Pakistan: Next government not a bed of roses
The unofficial results indicate that PML-N, headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif has won the largest number of National Assembly seats and absolute majority in Punjab Provincial Assembly. PPP and MQM collectively have won the largest number of seats in Sindh and will most likely form the government in the province.
However, the number of seats won by PML-N in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwah are not enough to form government at its own. It will have to form alliance with other parties. Political pundits forecast that managing Pakistani affairs may not be as easy as was perceived by PML-N as PTI is not likely to be a ‘friendly opposition’.
According to certain quarters Taliban and its offshoot TTP has extended unconditional support to PML-N and it may not be easy find to develop cordial working relations with the US administration. The continued tilt towards Taliban/TTP will not bode well in achieving the confidence level.
The US mantra of ‘do more’ will force PML-N to do some of the things that may not be endorsed by its vote bank; two of the thorns are Afia Sisiddiqui and drone attacks. However, the prevailing situation offers an opportunity to PML-N to develop working relationships on new terms and conditions.
At this juncture Pakistan and India also don’t enjoy very cordial relationship. Mian Sahib ‑ himself of Kashmiri origin ‑ has been saying that Musharraf regime had put Kashmir issue on the back bumper. While Pakistan has been declining to grant India MFN status till resolution of Kashmir issue, watching Mian Sahib reproaching Pakistan’s rival will be worth watching. On his back are Jihadis who don’t approve granting India MFN status.
Experts had expressed apprehensions when Mian Sahib opposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. It was obvious that Mian Sahib didn’t want the credit to go to Asif Zardari, but he had certainly offended time test friend Iran. Keeping in view Mian Sahib’s tilt towards India, he is more likely to buy gas and electricity from India rather than Iran.
At present Pakistan suffers from three deficits i.e. budget deficit, trade deficit and trust deficit. Keeping in view statements of Shahbaz Sharif overcoming energy crisis may take up to three years. It is on record that PML-N chose to spend billions of rupees on metro bus project, distribution of free lap tops and Sasti Roti but didn’t take any initiative to overcome energy crisis in the province where it enjoyed majority and also ruled for five years.
Historically, Mian Sahib has never enjoyed cordial relationship with MQM and his statement is on record ‘in case we come into power military courts will be established in Karachi’. The hint was towards punishing MQM and he had dented the party in the past.
A question being asked is, can PML-N and MQM establish working relations, at least? The outcome will dependent on the attitude of PML-N as well as MQM. Some of the political pundits say ‘MQM after having remained in power for decades just can’t afford to sit on opposition benches’.
It is also feared that soon after coming in power PML-N will initiate ‘operation cleanup’ in Karachi that could lead to strike calls and suspension of industrial and commercial activities in Karachi. Over the years Mian Sahib has been accusing MQM for booty collection, land grabbing and making Karachi a hostage. Therefore, sharing power with the ‘accused’ will not be an easy task.
The top rivals ANP, MQM and PPP likely to form government in Sindh but sit on opposition benches in National Assembly could give real tough time to PML-N. Added to this will be PTI’s pressure on three issues, eliminating corruption, maintaining law and order and stopping drone attacks.
Following its tradition PML-N is most likely to introduce policies to attain ‘political mileage’ adding to budget deficit, which may not be approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Though, the Fund has hinted towards extending US$5 billion under Extended Financing Facility, the terms and conditions are yet to be finalized.