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Pakistan Today Editorial – 12th May 2016

Bilawal’s fiery touch

PPP still in a mess

Young Bilawal might well be better endowed politically than most other Pakistanis – as his party loyalists never tire of claiming – but he will still have to learn his fair share of lessons if his party is to be reinvigorated. And with his father away and nobody in the party high enough on the food chain to mentor him, he will have to let experience be his guide. The Bagh feedback, hopefully, would have been instructive in this regard. If the frontal attack on the PML-N was meant to rally scattered PPP workers around the new leadership, it did not turn out to be a very smart idea.

The Indian connection was more revealing – it’s understandable why Bilawal would want to act and talk like Zulfiqar Bhutto. But while “anti-India” was the main party thrust in the grandfather’s time is understandable, why it must be now is not so clear. Clearly, nobody explained to Bilawal why his mother broke from the old party theme and reached out to India in her own time. Back then the establishment reacted by showering Ms Bhutto with the same sort of names that Bilawal used for Nawaz Sharif in Kashmir.

Political players across the board have realised that politics of confrontation with India will just not do in the new setting. That is precisely why everybody, even the establishment, eventually saw the rationale of accommodating India. Bilawal’s borrowed rhetoric, at the end of the day, amounted to little more than leveraging a popular war cry to hit the government as well as try and unite his own party. Yet his party is still in a mess, and his provocation only betrayed political immaturity on his behalf. His turnaround strategy, therefore, will have to focus more on a cohesive, progressive agenda for his party and the people instead of just launching attacks on the government.
Precise answers to concrete questions

The PM’s audience is waiting

Nawaz Sharif has been conveyed the army’s message that the protracted controversy over Panama Papers investigation was affecting governance and national security and the issue has to be brought to a close at the earliest. The army has ensured that its view is made public through the media. This was presumably needed after the government spokespersons continued to deny that the issue of Panama Papers investigation had been raised during the prime minister’s meeting with Gen Raheel Sharif. What the message implies is that any delay in resolving the issue would be unhelpful. It remains to be seen how the government reacts to the message.

Despite a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, the government is much more isolated now than it was in August 2014 on account of its policies. The entire opposition wants Nawaz Sharif to come clean on the Panama Papers issue. The government’s efforts to browbeat the opposition or divide it have failed. On Friday the opposition doesn’t expect the prime minister to reminisce or ramble – as he tends to do whenever speaking on the issue. It has instead formulated concrete questions regarding the properties acquired or sold by Nawaz Sharif and his family from 1985 to 2016, income tax paid during the period, the status of the Mayfair flats and how these were paid for, details of offshore companies owned by the prime minister or his scions, the actual investment made in the companies, their present value and details of any payments made from Pakistan for conducting business abroad. The prime minister is required to give precise answers to the questions put.

Sharif will have to come up with answers seen widely to be satisfactory. It won’t do to maintain, as he has done before, that he would give answers to any queries only before the enquiry commission. He was elected prime minister by the National Assembly and it is widely understood that he remains accountable to it.

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