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The people need help

In the current political milieu, the democratic credentials of Pakistan Democratic Movement’s leaders are perhaps the strongest. They waged a relentless struggle against the hybrid regime of former prime minister Imran Khan, upholding the principle of the supremacy of civilian rule and the constitution.

During this struggle their leaders suffered a lot with Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz facing incarceration while Hamza and Shahbaz appeared in court after court to deal with what they called politically motivated corruption charges. The leaders of the PPP were also implicated in various cases, running from one court to another to attend hearings. They were not even allowed adequate treatment.

Late senator Usman Kakar, also of the PDM, never minced any words when talking about non-democratic forces and violators of the constitution. He believed that a strong federation could only be possible by strengthening provinces and granting them provincial autonomy. Late Mir Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party also remained steadfast in his struggle for the supremacy of the constitution and civilian rule. Defying all odds, he took on those who wanted to subvert the constitution. Bizenjo also faced concocted cases and harassment but such sledgehammer tactics could not deter him from expressing his unflinching loyalty to the constitution of the Islamic Republic.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman also improved his democratic credentials by siding with democratic forces. He managed to evolve consensus among the components of the alliance on a minimum agenda. He also rejected all covert or overt offers to switch loyalty; his home constituency was snatched from him but he refused to cave in to the pressure of undemocratic forces.

The alliance also highlighted the plight of the people, who they claim were pushed towards hunger and starvation by the Kaptaan. They were quick to point out the phenomenal surge in medicines prices, were relentless in their criticism of Khan’s handling of foreign affairs and lambasted the PTI for showering favour on cronies and friends by doling out contracts.

The PDM had claimed it would be a help to the people of the country who witnessed nothing but economic hardships under Khan. But to their utter surprise, the new government dropped a petrol bomb. The specter of a raised power tariff is also haunting them which will not only hit industries but also those living on the bottom layer of social stratification. Amidst all this, Prime Minister Shehbaz announced a paltry sum of Rs28 billion for the poor, which is not likely to make much difference to their lives.

Instead of receiving any massive support, all the people got was the rhetoric of Shehbaz and the chicanery of Hamza who are laying every blame on the door of their predecessor, making no effort to address the myriad of challenges faced by the country. The current ruling elite seems to be as indifferent to people’s plight as the former one. One example of this indifference could be seen in Hamza’s speech in Bahawalpur where he promised to provide internet facilities to the youth of a region that is dying for water. Thousands of people have badly been affected in Cholistan and other parts of the Seraiki region but instead of extending any genuine relief, the ruling elite is organizing large public gatherings allegedly with state resources to rant about their political rivals.

The chief executive of Punjab should rather have come up with a comprehensive plan to address the water shortage in an area that has been under their rule for decades now. They should have responded to the criticism of those who assert that the N League always turned a blind eye to the backwardness of the Seraiki region, pumping all money into the development of Lahore. Now, with the public gathering being over, should we expect that the desert area will not suffer droughts and that in case of any natural calamity a smooth supply of water would be ensured?

His father was not any different in resorting to rhetoric and making bizarre claims. Addressing a gathering in Mansehra, the prime minister made a ridiculous assertion of selling his clothes for extending relief to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the past his Sasti Roti, Danish schools and a number of other projects miserably failed. His political home Punjab still houses the largest number of stunted children, out-of-school children and victims of child labour and bonded labour. The province that he ruled like a king for years through commissioners and deputy commissioners instead of elected local bodies’ representatives is the abode of a majority of poor Pakistanis, speaking volumes about his much-vaunted efforts for lifting people out of poverty.

If the PDM government really wants to make any difference to the lives of 220 million people, it should come up with a concrete plan to lift over 60 million people out of poverty, put 25 million out-of-school children back in school, provide shelter to over 67 per cent Pakistanis who lack this basic need and ensure supply of pure drinking water to over 80 per cent of Pakistanis who are bereft of this precious blessing.

Leaking reports to the media, claiming the prime minister wakes up early in the morning or presides over meetings even in a plane will not change ground realities. Putting an end to the squandering of public money on political gatherings, halting unnecessary foreign trips, diverting state resources towards health, education, decent housing, sanitation and environment instead of capital-intensive mega projects would go some way in alleviating the suffering of the people. The PM must also hold local bodies polls and devolve powers at the grassroots levels in practice, end personal projection by abolishing the tradition of inaugurating projects and stop flooding cities with PM and CM banners and posters.

The prime minister should also use his proximity with powerful stakeholders to convince them to reduce the budget of those sectors that are not productive for the economy. He should also abolish the over $17 billion subsidies extended to the elite of the country if he really wants to prove that he wants to serve the poor, besides dedicating over Rs500 billion Public Sector Development Schemes to providing basic amenities to millions of people instead of making more underpasses, bridges, flyovers and motorways.

After the 18th Amendment, a number of federal ministries should be redundant. The PM should abolish these ministries, diverting the saved money to public welfare projects. Billions of rupees are spent on the salaries and perks of parliamentarians and MPAs. A pledge to not receive these at least for a year could prompt people to offer sacrifices for the economy of the country as well.

Email: egalitarianism444@gmail.com

Abdul Sattar, "The people need help," The News. 2022-06-01.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political milieu , Political gatherings , Democratic , Corruption , Economy , PM Shehbaz , Mir Hasil Bizenjo , Pakistan , PDM , PTI