Unprecedented third term

In view of PML-N’s massive electoral victory it was given that Nawaz Sharif would be the next prime minister of Pakistan.

Unprecedented third term
Unprecedented third term

But now since the May 11 polls the jigsaw pieces of political map have fallen in place to confirm him as the only option to help recover the nation’s socio-political and economic health, it was not a given.

No wonder then, minus the Pakistan People’s Party and Tehreek-i-Insaf, the rest voted him to earn the unique honour of being prime minister of Pakistan for the third time. And strangely enough even parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and Qaumi Watan Party who are PTI’s coalition partners in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the MQM, which only a day before was a rival in the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, have come on his side.

This time, some kind of magic worked, and that ‘magic’ appears to be Sharif’s statesmanship abundantly reflected from his moves following the general elections. Had he desired his party could have formed the government in Balochistan, but as a leading politician, his choice for chief ministership was none other than a nationalist Baloch leader, Dr Abdul Malik, whose National Party was nowhere near the province’s top slot. And in the KPK, from day one he had declared support for PTI’s right to form the government and he persevered in that position, ignoring quite a few interesting propositions.

A big vote count is hardly a reason to be an effective prime minister. Despite his unanimous election as prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was a huge disappointment – but the manner in which parties across the board have come to vote for Nawaz certainly augurs well for his good beginning. He too had a massive mandate for his second term, but soon enough it became too heavy a cross to carry. We believe Nawaz Sharif now elected for his third term is a different Nawaz Sharif, wizened as much by his own experience and conscious of the enormity of complex challenges he is bound to confront.

The agenda for his third term is already cut out. The challenges his government will have to grapple are bound to test both the quality of his governance and the degree of his willingness to co-exist with other institutions and power centres. How well he quits himself in the promised first 100 days it would not only carve the future direction of the policies of his government but also impact the people’s hope for better days. First and foremost challenge to deal would be the stabilisation of national economy that’s now in an intensive-care unit.

And it would require substantial and tangible improvement in supply of energy, better law and order situation and large doses of investment – both foreign and local. That is certainly a huge challenge, requiring progress on all related fronts, but certainly an achievable goal. No previous government, including Sharif’s own, had to open its account in such unfriendly and hostile environs.

But the difference is that Sharif is acutely aware of the intractability of the problems and is prepared to face them fair and square. Then there are threats of failing law and order, violence inspired and fomented both by domestic and foreign sources, including unacceptable drone strikes. And less critical is Sharif’s co-existence with other state institutions including a proactive judiciary and the armed forces now fighting the two-front war, the second front being terrorism.

The third-time prime minister appears fully cognisant of the gravity of challenges facing his new government, but sanguine that he has the required will and determination to stand up to them. While thanking the house for giving him two-thirds majority he did lay bare some of the salient features of his agenda. Don’t mind the thud of clichés – such as no corruption, no cronyism, only merit, value politics – that go with such an occasion, he did appear to be making a serious attempt at turning the page on bitter politics that are so much part of our culture now.

As nobody kisses the beggar on the forehead, he has already worked out a comprehensive plan to revive the economy and achieve self-sufficiency without tapping foreign finances – that’s his vision that time will test. However, his clear message to Washington to stop drone attacks and his disclosure that China would be coming in with a comprehensive plan to help Pakistan develop Gwadar into a ‘free port’ and link it up via a rail-road network do indicate the thrust of Pakistan’s future policymaking. For a man thrown out of power by a military dictator and exiled to foreign lands for long, it’s a great homecoming. – Brecorder