As the incumbent governments, federal and provincial, reach the end of — unprecedented in the political history of Pakistan — their five-year tenure, the usual theatre of electioneering has begun to unfold. The multi-tiered system is composed of the submission of candidates’ documentation in the Election Commission of Pakistan, compilation and verification of voters’ lists, completion of intra-party elections, finalisation of candidates per constituency and application for desired electoral symbols. Before the full-blown canvassing begins, most of the parties have submitted their manifestos, which introduce or reiterate the varied plans, programmes and schemes targeting development, which would be in line with public needs and expectations. The latest manifesto is the one presented by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which taking into consideration the economic, infrastructural, social and law and order issues of Pakistan has outlined plans that would be in practice on both short and long term basis. In a time of overall bleakness in the country, the manifesto brings forth a vision of a future that is not just required but is eagerly awaited. One of the most crucial issues debilitating Pakistan is that of electricity load shedding (in combination with gas and water shortages); this the PML-N promises to take care of by generation of 10,000 MW of electricity, half of it from coal. Not a moment too soon is what should be said about this plan, which in a coal-rich country like Pakistan should have been initiated a long time ago. The only thing that merits consideration before the plan is put into practice is to strategise a technology-based environment policy that serves as a check for coal-fired generation plants that cause severe pollution.
The Rs 15,000 minimum wage promised by 2018 is another positive proposal, which if implemented properly can help alleviate the financial misery of low-income families. The promise of generation of three million jobs in the public and private sectors, in particular IT and SME, is a critical requirement. Housing schemes for the low-income group are also a praiseworthy idea. The education policies, which would include raising the budget from two percent to four percent by 2018, highlight the need to implement a system that provides cheap, modern and high quality education to all, regardless of class. The abysmal public education system is in dire need of rehabilitation for being totally inadequate to prepare children for today’s knowledge-based society. The healthcare plan, with the allocation being doubled to two percent, is another positive idea, which if put into practice will improve the lives of the masses, who live in deplorable conditions conducive to the threat of many diseases.
Agriculture will get special attention, and food security will also be guaranteed. Remittances of overseas Pakistanis will be used for various programmes to boost the economy.
All of these policies look great in theory except for the elephant in the room. How all these plans for development will be implemented in the light of the worst economic gloom of the country, which is largely because of acts of terrorism killing thousands, and inducing an environment of uncertainty, is a question that remains unanswered. Coupled with the breakdown of law and order and the massive power crisis, the economic scenario reads like a grim tale. Most of the local and international investment plans have screeched to a halt due to the present dynamic of the amalgamation of all these factors. How the PML-N or any other party plans to generate revenues to kickstart the economy and introduce new programmes remains a mystery in the face of the absence of a cohesive plan to generate the requisite funds.