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Pakistan Today Editorial – 21th March 2016

The Musharraf storm

Pressure on PML-N

Gen Musharraf seems to be recovering quickly in Dubai; smoking his cigars, holding meetings and discussing politics. Back home, meanwhile, the N-league continues to struggle with damage control. Ch Nisar was fine with the whole issue – if only so he could continue disagreeing with some of his more vocal colleagues – but Musharraf’s sudden departure has definitely widened cleavages within the ruling party. Ahsan Iqbal employed the usual spin for face saving, but word is that almost all senior leaders – except Ch Nisar, of course – have made their unhappiness known to the prime minister. They talked big not long ago, and now the government has left them looking silly.

Moving forward, press reports of a deal between the general and the government will only make it difficult for these ministers to defend the government’s course, especially since they were so vehemently opposed to it. It has also strengthened the perception that the Sharifs do not take too many senior leaders on board for important decisions. And it’s not just PML-N leaders that are cross with the PM. PPP is outraged. Bilawal is unhappy because Musharraf was “nominated in the murder case of my mother Benazir Bhutto”, while Farhatullah Babar has called for Nawaz’s resignation. It is also true though that PPP did not do what was expected of it, at least, regarding the BB case during its five years in power.

Whether or not Musharraf returns is anybody’s guess, despite his assurances. Going by early signals, he seems in no mood to look beyond politics just yet. PML-N should use this time to reflect on how it pursued the treason trial against the former dictator, and why it has been controversial from the beginning. The decision to prosecute for Nov3 instead of Oct12, for example, and why it suddenly took its foot off the gas once it needed the military’s help during the dharna days, have still not been properly explained. And why did the government hide its decision behind the Supreme Court order when it was clearly its call? One way or the other, Musharraf continues to haunt the ruling party.

Unprepared for disasters

Government seems oblivious to climate change

The ongoing torrential rains are the outcome of the climate change that Pakistan has yet to acquire the capability to cope with. The mega floods in 2010 affected 21 million people leaving nearly 2,000 dead while inundating a third of Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people had to live in emergency camps for months. Two years later, rains and floods once again caused widespread havoc. According to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the recent rains have led to 80 deaths, mostly in South West and Northwest of the country that includes Balochistan, KP and AJK.

By now it should have become clear to those in power that the changes in weather pattern are not a temporary phenomenon but a long term headache. Little has however been done so far to acquire the ability to reduce the impact of climate change. The NDMA which was created in the wake of the earthquake in 2005 is unable to handle any major disaster, particularly one with a widespread impact.

The problem with the ruling parties is that they are fully concentrated on projects that can fetch them votes in the next elections. Long gestation projects that involve creation of adequate response systems and strengthening of existing institutions find no place on the governments’ agenda. Whenever there is a natural disaster, the governments respond reactively. The stock response is to call in the army and seek international help. Acute problems that cannot be resolved through such responses are already manifesting themselves. Water shortage is one of these. This would aggravate with the ongoing fast depletion of subsoil water and melting of glaciers caused by rising temperatures. There are no institutions or think tanks assigned the task of working out solutions for the existing problems as well as those likely to emerge in days to come. The population time bomb continues to tick without anyone in the ruling circles displaying the least concern about it. The common man will have to pay the price for the lack of vision in political leadership.

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