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EDITORIAL: Minister for Water Resources Syed Khurshid Shah of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was spot on when he lamented the absence of ministers as well as the prime minister during the budget session. In a house already without a real opposition because of all the drama about en masse resignations of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) members, for ruling coalition legislators to also not show up, including all ministers, during an extraordinarily important budget session is a crying shame.

He also very rightly pointed out that politicians go through all sorts of troubles to get elected to parliament, yet treat it with utter contempt once they make it there; which goes to show where their interests really lie.

PPP has now threatened to boycott the remainder of the session if proper attendance is not assured, and rightly so. These are times when the public is being made to pay for the excesses and failures of the country’s rulers all over again, after all, and everything that concerns the lives of ordinary citizens and businesses is collected in the budget document. Word is that the unusual austerity owes to the compulsion of falling in line with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) $6 billion EFF (Extended Fund Facility). But that ought to require even more detailed debate than usual.

The behaviour of the country’s political elite, pretty much as a whole, has left a lot to be desired lately. If the confusion at the centre is not bad enough, the unprecedented pandemonium in Punjab is set to go down in history as one of the darkest days of the so-called most important province of the federation. It’s been literally paralysed only and only because one alliance of political parties cannot accept that it has lost its grip on power and will go to any extent, no matter how disgraceful or even unconstitutional, to spoil the show for all the others and then also play the victim.

All this is a very far thing from the kind of mature behaviour that is going to be needed to come out of the crises that confront the country at the moment. But what to do, and where to look for it, when it is simply not found in the political lot? This brings us right back to the crisis of democracy that we seem doomed to go through after every few years of representative government. Every time politicians have only themselves to blame for spoiling the whole show, and then they complain to no end if outside forces should intervene. That the so-called establishment is now neutral is well established. Yet the best that politicians can do, even when there is no outside interference, is fall all over themselves.

If political leaders cannot conduct themselves as responsible professionals, can they really be expected to find solutions to problems of monumental complexity? Right now, all of them know very well just how fragile the economic situation is. Yet they don’t agree to work together to mend the economy and latch on to any opportunity to bring harm to the other, even at the cost of harming the country and the people in the process.

No wonder, then, that the whole system seems ready to implode. For the good of everything in the country, including themselves, Pakistan’s leaders must immediately put their differences aside and help each other to bear the burden of structural adjustment that can no longer be delayed. It will be a painful process, but there is light at the end of this tunnel. But first we would have to get going, and take the hit together. Otherwise, there will still be a lot of economic trauma, but there will be nothing to show for it. Politicians need to stop playing their usual games and start working for the country for a change.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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