Ever Since the ruling PTI Government came into power after winning July 25, 2018, General Elections and succeeded in forming governments at Centre and in the Provinces of KPK and Punjab, Coalition Government with BAP in Baluchistan, They are still celebrating their victory after the Passage of two and Half Months.
IK’s Tall claims of bringing lasting change in the sectors of Energy, Economy, Health, Education, Environment, Local Governance, Foreign Policy and Civil Service are vanishing with the passage of time since they have just started working on these sectors. Though on Foreign Policy front , they have worked a lot and have been engaged in making an Independent Foreign Policy with Saudi and Iran enjoying the central point and the age-long faithful friend – China as Main Economic Partner. The Experienced Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has so far played a vital role and showed the Ugly face of India before the world at recent UNGA meeting.
Though , PTI has started meddling with CPEC ,yet People in PTI ranks are of the view that they are just reviewing the CPEC to remove anomalies in the corridor and making it suitable for the Baluchistan so that it may reap benefits as Gwadar Port is dubbed as an economic hub for the Province of Baluchistan and the CPEC –Game changer for Pakistan .
Luckily, Pakistan has got Saudi Arab joining the CPEC as Partner since Saudi Arab is the great Oil exporting country and a member of OPEC. Hearing the announcement of Saudi Arab joining CPEC , Trump took a jab at Saudi Arab and made the hard statement that Saudi Government and Its Crown Prince cannot live for two weeks without US Support, This compelled Pakistani Government to take U-Turn and declare Saudi Arab as Strategic Partner instead of partner.
Well, All that happening with Amateurs in Government and Politics since PTI government is struggling to cope with a looming Energy crisis that has crippled the economy . Even the U-turn taken by the Government on Electricity and Gas Hike, has created the opportunity for the critics. They just Bow down given the circumstances and the Public Pressure and Severe Criticism from opposition parties.
The Government is mulling over the Uniform Education Policy as The Federal Minister of Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood has said that Government is working on the uniform education policy to provide a level Playing field for the youth of Pakistan.
There are several challenges to implement a Uniform Education System such as every Province has its own curriculum Specially the Sindh having prescribed the curriculum in Sindhi language from class one to Class Five as most of Science , Mathematics and Social Studies books are taught in Sindhi language and English as Subject at Primary level whereas at Middle , Secondary level, The choice of medium is given to the students to answer the Questions in exam in Urdu, Sindhi or English Language .
The Second biggest challenge is that after the 18th Amendment, the Education and The Health have become the Provincial subjects so it would not be easy to introduce uniform Education system until amending the Constitution.
The Third biggest challenge is the Strong opposition that is the hurdle to amend the constitution and to pass the bill of the Uniform Education system, PTI Government needs Majority in-house and support from Opposition parties without support from the opposition , Such gigantic tasks are impossible to happen.
PTI may expect support from PPP as they had supported the Nominee of PPP in Senate Elections as so far PPP had abstained itself from voting during PM Elections and had fielded their own candidate Aitazaz Ahsan for Presidential Elections. Whereas , MMA, JUI , ANP, PML –N are the strong critics of IK and he will never approach them for support owing to their personal agitation on IK and PTI and even party chiefs of these parties termed the General Elections as rigged and Manipulated though the elections were held in a very peaceful manner under tight Security of Army and Rangers .
Imran’s recent Goodwill gesture of supplying the 40000 Ton wheat to Afghanistan is severely criticized by the PPP since Federal Government is clueless about the drought and famine in the Thar Desert since there was great loss of Lives including Man ,women and children due to severe drought and shortage fodder for livestock, though the Federal Government appears to be very keen in investing millions to generate electricity from Thar Coal with assistance of China .
The tall claims of PTI are waning with each passing day since they have missed their targets which were set for 100 days. Their hundreds of promises, made with people during elections, are appearing an uphill task so far as they don’t seem to be serious in their pursuit and have failed to give clear roadmap.
The Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s untimely statements have further aggravated the situation as his u-turn based policy statements are misleading and may be counterproductive for the Opposition to hit back the government. The Punjab CM’s performance has been dismal so far as he has been engulfed in various contradictory issues such as influencing Police and joy-ride on state-owned Copter with his family. The Situation in KPK and Baluchistan provinces is the same since no significant signs of change are witnessed that may make the basis of change in the offing.
The Government plan to overhaul the Local Government system in KPK and Punjab has materialized to some extent as they have succeeded in drafting Local Governance System in above-mentioned Provinces , yet the change would be incomplete until it is implemented in all other provinces including the Sindh, Baluchistan and GB.
The government should amend the constitution and make the Local government as the Federal subject like they have planned for Education and Health. They have already started the spadework to introduce Uniform Education System throughout the country by making education as Federal Subject. The Process of making health as Federal Subject has not started as yet as the Great Medical Institutes such as JPMC facing various financial problems that have affected its performance.
The PTI Government also intends to bring Civil Service Reforms and the job has been assigned to the Taskforce on Civil service Reforms headed by a Former State Bank Governor and Former Director IBA Karachi – Dr Isharat Hussain.
The analysts are of the view that as Dr Isharat has already served the same role of Intuitional Reforms in Musharraf Era and Then Former PML-N Government, The Performance has not remained satisfactory as Dr Isharat Hussain is an Economic and Finance Expert , He must have been attached with the Finance Minister Asad Umar to help save sinking ship of Economy as the crisis has become severe .
It may be too early to predict the future of “Naya Pakistan” yet it is pertinent to give a roadmap for bringing such massive change in Top bureaucracy. As per the reports that the Sharif’s gave powers to their close Top Level bureaucrats to serve their interests at Federal Level and the current PTI Government intends to bring their own Close Top Level Bureaucrats to serve their interests. There is strong need to depoliticize Bureaucracy to improve their performance.
This may be an opinion or misconception about the bureaucracy but there is a strong need of grooming and training the civil servants, given the needs of the existing circumstances. PTI’s “Naya Pakistan” will not materialize without clear roadmap and planning. It would be imperative to put the right person for the right job so that they may pave the way for the change and Make “Naya Pakistan”.
The Governance And Inflation Conundrum
The Existing situation presents a bleak outlook for Pakistan as the continuous Governance Crisis and Rising Prices especially Petroleum Prices, have made the Life of ordinary men Miserable. The Growing political Vendetta and intolerance have polarized politics to the extent that even positive criticism invites violence breaking all social and cultural norms and Crossing all the limits of Humanity.The deepening economic crisis has exposed the government’s efficiency within two months’ tenure.
The IMF’s strict conditions ask for putting a levy on Petroleum Prices, raising Gas and ElectricityTariffs costing heavy for common people but the Government, on the other hand, seems non-serious on the Inflation issue as within two months of their coalition regime, they have raised the petroleum prices over 100 per Liter that has jolted the working-class especially public transport operators, Rickshaw Drivers and other Market players such as Uber, Careem, InDriver and Bykea etc.
All the business operators are complaining that the rising Inflation and Petroleum prices have affected their businesses miserably. They have raised the prices of their rides and people have limited choices to travel from one place to another, and have nothing than cursing the current coalition Government with the inclusion of tested and Tried corrupt politicians who have dynastic roots in politics and major players of corruption and misappropriation. They have been facing corruptioncases and some of them have remained behind the bars in corruption cases.
That is the main reason to have a clean chit, the government took the steps to curtail the NAB Powers by amending the NAB ordinance and Electoral Reforms Bill, rejecting the use of EVMs in upcoming elections and depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right of casting votes.
Unfortunately, the corrupt and criminal people amended NAB laws to provide relief to Nawaz Sharif, His Sons, Asif Zardari, Khursheed Shah and several other black sheep who have been looting the Public money for decades and have not left any effort in making Pakistan a bankrupt country, unlike Sri Lanka.
The ouster of PTI’s Government in Center through the No-confidence Motion has created a very uncertain situation where people are concerned that what will happen shortly as the current government has been tasked to keep dropping Petrol, Gas and Electricity bombshells on the public having no sense or feeling that how the labourers, Salaried Persons and workers earn their livelihood to feed their family as daily use items prices are touching the sky. Even the average person cannot purchase a flour bag or Gheepouch.
On the other hand, the PTI leader adopted the narrative that there were foreign hands involved in the ouster of his PTI-led coalition government waving the letter. Hence the claim has not been proved with evidence.
US involvement in Pakistan’s power politics is not new, the murder of Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, PM Liaquat Ali Khan and the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto are examples that show the US silenced anti-US voices to maintain its hegemony in the region.
It has been our political norm that whoever comes into Government alwayscriticizes the previous regimes and holds them responsible forall the mess that we witness today. They never revisit the steps that have broken the waist of common men. Whenever asked why the petrol, Gas and Electricity prices have been raised every week, the reply comes very irritatingly and insensible that it was essential to raise the fuel prices since there was an agreement with IMF by PTI Government.
Therefore, to get the stalled Tranche from IMF, we are compelled to comply with the conditions to get the tranche released at the earliest to escape the shrinking balance of payments issue.
Inflation has hit lower-income level people very badly. The purchasing power of an average person has dropped extensively making their lives miserable. The state is like a mother but here, unfortunately, the mother is acting as a stepmother having no sense of love, care, feeling or sympathy.
It can easily be inferred from the incumbent Government’s tactics that they got the power to get rid of the cases registered during the PTI regime and make such electoral reforms that could favour them in the upcoming election for stopping the entry of a new political force or PTI.
They are well aware that if the PTI or Other political force won the election and formed the Government with a simple majority or with the help of allies, they will try to deliver and fix the economy to the point where they won’t need financial assistance from any state including IMF Program.
Pakistan needs visionary leadership and a team of Professional Economic Experts to steer the country from the existing depreciation of the Rupee against the Dollar, rising fuel prices and daily use items so that it may progress.
Pakistan does not need the capitalists, Feudal Lords, Choudhry’s, Sardars, Peers and Mirs as legislators but it requires highly Educated, sincere and honest elected representatives having leadership qualities who can restore its former grandeur. Today we have to make the resolve that we have to liberate our country from foreign liability and external debts that have compromised our sovereignty. If we did not resolve the issue of external debt, IMF may put a condition to roll back the nuclear program that has been our biggest deterrence and balance of power tool against our enemies.
Being Pakistani, it hurts our sentiments when our enemy, India criticises Pakistan if it begs for financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, China, or UAE, how will it demand Kashmir’s freedom.
Pakistan needs to break this begging bowl as Allah has blessed it with all ingredients that can be found in any developed state i.e. Sea Ports, the Best riverine system,Minerals,Gas, Oil,Agriculture etc., but it lacks the visionary leadership that can transform the country into a developedstate. Pakistan should adopt the economic Model that suits its income level. The country cannot be run on IMF Program.
The Government should focus on Education,Health,Infrastructure, employment creation and especially the promotion of Tourism.
Switzerland, Malaysia,UAE, Singapore, Indonesia and UK earn billions of dollars from the tourism Industry, Pakistan needs to explore these sectors so that it can earn passive income. Dubai earns billions from the tourism industry as everybody knows Dubai is desert and tax-free but still earns from Tourism and Industries.
The tax-free status will also help promote the set up of the automobile industry, Textilesetc that will create jobs for Youth. The Skill development programs must be devised so that same may place talent in jobs.
We love Pakistan as it is our homeland, we have to set aside all our differences and made serious efforts to take this country out of the crisis,As our parties, our designation, portfolios,and Identity rest with our country so we have to put Pakistan first than our priorities. Furthermore, the poor must be saved and fuel prices should be slashed importing oil from Iran and Russia as these countries have abundant fuel reserves.
All the institutions should work within their limits and don’t attempt to usurp or interfere in the affairs unless required in National interests. Pakistan should adopt a neutral or Independent foreign policy and avoid playing any role in other countries since we have already paid a huge price for the so-called war on terror and have given sacrifices to our Valiant Soldiers, civilians and children’s APS attack.
Pakistan’s valiant forces should not bedragged into political affairs as they have played their pivotal role in maintaining peace and security having given several sacrifices for the defence of the country.
Finally, all the parties must display their political maturity and work together to get the country out of crisis- be it PML N, PPP or PTI. These three mainstream parties have a bigger role to play to find a lasting solution to Water Crisis, Gas and Electricity load shedding, Overpriced Petrol and making serious efforts to bring the daily food items prices down even offering subsidies to facilitate the masses.
Pakistan has great potential to become an Asian Economic Tiger given its resources and strategic Importance provided that a positive, cooperative, collaborative and tolerant approach should come forward to put the economy on growth on track by bringing reforms.
If there is no political consensus possible then Fresh General Election is the only option to resolve the existing issues as the right to vote will empower the People to elect the best Political party to take the reins of the country and start the journey to the development.
The Big cities Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan, and Rawalpindi should be revamped and modern facilities should be provided so that Tourism Industry and Job creation process may be expedited.
It is hoped that all the parties andInstitutions will come on the same page and debate and discuss a possible solution to prevent the country from defaulting. The blame game should stop now. Let’s make Pakistan self-sustained and economically stable to develop by leaps andbounds. Let the institutions work in their domain without usurping or interfering in others’ domain .
Pakistan’s top priority now: Inclusive political transition
The political landscape in Pakistan has changed dramatically. Imran Khan is out of the hot seat and Shahbaz Sharif is in from the cold. The government and opposition have reversed roles – as have Khan and Sharif, from prime minister to opposition leader and vice versa. The big question is how this political role-flip will play out. Even though Khan and his party legislators lost not just the government but also quit the National Assembly in a huff, the former ruling party will remain the principal political opposition outside parliament. Khan and Sharif will have to deal with each other whether they like it or not.
The litmus test of the success of the role reversal will be if relative political stability is achieved over the next few transition months. After all, it is political instability that has triggered this role reversal. If Pakistan’s political tradition is any guide, this will be easier said than done. Both Khan and Sharif want a full five-term – the former immediately and the latter after getting the country ready for elections which may take several months. Both the opposition and the government in their reversed roles will still be dictated by their instincts about each other – bitterness will be hard to let go of at least in the short term as accusations of ineptitude and non-cooperation are flipped.
Whether new national elections happen on time as scheduled in late summer next year or within this year, both sides are expected to challenge each other politically. But if political stability is a priority – it is critical to economic stability, which is precarious – then stability will only come through a healing touch from the government. Sharif in his maiden speech in parliament has extended an olive branch by offering to establish a commission to remove misgivings of an alleged conspiracy to topple the previous government, but Khan’s party has rejected this off-hand.
The new coalition government – dominated by Sharif’s party but including otherwise traditional political rival parties of Bilawal Bhutto, Fazlur Rehman, Maqbool Siddiqui and others, should theoretically have less imperative to practice vindictive politics like their predecessor. Khan’s party, however, is hurting and angrier than before, for having lost out a make-or-break political fight and is looking to undermine the new replacement dispensation. Indeed, Khan is about to launch a public mobilization campaign to whip up support for immediate elections.
A consensus will allow an issue-based manifesto-driven political campaign for the next elections rather than bitter polarizing personality-centred politics that have ended up costing Khan his majority in parliament.
To navigate this treacherous transitional political terrain, the Sharif government must go beyond offering to settle conspiracy theories and instead float a more tangible offer of collaborative election planning, to allow the new opposition a role in reducing polarization. It helps that the new government is not here to rule for a long time – Sharif intends to clear the politico-legal path to new elections over the next several months.
A key element of any transition from being enemies to being frenemies – essentially a working relationship while remaining political rivals – will be collaborative transition management of a mutually agreed minimum agenda that both Khan and Sharif and their allies covet. Since new elections are sought by both sides, agreeing to a transition agenda of fair elections and some semblance of economic stability must be worked out.
Collaborative strategization and management of the political transition will be key to a new era of political stability. This must start with Sharif reaching out to Khan to jointly develop a charter of legal and political reforms aimed at expanding ownership and legitimacy for both sides for the pre and post election periods.
Such a common agenda of political reforms and economic recovery can work best if both sides agree that they don’t become over ambitious politically and agree to only focus on electoral and other legal reforms that can strengthen legitimacy of elections. They should also agree to not undertake any other radical decisions and leave them to the three-month neutral caretaker government – mandatory under Pakistani law – which can instead prioritize economic recovery initiatives.
Such a consensus will allow an issue-based manifesto-driven political campaign for the next elections rather than bitter polarizing personality-centred politics that have ended up costing Khan his majority in parliament thanks to an exclusionary style of politics alienating even his own party legislators, some of whom have refused his advice to resign from parliament.
Inclusion and common ground are the answers to Pakistan’s current political morass. Pursue détente, agree on a common minimum electoral reform agenda, operate within the confines of the law, throw away the rear-view mirror and look ahead. Graduate from being enemies to frenemies.
Social Media and Polarization of our Society
Social Media has witnessed a mushroom growth that has impacted the discourse of political, cultural and religious systems by providing the equal opportunity of freedom of expression and of sharing an opinion or viewpoint on any issue.
Social Media has played a greater role in right-wing politics that paved the way for populist politicians to reach out to their voters.
Though Social Media has connected the people around the world, at the same time, it is causing division or disintegration and facilitating the social media lobbyists to polarize the communication so much the people support the arguments or opinions or political tirades against leaders without fact checking.
The world has been rocked by social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube because the users of these social networks have already surpassed millions and are growing, but due to the limited regulatory framework, fake news, cyberbullying, extremism and terrorism has reached new heights.
The influencers’ interactions with social media users have polarized the political and social circles that led to the formation of online echo chambers, a tactic of social media recommendations by politicians to influence the users to strengthen their narrative regardless of facts that whether it is right or wrong, but it is knit in a manner that echo chambers appear to be normal for the people thus changing the way of thinking and increasing the supporters base.
The echo chambers post such content that we enjoy a lot while reading, while keeping us away from the content that may stir a debate or arguments or expression of our disagreement over certain social, economic, religious, cultural or policy matters.
The echo chambers keep ideas flowing on a regular basis to the one side –the positive side of the argument, while its negative side is deliberately concealed to hide the facts.
This is the big issue that might be discussed with students, who should be informed and taught at school, college or degree level so that positive and constructive use of this digital medium could be ensured.
Social media connectivity around the world is undoubtedly amazing but the problems it created for both people and students are very dangerous, and need to be addressed and regulated.
Digital media, especially social media, for a long time remained unbridled to post any content that may fall in the purview of hatred, racism, bullying, derogatory remarks, character assault, rebellion, or anti-state elements instigating people to create chaos using the olive branch of social media. Since it was not monitored given the type of content being circulated and the information of people posting such content, including their motives behind such content as may have a constant flow of information that is recommended by the users pretending to be professionals, experts and mentors.
Alarmingly, people without fact-checking go on sharing the content and thus creating hype for such an issue as does not have a basis and was the result of a conspiracy to exert pressure on some person or leaders to get some favours.
“The schools and colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of social media.“
Sometimes, the active echo chambers or volcanoes erupt over such issues as may be beneficial for the wider circle of society, but this finds serious criticism masterminded by people with an individual approach. They term it detrimental for them since it did not serve their interests, though it might have been beneficial for general people.
Humans have an intuitional inclination to communicate with like-minded people or the people with the same choices on social media, thus the echo chambers get even stronger. The discourse that discourages dissenting voices always comes under fire from the thinkers and intellectuals of the nation since it is tantamount to concealing the facts from the people.
The world is coming closer after the covid-19 pandemic that engulfed the entire world, bringing misery and economic crisis. The social media debates go with biased and unbiased approaches regarding getting the vaccine. Some optimists termed it great, while some pessimists or biased approaches raised questions.
The echo chambers try to influence their opinions and win support.Similarly, echo chambers of both Democrats and Republicans only canvassed for their candidates but the leaders instigated the masses to attack Capitol Hill through social media and emotional speeches using their influence on social media, especially Twitter .
Some researchers have found that echo chambers influence people to win support but social media influencers have a follower-base of millions, and may polarize the public and politics, since influencers share success stories like internet marketers compelling you to buy their products.
The opinion leaders and experts reveal that for the last two decades, the percentage of American people having consistently holding liberal or conservative beliefs— rather than a blend of the two, which is the case for most people— has increased from 10 percent to over 20. Beliefs about the other side are becoming more negative creating an alarming situation.
Since 1994, the number of people who see the opposing political party as a threat to “the nation’s well-being or security” has doubled, which heralds how deepening polarization has predictable results raising eyebrows.
The government shutdowns, violent protests, scathing attacks on elected officials, the capitol Hill incident –all indicate that social media have been polarizing the political system and divided the nation each passing day due to echo chambers of both mainstream parties regarding the issues of health, security, human rights, employment and environment.
According to evidence from empirical research conducted on US politicians, politicians following extreme ideologies attracted a larger public audience than those who were moderate, which is the real example of echo chambers.
Usually, messages containing extreme thoughts, emotional instigation, patriotism, or criticizing the opposition received a warm welcome on social media platforms than those messages reflecting merely information.
The polarization of issues and political ideology will have serious repercussions in future that should be addressed on a timely basis so that societies could be saved from further isolation and disintegration.
The issues could be resolved through educating the people and creating awareness about the fair and professional use of social media channels for advocacy for winning support for legislation, an issue, a policy or employment.
Instead of showing the dark side of the issue, we have to educate people regarding both pros and cons of matters of importance for the general public rather than misleading the people with biased approaches to oppose the initiative of the government, community or civil society for the general benefit.
Social Media network operators are the bigwigs and the most influential in this.They cannot be controlled but only be regulated by framing such laws that may ensure fair use of this digital platform and are careful so that users may not face any legal issue by discussing sensitive issues such as desecration of holy places, religions, personalities, anti-state tirades, rebellion, terrorism, extremism and so on. The sensitive issue may stir protests and cause legal proceedings, if the cyber-regulatory laws are implemented to discourage the influence of one-sided opinions or campaigns.
We cannot deny the importance of social media platforms as they provide equal opportunity to people to express and share their thoughts or opinions, but safe and thoughtful use of these platforms will encourage healthy discourse and prove pivotal in promoting dialogue to discuss social, economical and cultural issues peacefully without hitting the sentiments of other communities.
Thus, echo chambers will be less powerful to build a narrative that is appealing but the readers will be engaging themselves in the debates that need interaction.
Undoubtedly, social media platforms have changed the political and social approach of the people and enabled face-to-face digital interaction through video and audio conference calls, so their fair use will mitigate their cons manifold.
The social media networks apply algorithms to connect you with like-minded people but it is up to you whether your engagement in communication is either unbiased or biased.
Social media should be promoting positive discourse to explore the political and economic solutions to the problems of people by reflecting the two sides of the coin so that the discourse be constructive and problem-solving. Social media has given a voice to marginalized people and governments are compelled to resolve the issues of people on a priority basis due to trending topics of social media.
Even the populist leaders may face resistance from social media as the public makes the most of the freedom of expression and criticizes the role of politicians for their failure to address the issues of the public.
In recent times, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been creating history in highlighting issues of both public and national interest but at the same time such platforms have been taken by storm by those influencers who continue to feed the news about their vested interests and create psychosocial hype for any issue that may jolt the power corridors of Government.
The politicians always take to Twitter for their precise viewpoint and policy debate and are usually followed by millions of followers. Even the print and electronic media take the tweets as policy statements or the narrative of some party or group.
The schools and colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of social media.
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