It was the summer of 2018; I recall standing excitedly to vote for “change,” my first ever vote in the general elections carried an excitement of its own. I was eagerly waiting- the previous results had left every ardent fan of PTI sad- and this time we wanted to make sure that not a single vote would be wasted. There were serious problems in Pakistan: our state was being continuously labeled as a failed, rouge nation whose leaders had brought the country on clutches. The time had come for the “savior” to step in, who was promising good governance, elimination of corruption, elimination of hereditary politics, reforms in healthcare and education, and a system run by experts with capable leadership. In short, everything a Pakistani desired, and the influence of social media ensured the fires were ignited and flames burnt bright. The popular-ism swept the country and carried the “savior” to the apex office and his naïve supporters rejoiced. “Now, finally the destiny of the country would shift,” everyone who voted for PTI that day perhaps shared the same thought. Little did we know that we had just sabotaged our country’s road to development.
2 years in, public infrastructure is in the worse shape, law and order have become a laughing matter, good governance is a myth and the political ideology that spellbound every PTI supporter has pulled a Houdini. The only thing consistent about the “saviour” and his team is stubbornness: years ago they demonstrated this quality in not ending their dharna till the elected prime minister resigned, and today the same stubbornness is reflected in their continuous incompetency.
Forget the touted slogans of accountability of corrupt leaders and ensuring good governance, the “savior” has made us reminisce simple things like clean roads, responsive utility providers, and human security. Gone are the times when Lahoris would be comparing the metropolis’ infrastructure to Dubai and seeing the realization of one development after another, now the eyes thirst to see a clean road. Anyone living in Lahore can bear witness to the deteriorating conditions of the city and its service delivery providers with each passing day, and the yet we, the PTI supporters,remember voting for a better Pakistan.
As regards internal dimensions of national security , these are numerous and equally crucial if not more . These interalia , include economic security , energy security , security against terrorism , food security , water security , cyber security and ever aggravating climate challenges . Pakistans internal situation undoubtedly got worst in Gen Musharraf era when there were serious attempts made even on his own life . Later PPP government (2008-2013)Sawat operation was conducted successfully .
When PMLN took over the government in 2013 , internal environments threatening our national security were still very pathetic to say the least . Target killings in karachi , bomb blasts in almost all populated cities on daily basis , suicidal attacks on army convoys and even in mosques was the order of the day . Not to speak of foreign investments , investors were not even ready to visit Pakistan . Human lives and properties were all unsafe . Situation was so grave that even annual national Parade could not be held and President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yousaf Raza Geelani , nearly confined to their houses ,were forced to do symbolic distant inaugurations of different projects from their respective offices . Comprehending the gravity of the situation , Prime-minister Nawaz Sharif immediately called an important cabinet meeting in Karachi on 3rd and 4th September 2013 where it was revealed that 13000 people had already fallen pray to target killings in Karachi alone since 2001 while 33000 were injured . One third of the casualties unfortunately pertained to our law enforcement agencies . Nawaz Sharif held numerous Apex Committee meetings in Karachi which were attended by the interior minister , Intelligence heads , Governor , PPP CM , Corps Commander, DG Rangers and police chief . Karachi was thus transformed in to a peaceful city . In an Apex meeting in KP , it was revealed that from 2008 to 2013 , 2500 people were torn apart in over 350 US drone attacks in our tribal belt which included many innocent civilians . PMLN government took immediate measures including launching of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in the very first year of their take over and later in Khyber Agency also . Our brave Army under the towering leadership of Ģen Raheel Sharif , broke the back of foreign funded terrorists . Besides APC was called to finalise National Action Plan after merciless beasts killed our 132 innocent children and along with their 10 teachers in KP province . Later in February 2017 operation Radd ul FASSAD was also launched under Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa which was successfully conducted by his able commanders and proud soldiers . PAF pilots also played a critical role in destroying terrorist nests in the inaccessible mountains . Our Navy kept monitoring not only 1100 km long coast line but detected enemy intruding submarine in the deep sea . This dramatically controlled the security situation , and suicidal attacks and bomb blasts became the story of the past because of the extreme sacrifices of the entire nation including army , police , CAF and by all segments of the society under the leadership of PMLN government . This surprised even some of the foreign powers . The French President asked Pakistani PM MNS on the side line of a conference in Europe as to how it was made possible and how could Pakistan help France in that context . .
Second major contribution for national security by the PMLN government was to overcome energy crises and gas shortages with an amazing speed . To get rid of daily 20 hours load shedding in a minimum possible time , was undoubtedly a very tall order for any government . However this was done with incredible alacrity . Energy plants in Punjab were completed with lightening speed . Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s dynamism played a pivotal role in this context . This along with quick arrangements by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for induction of LNG from Qatar to over come gas shortages , turned the table and miles long queues on CNG stations disappeared . Finance Minister Ishaq Dar did a superb job in keep the economy on track and meeting all defence needs for anti terrorist operations being conducted for national security . This had healthier impact on our Industrial and agricultural growth . The master stroke of PMLN government under MNS was , however ,finalisation of CPEC projects with Chinese leadership .Chinese President told MNS that CPEC was personal gift for him . This really was the game changer which gave confidence to the investors, raised Pakistan’s image and boosted much needed economic activities in the country . Resultantly GDP shot up to 5.8 percent ( now heading to minus point 4), size of the economy swelled from 280 billion dollars to 315 billion dollars ( now shrunk to 264)Revenue collection increased by 100 percent from Rs 1900 billion to Rs 3850 billion( now stagnant )Inflation went down to less than 4 percent ( now 12 percent )and large scale manufacturing registered growth . Similarly development budget was raised to about Rs 1.1 Trillion . These indicators boosted national moral and fortified national security .
Brig Asif Haroon Raja ,a renowned defence and security analyst , international columnist , Director Measac Research Centre and chairman Thinker Forum Pakistan sums up PMLN contributions for national security in these words,
“ The five years rule of PML-N was much better .The feathers it added to its cap were over coming energy crises by adding 12000 MW electricity in national grid and ending 20 hour load shedding , tackling gas shortage ,controlling rural and urban terrorism, launching biggest development programme, lift GDP to 5.8 percent and above all signing historic CPEC agreement with China which attracted 46 billion dollars China’s investment for the game changing project . All these achievements were made in spite of politics of agitation of PTI and PAT and judicial activism which retarded progress .”
If the provincial capital is bleeding, one doesn’t wish to think about the conditions of the rest of the province let alone the entire country. The “saviour” is persistently failing in domestic policy, economy, development, health, education and governance. Ineffective management coupled with incorrect policies have lead the country to stagflation. Though PTI-sponsored media attempts to create desired optics, the ground realities cannot be buried in personality cults and charisma, even projects like Orange Train which were just months away from completion at the time of elections, sit stagnant awaiting the time when his team will finally learn the art of running the administrative arms of the country.
The election propaganda of PTI was centered around the former governments not paying enough attention to education, healthcare and public service delivery, yet they have not initiated a single original proposal of a hospital or any other development project, the saviour and his team sits reaping the fruits of labour of the PML-N government through taking credit of the success of projects such as PKLI and Punjab Information Technology Board, an initiative that was already leading the digitalization of Punjab prior to the saviour even entering office. It paints a sorry picture of all the broken promises and U-turns when flagship projects such as Lahore Knowledge Park and Safe Cities sit deteriorating, awaiting the leadership to let go of personal vendettas and venality and focus on service delivery and good governance.
Rising inflation is threatening to send a majority of Pakistanis into poverty. Price hikes, inquiries, changes in his court and zero delivery on the promises of prices being brought down have become a regular norm in “saviour’s riyasat”. FDI has become stagnant, industries are in loss, no new sweeping change has been made in the business regulatory regime and the policies of his team are doing little to solve the fiscal woes of the country.
To add insult to the injuries of a PTI supporter, saviour’s incompetent team has run the improvements made in law and order situation of the country to the ground. Punjab fares the worse. It took lesser time for the saviour to protest against the model town accident than to address the grave crime committed in Lahore. The conditions in the saviour’s riyasat are such that a high ranking police officer can get away discrediting a victim and breaking the law with a mere apology. The country is reporting one rape case after another and true to his “celebrity-like” flagrant way of commanding, the saviour whizzed in with an ill-thought promise that did little to curb the every-day waning conditions of safety and security of women in the country. The promised voters look upon the stars in the savior’s theatre and reflect upon the overhauls of the system and its policies once pledged. The decaying situation called for a national rape prevention program that would cut down the sexual violence against women, and instead the people of Pakistan were presented with a call for chemical castration of rapists, as the “stars” inefficiently forgot to consult models and policies adopted by countries facing similar predicaments like Kenya.
The “saviour” and his “qualified-envisioned” team launched a citizen’s portal, terming it as the bridge between the Government and the people, playing on the needs of people of Pakistan to have a more responsive local governance. The media theatrics termed it as a paramount forum overlooked by previous governments that would connect the general public and the government at national level. It was a treat for all ardent PTI supporters; a brick had been laid for our dream of a true democratic, responsible, and responsive government machinery. We, the people of Pakistan under the captainship of the “saviour” would experience true flavors of good governance. Disappointingly however, like all other theatrics and half cooked, poorly enforced ideas, the citizen’s portal sits idle,calling to question the effectiveness of his team and their capacity to see their projects through.It has a record number of dissatisfied complainants and the Prime Minister of Pakistan cannot bring officers in action. This inefficiency, like all the rest, has been shelved under his system of “inquiry committees”. One reminisces on the days when a single open letter to the editor calling the attention of the Chief Minister of Punjab or a post on Facebook would bring the government into action and the problems of citizens would be addressed instantaneously.
The PTI birthed social media watchdogs sit silent on the “saviour” and his team’s failures. No outcry creates a frenzy when financial irregularities are reported in Peshawar’s metro or the dengue campaign in Punjab is mismanaged. This leaves a citizen to wonder, are we in a cloaked totalitarian system with no access to true information? Hooligism runs rampant in each institution and “saviour’s” theatrics have now become exhaustive, leaving all those desirous of positive change severely disappointed. Narratives are being manipulated and controlled and social media accounts launched that further his own popularity among foreigners are more important than governing the country which sinks deeper and deeper into economic crisis.
Two years ago, he diverted the country’s focus from mega infrastructure projects that were set to address the core development needs of the country, and turned the guns towards accountability and curbing corruption; today his performance graphs sits riddled with failures and non-deliveries with tales of rampant corruption under his own wings. Two years of bad governance, mismanagement, blame shifting games, learning gaps, trials and errors, and the inefficiency of his team has convinced me, at least, that for the future, my vote needs to be based on tried and tested party performance not an unseasoned politician putting on a show with a singular qualities of sportsman charisma and public popularity under his belt. My vote needs to be for Pakistan and those who delivered for the country instead of for impressive speech-weavers.