Pakistan has been driving on a sinuous road since the start of the 21st century. The ever-morphing geopolitics, the federation conundrum, inflation in tandem with population explosion and the issue of national security — Pakistan found itself environed by multifaceted challenges.
Every political arrangement — from Martial Law to the democratic troika — has contributed prolifically to the betterment of the state. It is imprudent to only criticize the policies of the erstwhile governments — there must also be a discourse on how many strides, and in which areas, the state has taken and how the different political actors have contributed to it.
General Musharraf and his cohorts are criticized and begrimed by almost every political power and every celebrated academic of the country. A few harangue him to erect the pennon of civil supremacy, many due to partis pris, and others hop on the bandwagon of demagoguery because it is vogue.
But, did the martial law era only brought harm to the country in general and democracy in particular as the political connoisseurs suggest? Nay, reality is that the early foreign policy challenges of the novice century like that of global terrorism — post 9/11 United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373 — and the raising eyebrows of the West towards Pakistan placed her in a difficult position.
It was the deft diplomacy of General (R) Musharraf that Pakistan succeeded to circumvent the gossamer that was inviting deleterious effects on the economy and the self-determination of Pakistan. By adumbrating the intricacies, we may digress because there will always be two camps regarding this decision. However, in those times, it was a savvy decision to keep Pakistan unblemished from international aggression and prevent international isolation.
The government will always have a feather in its cap on taking unparalleled strides on resolving the Kashmir issue and normalizing, followed by improving, ties with the hostile India. The Musharraf-Kasuri duumvirate worked tirelessly along with their Indian counterparts and stake holders in Kashmir to put an end to the Kashmir conflict. No such political resolve and warmth has been seen by both the sides since the start of the democratic era in Pakistan. After all, what is diplomacy but to enhance the area of cooperation?
The problem of federation has always been conspicuous in Pakistan. The fight for the administrative-legal power among different units of the state reached its apotheosis in the form of separation of East Pakistan.
Asif Ali Zardari led Pakistan Peoples Party and received much criticism and continues to do so because of the general political impression that during his tenure the energy crisis was exacerbated and inflation skyrocketed.
However, being a suave and seasoned politician, and an equally a good administrator who delivered two hallmarks to the state of Pakistan which changed our politico-legal fabric — the 18th amendment and the 7th NFC award.
This era morphed Pakistan from a highly centralized country to a decentralized one by increasing provincial autonomy. It also stripped the president of its power to dissolve the assembly under Article 58(2)(B) and upending the 17th amendment.
The 7th NFC award improved fiscal federation by changing the criteria of horizontal sharing among the provinces. Erstwhile, the award was distributed only on the base of population. However, now, the addition of factors like poverty, revenue collection and inverse population density have made the award more equitable. In a result, the share of Punjab fell from 57.36 per cent to 51.74 per cent and the other provinces, especially Baluchistan, elicited an increase in their share.
Nawaz Sharif helmed the stewardship of the country for the third time after the unsuccessful completion of two terms. The populist opposition levitated much notoriety against him on the name of opacity and accountability. This time, he was ousted by legal legerdemain.
Although, contrary to the political rhetoric, the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) did not bring misery and misfortune to the economy through rampant corruption, foreign loans and inflation, it was only a continuum of the state affairs which any government had to face likewise.
The quinquennial odyssey of PMLN laid the foundation of many projects which will be augmenting the economic and the energy sector of Pakistan in the future. The government of PMLN commissioned CASA-1000 and the TAPI Gas Pipeline. Furthermore, the projects of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) formally started during the tenure of PMLN.
Internal security challenges like terrorism and the macabre gang-wars in Karachi, the business hub of Pakistan, plunged the country into a state of abyss. During this era, the government started a decisive operation in Karachi against criminal gangs and started two landmark operations to curb terrorism — Operation Zarb-e-Azab and Operation Rad-ul-Fisad. The success of these operations demanded military might as well as political will.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaaf (PTI) tarried for more than two decades to come to power. His campaign against the corruption of the elite and the slogan of “tabdeeli” made him popular among the masses.
The incumbent government is yet to end its tenure; however, Imran Khan has already taken many initiatives to strengthen the democracy. The electronic voting machine and the rights of overseas Pakistanis has allowed Pakistan to fulfil the needs of the modern day.
A civilized man must enlarge his heart as he has enlarged his mind said Russell in one of his works. The Kartarpur Corridor — an unprecedented step in the history of Indo-Pak relations — has brought fanfare and glory to Pakistan globally. Only a visionary leader like Imran Khan could do this without calculating the cost-benefit analysis.
Imran Khan made an indelible mark on the health sector of Pakistan by contributing through the Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital — something even the government and private sector failed to deliver Pakistan. Now, again, Imran Khan is taking the lead by providing the Sehat Card — an initiative to make the dream of universal health coverage a reality. After the cancer hospital, this contribution is going to revolutionize the health care system in toto.
Putting the lens of criticism and personal associations aside, we can see that every government and every setup had contributed to the State of Pakistan and its citizens in its own way. Comparing them is only a tantamount to comparing apples to oranges.
Every actor did what no other could have done. Musharraf sailed Pakistan through the toughest diplomatic challenges. Asif Zardari strengthened the federation and the state took a 180-degree approach from the one-unit debacle by strengthening the parliament and the units. Nawaz Sharif brought prized international projects home and worked closely with the military to curb terrorism. And Imran Khan, despite three years in power, has done much for health and democracy to leave behind a legacy.
Welcome to the bright side — the right side.