RAIS AHMAD KHAN
It was refreshing to hear Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Zardari acknowledging that the electorate voted the PPP into office with a mandate of solving, ‘Roti, Kapra, aur Makan’ problems – not the judges issue.
This forthright statement has defined the priority of the PPP-led government, much to the chagrin of their coalition partners – the PML (N), whose be-all and end-all appears to be re-instatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice. This divergence of focus threatens the unity and consensus that Zardari has been striving for (quite commendably), and endangers the survival of the coalition governments in the Centre and Punjab province.
Without going into the merits of the two contenders of priority handling, it is abundantly clear that for the 160 million people in the country, it is food that matters most, and any government that chose to ignore this fact, would do so only on its own peril.
So, it is most gratifying to note that Zardari realises this fact, and aims to do something about it. It does not mean that other issues, like the judiciary, would be relegated to the back burner. It is only that, without solving the food, inflation and other economic problems, the democratic era, ushered in with so much fanfare, would be meaningless to the vast majority of poor, destitute and hungry populace, or to the wage earners wondering whether their pay packets will be there on the pay day at all, given the precarious condition of state finances.
The Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar has candidly acknowledged the dismal state of the country’s economy, without mincing any words. The State Bank of Pakistan has come out with fact sheets that speak for themselves. The rising spiral of prices on a daily basis on a global scale, and prices of food, oil, and other commodities and essentials of daily life have jolted even the mega economies of the developed world, let alone the not so lucky countries.
In Pakistan, the rising public debt, falling revenues, budget deficits, adverse balance of payments, dwindling forex reserves, daily depreciating value of the Pak rupee, and so on, are issues that demand constant attention on 24/7 basis. Getting distracted by other matters is tantamount to wilful neglect or worse.
It is to be hoped that Syed Gilani will be able to pull his colleagues together and focus their attention to the order of national priorities, rather than pursuit of a personal vendetta. The late Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was fully cognisant of these realities and went out of her way to promote national reconciliation and build a consensus, burying the acrimonious and personal grievances of the past, as a way to serve the people.
We are sure her legacy, irrespective of the political hues and proclivities of the elected members of the legislatures, will not be lost sight of, and in this hour of darkness be a beacon light for self-less service to the nation.
Source: Business Recorder, 1/5/2008