Credit goes to Zardari

Courtesy:- M A MALIK

On September 4, 2012 President Asif Ali Zardari is completing four years of his five-year mandated term as head of the state, which is a fairly long period to conduct an appraisal of his achievements both as head of the state and as co-chairman of the ruling PPP. An objective evaluation in this regard would necessitate a scrutinising glance at them in relation to the challenges that the country was confronted with when he and his party were saddled with the responsibility to steer it out of the troubled waters. 


The challenges that PPP inherited were formidable and intractable. The country faced an existentialist threat from the snow-balling phenomenon of terrorism and religious extremism Balochistan was seething with unprecedented political turmoil. The constitution had lost its soul due to the aberrations introduced by the dictatorial regime. The reinstatement of the deposed judiciary and constitutional and administrative complexities in this regard needed to be resolved amicably. Provinces and the federal government had severe differences over the distribution of resources out of the Federal Divisible Pool and the issue of provincial autonomy. The economy was in shambles, marred by food shortages, power crisis, rising unemployment and burgeoning poverty. And above all, the lurching ship of democracy needed to be steadied and brought to the safer waters to continue its journey uninterrupted. Tackling these intractable challenges undoubtedly required prophetic vision, unswerving political will, rock solid commitment and honesty of purpose. 

In regard to consolidating the gains of democratic process that commenced with the elections in 2008, it is pertinent to acknowledge the fact that no sooner than the PPP led coalition was installed and Zardari was elected President, forces inimical to democracy raised their ugly head and the country witnessed an incessant campaign of character-assassination against President Zardari. These forces unfortunately were also joined by the political opponents of the President and the PPP and a section of the media essentially hostile to the government. Unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, mis-governance were sponsored and agitated besides attempts to urge the praetorian powers to send the system packing. Even timelines were given for the collapse of the system and the exit of Zardari as President of Pakistan. 

But as we see the lurching ship of democracy has been steadied. For the first time an elected government is completing its tenure and the country is poised to achieve a smooth transition from one democratic government to another government. President Zardari must ungrudgingly be given credit for keeping the undemocratic forces at bay through his political sagacity, vision, unremitting resolve to fight adversities and the politics of reconciliation. As regards the threat posed by terrorism, the government has successfully halted the advance of the demon with the help of our valiant armed forces and other law enforcing agencies. Successes in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan provide a ranting proof of fact that the government has effectively broken the back of the terrorists. 

Through the passage of the 18th Amendment the constitution has been restored to its original shape and the provinces have been given the much demanded provincial autonomy. The 19th and the 20th constitutional Amendments are other marvels of the spirit of reconciliation. Initiatives like resolving Balochistan cauldron, unanimous adoption of the 7th NFC Award that settled the long outstanding grievances of the provinces regarding distribution of resources from the federal divisible pool and giving self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are other epoch-making steps taken by the PPP-led coalition government. Under instructions from him the government also set in motion a silent social revolution in the country through legislative measures aimed at women empowerment and gender equality. 

The power crisis that the government inherited was another debilitating challenge as it was adversely affecting the lives of the people and pummelling the economic edifice of the country. The government accorded top priority to the resolution of this problem and has been able to add 3500 MW of electricity to the system. Thirty nine Projects having a cumulative capacity of 10211 MW which will be commissioned between 2009-2017 have also been launched. The government is also working with unflinching commitment on projects like Bhasha Dia Mir Dam, Neelum Jhelum and Thar Coal with 4500 MW generating capacity. Strenuous efforts are also in the offing to complete and trans-regional ventures like TAPI and Iran Pipeline. The completion of these undertaking will resolve the energy crisis for good. 

In regards to poverty alleviation schemes like BISP under which more than Rs 85 billion has been disbursed to four million poor families, Waseela-e-Haq initiative, the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme giving 12% share of the state-owned industrial enterprises and Benazir Green Tractor Scheme for small farmers, are some of the steps that are likely to have far-reaching and healthy impact on the social, economic and political landscape of the country. 

On the economic front also, the government has taken some tough decisions to rectify the maladies afflicting the economy, without caring for the political fallout. The imposition of RGST and expanding the tax net by shifting focus on direct taxes with a view to protecting the poorer sections of society from the adverse effects of spiraling prices, represent a healthy paradigm shift in the management of the economy that could rightly be described as a pioneering initiative towards self-reliance and sustainable growth. The government has also been able to obtain a five-year waiver on duty free access of Pakistani goods to the EU countries by WTO, a rare phenomenon in the history of the world body which speaks volumes about the success of the diplomatic initiative of the present government and its perseverance in insisting that Pakistan needed trade and not aid. The decision by President Zardari to enhance wheat support price which his opponents believed would give wheels to the already spiraling prices, proved highly productive as the incentive has resulted in tremendous increase in the wheat production and Pakistan from an importer of wheat in 2008 has become an exporter of this commodity in 2012. 

President Zardari also set healthy traditions in dealing with political opponents. There isn't a single political prisoner in the country; yet another unprecedented happening considering the politics of vendetta that has marred the development of democratic institutions in the country. 

In the domain of foreign relations also, a discernible change in recognition of the emerging geo-political realities, is also evident. The government is revisiting its relations with the US. The major emphasis is now on improving and strengthening relations with the neighbouring and other regional countries such as China, Russia, Afghanistan and India. These measures will have a decisive, far-reaching and positive impact on the social, political and economic profile of the country besides improving international image of the country. 

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