Top three contenders

By Brig Samson S Sharaf

Elections 2013 will be crucial for the reconstruction of Pakistan’s parliamentary democracy, economic future, internal stability and control of non-state actors. Though the efficacy of parliamentary democracy and economic stability will rest squarely on the shoulders of the good governance of the new elected government, internal stability and control of non-state actors is a different story. These non-state actors include militants that challenge the writ of the government under TTP, militant groups backed by criminals and sectarian groups loosely affiliated with TTP and  various types of mafias operating all over the country. But this is the visible and violent side of the non-state actors. There are more destructive and invisible actors that must be identified and booked.

In the governmental, autonomous and semi-autonomous sectors, there are scores of organizations that have played their role in depriving Pakistan of its true economic potential and national power. Their acts include; pricing mechanism of imported and domestically produced goods, resources like oil, gas, lubricants and minerals; exploration and exploitation of indigenous resources, distribution and regulatory companies and the energy sector. Together, these non-state actors in the past eight years have gobbled up over 37 Trillion Rupees in domestic currencies and foreign exchange. The lead role is played by names such as Pakistan State Oil and its distribution companies, OGDCL, OGRA, NEPRA, IPPs, Electricity distribution companies, SNGPL, SSGPL and MDCP. The energy sector in particular operated right under the nose of the governments to ensure accumulation of black ready cash with complete immunity to investigations into their affairs. The ex-Chairman NAB Lt Gen (R) Shahid Aziz had to resign when he was stopped from investigating into the affairs of these state owned cartels. The present incumbent Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari cognizant of these mega scandals ought to get the bull by the horns before it is too late. Pakistan’s energy crises beginning 2007 were triggered by these cartels through the circular debt, wheat and sugar and since plunged the country to a total economic meltdown. The investigations, culpability, accountability and reorganization of these actors alone would suffice to refurbish the ailing economy manifold.

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The government of Pakistan has become the biggest borrower of readily available cash from the domestic banking sector. The issue is aggravated due to the politicized appointments of the Central Bank officials. A stage has now reached that these banks do not have enough cash to support the demands of borrowing from the private sector. Due to the dependence of the government on these non-state actors, it is not possible to lower interest rates that could act as a tool to revive the economy. The government of the future will have to put a check to this reckless borrowing and reduce interest rates for the benefit of the industry and entrepreneurs.

Proliferation of Non-Governmental Organizations and so called Not for Profit Organizations have a field day as most international funding and grants are now routed through the NGO/NPO sectors. These include funding coming through the Kerry Lugar Bill, USAID and UNDP etc. The local handlers of these projects are involved in major scams. The results and trickling benefits at the tail ends are there for anyone to verify. As a result, a major chunk of the funding in directed back to its sources and also to grease the hands of all those involved in the projects. Such projects invariably fall in the realm of socio economic development in which human resources can be easily exploited against the national interests. Such funding from friendly countries and donor organizations are also used through fake projects and bills to fill coffers of the nouvelle riche who subsequently become large stake holders in the system. The government of the future will have to redraft the entire concept of NGOs/NPOs, their regulatory procedures and accountability through a superior, efficient and simple oversight mechanism least prone to leakages and manipulation. It is only then that the tail ends of the projects controlled and executed by these organizations begin to magnify and bring an end to the charade of pseudo reformists.

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Other than law and order, these non-state actors convert a huge amount of their ill-gotten wealth into a black economy that thrives on dollars and euros. They are immune to currency devaluations and continue to add to the domestic inflationary trends. The domestic currency is being converted to foreign exchange and then being deposited in local foreign currency accounts, or through the havala/hundi system returning as remittances in foreign exchange. Any future government will also be responsible for the surveillance of trails and adopting strict vigilance and over sight procedures.

This ill-gotten wealth is also becoming apparent in the electoral scene of Pakistan. Political parties and individual have bypassed the entire surveillance of ECP. Money is being exchanged through individuals, right down to the ward levels to buy votes. Add to this bribery, the issues of laptops, solar lamps, income support programmes and development funds; we have in hand a massive influx of electoral corruption and future inflation. Therefore, if the previous incumbents come to power, there are no chances of catching onto mega corruptions that have so far gone unnoticed; not because they would lack the will power but because they will once again be beneficiaries of a system that suits their brand of governance and politics.

So what does this auger for the parties of change and their slogans?

First, right within the electoral contest, the biggest symbol of change and Naya Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf will have to contend with these monuments of inertia within the intra party ranks. The fact that many of them managed to get tickets and thereafter succeeded in casting their shadows on successive nominations will weigh heavy on the election campaign as also policies of the party if it comes to power. If not? Then defections of some could not be far away.

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Secondly, the electoral politics at the heels of an intra-party contest rather than devolve has resulted in over centralisation and lack of initiative. Majority of candidates are new to constituencies and lack the wherewithal and means to dig deep into the hearts and minds of their people.  As is turning out, the election rallies and gatherings addressed by Imran Khan are in sharp contrast to mostly lacklustre gatherings of local contestants living in a delusion that Khan’s popularity alone would ensure their success. It is very disheartening to see Imran Khan, personification of a tearaway express bowler deliver spell after spell on a final country hop. Barring some areas of Lahore, this symbolism is not being replicated by local leaders and party officials. In few very important constituencies, the campaigns have yet to kick start. Proverbially, a captain who once paired with Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis lacks a bowler to complement him.

As suggested by recent surveys, people of Pakistan are desperate for change. It is a challenge to the prowess of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s first, second and third tier leadership to harness these energies ino a sea of emotions and build a synergy in the last lap; else face the dire consequences of an exhausted captain when it matters most.