With media reports full of the flood victims’ suffering, is ‘politics as usual’ justified? Or is this a surreal ‘escape’ for politicians from the formidable task of addressing the calamity? The unprecedented monsoon rains and floods this year swept away people, homes, crops, cattle, livelihoods, infrastructure and anything else that stood in the path of the roaring waters.
The media is reflecting the survivors’ mounting complaints of no or inadequate help and succour. Desperate people have resorted in some instances to looting critically needed relief goods. Unscrupulous elements are exploiting the dire situation for windfall profits.
Pakistan’s needs for immediate relief and rehabilitation for millions affected have run up against donor fatigue and the world’s other distractions such as the Russia-Ukraine war. Despite Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif’s efforts at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO’s) summit, bilateral appeals and his upcoming UN General Assembly appeal, Pakistan neither has received so far more than a ‘drop in a bucket’ of relief, nor does it have the resources to fulfil the requirements of immediate relief and mid- to long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. That threatens social and political unrest with or without the involvement of political forces.
Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz Sharif has discussed weighty matters with Nawaz Sharif in London on his way to New York. The discussion reportedly agreed that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government will complete its term and hold general elections as scheduled in 2023.
Toppling the Punjab government headed by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and supported by the strength of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also came under discussion, with the ostensible outcome being the decision to move a no-confidence motion against the incumbent Punjab government, perhaps in a matter of a fortnight. Defence Minister Khwaja Asif has described the Punjab government as “hanging by a thread”, adding that this thread could soon break.
Intriguingly, Imran Khan has reportedly stated in a PTI meeting that some PTI elements are in touch with the establishment. That can be expected, since the PTI’s rise to power in 2018 came about with the necessary help of the ‘mother’ institution/s.
Imran Khan’s rhetorical needle is still stuck on the demand for fresh (immediate) elections, but this is beginning to sound like a plaintive refrain in the wind. There are no indications so far that this demand is being taken seriously by anyone, including the PDM coalition government (see above), and especially not in the light of the huge crisis facing the country because of the floods.
As if the natural calamity were not enough, the resurgence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last year has prompted the people of the former tribal areas and Swat, etc., to appeal to the authorities to curb this malign presence to avoid a repeat of the past troubles, otherwise they will be forced to take up arms themselves to defend their lives, hearths and homes from the terrorists.
Already, incidents of bomb and firing attacks on peace committee heads and others opposed to the TTP have commenced the grim tally once again of terrorism’s victims.
When the Pakistan army’s operations in the tribal areas were carried out after the Army Public school massacre in Peshawar, this writer had predicted that the operations had merely ‘exported’ the problem (to Afghan soil), not scotched the snake.
That prediction appears to be coming true with a vengeance, with our so-called Afghan Taliban ‘friends’ turning a blind eye to if not supporting the TTP’s renewed campaign inside Pakistan. With friends like these…
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has begun the much delayed hearing into the PTI’s foreign/prohibited funding case on September 19, 2022. While reports speak optimistically of a verdict in the matter this month, the inexplicable room for delay and manoeuvre afforded by the ECP (and other institutions) to the PTI does not speak in favour of such optimism.
The facts as revealed so far show a concerted PTI funding drive globally, with all sorts of covering companies, trusts, and what have you to disguise and hide the sources of the funds and their use. Inside Pakistan too, the PTI leaders have been found operating bank accounts of millions without declaring them before the ECP.
While the ECP deliberates, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA’s) investigation in the case is proceeding apace. Potentially, an ECP verdict (whenever it arrives) could lead to the confiscation of the illegal funds amounting to millions of rupees and/or the disqualification of Imran Khan for filing false certificates of party funding and bank accounts.
The people are bereft, looking up for a saviour, while a troubling amount of ‘politics as usual’ is in evidence. The fallout of an unprepared state to meet the exigencies of this huge calamity, as much as the lip service (and wholly inadequate relief efforts) of the politicians on both sides of the political divide points to a significant gulf potentially opening up between the people on the one hand, and the political class and state institutions on the other.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022