WEB DESK: PML-N’s victory in Azad Kashmir was indeed overwhelming. But let us not forget that, historically, the party in power in Islamabad wins the elections in Azad Kashmir.
Besides, for the past eight years, the outgoing PPP regime administered Azad Kashmir as badly as it is doing in Sindh.
Let us now see how PML-N’s reverses that scenario. PML-N’s intoxication with building Metro Bus and Orange Railway services (now promised to Azad Kashmir) induced ignoring other sectors that badly need repair, up-gradation and expansion be it basic civic, education and health services, energy and power generation and distribution, export, or efforts that convincingly expose foreign intervention in Pakistan.
Last week the Prime Minister (PM) was scheduled to address the nation on July 19, and his speech was to be telecast by PTV, but for the next three days an advertisement replaying extracts of his speeches made (during his last term as the PM) condemning India’s refusal to implement the 1948 UNSC resolution mandating a plebiscite in Indian-occupied Kashmir were telecast.
The silence over his inability to address the nation created fresh doubts about his recovery because, reportedly, he was suffering from infection in his legs. But a day after returning to the Prime Minister’s House after two months, he was able to stand up and address a public meeting in Muzaffarabad to celebrate his party’s victory in elections, while across the border innocent Kashmiris being martyred by Indian armed forces
Hopefully, he has recovered and will take stock of what happened, more importantly, didn’t happen, during his long absence from office, especially the host of issues that lingered on. But his first priority is confronting the fallout from the Panama Leaks and the Model Town tragedy, and opposition parties’ threatened legal action and protests on these two simmering issues.
A rumour making the rounds in the media is that, courtesy the immunity provided to the country’s president by Article 248 of the constitution, the PM (obviously, on the advice of his legal advisors) is thinking about getting himself elected as the country’s president, and his party leadership has assured him of the majority vote of the parliamentarians.
On the face of it, it seems ‘good’ legal advice because becoming the president affords immunity against criminal charges (in his case emanating from the Model Town tragedy), and Mian Nawaz Sharif can remain president for a full 5-year term irrespective of how many new parliaments are elected during that period. But the other side of this picture isn’t as promising. To begin with, this article of the constitution provides immunity only against criminal proceedings, but sub-section (4) of the article allows civil proceedings against the president provided, 60 days before filing of a petition, he is served a legal notice that fulfils all requirements of the law in the context of explaining the reason for the suit that the aggrieved party intends to file.
This article therefore can’t protect the PM-turned president in civil cases lodged on the basis of solid facts and evidence relating to the Panama Leaks. As we know, opposition parties are collecting this evidence and putting it together for challenging the PM in courts of law; it may take time but finally may put the PM-turned president to test.
In the context of criminal charges, Article 248 of the constitution says that no criminal proceedings shall be instituted or ‘continued’ against the president during his term of office. Impliedly, any individual facing criminal charges can become the president. But does anyone fighting a legal battle on such charges fulfil the conditions specified in Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution?
For any contender of the office of the president, it is imperative that he/she complies with the terms laid down in Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. Here it is worth mentioning that three political parties have already filed petitions with the Election Commission of Pakistan pleading therein that Mian Nawaz Sharif doesn’t fulfil the requirements of these two articles.
In this setting, by becoming the country’s president the PM’s strategy for avoiding legal confrontation with his opponents on the Model Town tragedy and the Panama Leaks has a fifty-fifty chance of success. But, according to a seasoned legal expert “forget about legality of an issue; in Pakistan, just about anything is possible.” Indeed the ‘Charter of Democracy’ signed by the PPP and PML-N may yet rescue Mian Nawaz Sharif.
That said the confrontation between PML-N and PTI that has gone on since the 2013 elections because of serious allegations of their being rigged, and the government’s focus only on self-serving projects, has damaged the economy whose single most worrying indicator is the continued slide in exports and consequent resort to ever-higher external borrowing.
The massive unpunished waste and pocketing of state funds that forced ever-higher domestic borrowing worsened this scenario – the legacy of both PPP and PML-N. Yet the PML-N ministers keep reminding us about the ‘historic’ level of exchange reserves (bulk of which consists of external debt), and the amazingly unrealistic praise being showered on Pakistan by the IMF and Bloomberg.
Despite its sliding exports, does Pakistan qualify for the “Asian Tiger” title bestowed by Bloomberg? Can it go on servicing its public debt? Or will it be by borrowing afresh to repay the maturing debt? Isn’t that what Pakistan is doing instead of undoing the distortions that can stabilise its economy, allow reliable medium-term business planning, and build a reliable repayment capacity?
As for the IMF, responding to its January 2016 demand for cutting overall development budget by 27 percent (rather than postponing the outlay on Metro Bus and Orange Railway services) to plug the revenue shortfall and keep fiscal deficit within IMF-specified limit, development outlay was slashed in 2015-16, which prevented a rise in Pakistan’s competitiveness.
To contain the fiscal deficit, imposition of more indirect taxes and withholding refund of tax rebates instead of checking waste and pocketing of state revenue, is hardly the strategy for up-grading the physical infrastructure, stabilising the economy, upping its competitiveness to create the environment conducive for increasing exports. Why this isn’t the government’s priority?
It is now clear that both PPP and PML-N used democracy only as a signboard to secure Western support for staying in power that they used to enrich their leadership and its cronies at the cost of the nation which, for its ‘strategic’ reasons, the West faulted ceremonially. Despite this ongoing trickery, the powers with the muscle to undo this mess to prevent Pakistan’s bankruptcy, are watching silently, though the longer change is delayed, higher will be the cost of damage repair. Besides, who will pay for it?
Source: Business Recorder