbaz Sharif is most likely to be the chief executive of Punjab for the full next term. This may change if he is brought into the centre by his brother later during the PML-N tenure. For the time being, he will rule the province singlehandedly. While he can legitimately claim to enjoy public support, he must not further indulge in eclectic fiscal experiments – ranging from the failed sasti roti scheme to establishing a handful of good schools in some districts while millions of children continue to be out of school. Also, it will be better if the province is managed by politicians rather than civil servants.
Shahbaz Sharif also needs to look beyond Lahore and take an equal interest in other parts of the province. It seems he aspired to be the mayor of Lahore when young. The electorate in Punjab perhaps believes that eventually he will focus on their cities and towns as well. Shahbaz also very intelligently placed all blame for power outages on the previous federal government led by the PPP. Now after forming government in both the centre and the province, there will be no one left to blame. Any power outages on a similar scale as now and in the past will make the PML-N want to take back its own words.
Syed Qaim Ali Shah is someone who in a way has been returned to power by the popular mandate of the people since the PPP only won the elections in Sindh where he was the chief minister for the past five years. Of course, there are other significant reasons that helped the PPP retain its position in Sindh but Shah can claim some credit for the party’s success. He has a mammoth task ahead now. It’s not that his party will be finished in Sindh if his government does not perform there. The party will be judged by its character, agency, convening capacity, and commitment to certain ideals in Sindh and failing in the province this time around means an end to the party’s politics in Punjab and other provinces.
Shah has to tremendously improve accountability and transparency in public institutions, manage the MQM and control the overall law and order situation. The efficiency and effectiveness of the provincial government is of paramount importance in the months to come – traits that were missed dearly in the last government headed by Shah. The PPP must consider that the electorate has probably voted for the last time in the name of Bhutto.
Although he is a seasoned politician who has held party and ministerial positions in the PPP, the ANP, the QWP of Sherpao, Pervaiz Khattak will become the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the first time – as a PTI member of the provincial assembly. His party has the largest number of seats in the provincial assembly, but not a simple majority. The PTI will lead a coalition government with the Jamaat-e-Islami and some other smaller parties and independents. The first challenge for the party is to deal with terrorism.
Imran Khan’s recommendation of making peace with the Taliban and getting out of the war on terror sooner than later has appealed to a sizeable number of young Pakhtuns and Hindko-speaking populace that live in areas where there are no drone strikes but where the war has still caused a lot of unrest. Khattak has already clarified that drones cannot be shot down as those who can bring them down sit as part of the federal government. That can be the saving grace for the PTI for some months at least.
The PTI government can, however, in theory block the land routes of the Nato-Isaf supplies to Afghanistan. They will never do that either. The recent unfortunate murder in Hangu of Farid Khan, a PTI assembly member, after multiple attacks on a military convoy, civilians and polio vaccinators by the Taliban is shaking the PTI even before its government is formed. Let us see if the PTI can wed the social liberalism of rich urban youth to the ideology of disgruntled Islamist youth in the rugged mountainous terrain as well as madressahs within cities.
Dr Abdul Malik of the National Party is perhaps the best choice that could be made in Balochistan for the slot of the chief minister. After what we saw in the last five years in the shape of Sardar Raisani and his inability to rein in the acute problems of governance, law and order, dealing with the unhappy Baloch youth, missing persons and foreign investment in mining and fishing, Dr Malik is a welcome change. The previous provincial administration got no dividends out of the special support package announced for Balochistan by the federal government; and it was both mismanagement and misappropriation that marred the performance of the previous Balochistan government.
Nawaz Sharif has definitely shown sagacity in making this decision. Malik is neither a traditional tribal leader nor a conservative politician. His task is most challenging though. While the Baloch will scrutinise him closely to ensure that he represents their interests, those in Islamabad will expect him to strengthen the federation. On top of that, he will have to ensure the delivery of basic services in the length and breadth of the difficult and vast province. While dealing with Afghanistan and Iran is a federal subject, Malik will also have to tread carefully in all these areas.
Finally, the to-be-third-time (lucky) prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has to, from day one, act wisely and patiently in matters of internal and external political disputes. The economy and the energy crisis are to be his top priorities. However, he has to deal with the complicated regional and international politics in the build-up to, and aftermath of, the 2014 Nato-Isaf pull-out from Afghanistan. As far as growing conservatism and sectarianism are concerned, he has to take the bull by the horns.
Unlike his last tenure when a part of him wished to become the commander of the faithful after promulgating a form of religious law in the name of Shariah, today the custodianship of such ideology has shifted to far-right militant outfits. Nawaz Sharif has a choice to make. Either he leads the process of creating a Muslim League that is modern and rational like that of Jinnah or he reinforces his own party from yesteryears – founded by Gen Ziaul Haq.
Email: harris.khalique@gmail.com

Harris Khalique, "The five men in charge," The News. 2013-06-05.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political arena , Decision making , 18th amendment , Politicl process , Government-Pakistan , Constitution , Politicians , Politics , NATO forces , Syed Qaim Ali Shah , Pervaiz Khattak , Imran Khan , Afghanistan , Islamabad , PMLN , MQM , PPP , PTI