Our politicians are often criticized for raising petty and unimportant issues that do not interest the majority of citizens. They are accused of fighting with powerful circles in the state to extract favors from them. They are lambasted for using the rhetoric of democracy and the rule of law. They are lambasted for promoting slogans, breaking their promises on the ground, breaking their promises and adding to people’s woes instead of coming up with a concrete plan to resolve them.
But during his recent visit to Karachi, Shehbaz Sharif convincingly raised valid and important questions about the performance of the PTI. The former chief minister claimed that after the three-year reign of the PTI, 33 percent of Pakistanis live below the poverty line while 40 percent face food insecurity. He indicted the government of the day, citing statistics that have not been denied by the brigades of PTI supporters who are always ready to spit venom at anyone who criticizes their beloved leader.
The former chief minister lamented that inflation is on the rise, increasing every week with the cost of fuel, commodities and foodstuffs rising and becoming beyond the reach of Pakistani workers. Shehbaz claimed that inflation climbed from 3% under the PML-N to 17% under the PTI. The cost of drugs, complained the former chief minister, has climbed 500%.
Shehbaz Sharif also criticized the PTI over the debt situation, claiming that Imran Khan’s government increased the national debt by 54% by borrowing heavily during his reign. He revealed that the current government had added 9 trillion rupees to the domestic debt and 4 trillion rupees to the external debt. He expressed concern about the increase in debt service from 1.5 trillion rupees to an all-time high of 4 trillion rupees this year. Shehbaz questioned the rationale for the rupee’s devaluation, asking what the government had achieved after the 45 percent devaluation.
These are all critical questions that the ruling elite must answer. However, it should be mentioned that the performance of the N League has not been very impressive either. It is true that he has carried out giant infrastructure projects, injecting billions of dollars into such initiatives, but the realities on the ground for the people have not changed either. For example, of over 20 million out-of-school children, the majority belong to the heavily reformed Punjab where the PML-N ruled for over 12 years. Several urban centers in the largest province are not equipped with water and industrial treatment plants. The province is also home to the largest number of poor people, while the greed of the police is also more visible.
The situation of educational establishments was not rosy either, thousands or rather tens of thousands of schools being deprived of basic necessities. Literacy which was 20.7 in 1972 saw a small increase over the decade, reaching 46.60 percent in 1998. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, the rate was 71 percent, 62 percent and 61 percent. A number of countries like Cuba wiped out illiteracy a few decades after their liberation despite the many hardships imposed on this country by the imperialist powers. Even a poor country like Nicaragua has worked wonders in health and education, earning praise from international bodies for its work in these crucial sectors. Nothing like this was observed during the PML-N’s tenure in the Punjab.
In fact, some educators claim that literacy declined rather than increased between 2012 and 2014, when PML-N ruled the province. The state of these places of learning was also deplorable. According to a 2015 report, there were 2,229 schools in the province without potable water. According to another report from 2016, around 48% of schools in the country did not have toilets, perimeter walls, electricity and drinking water. Although the situation was worse in Sindh and Balochistan, the Punjab was only slightly better than the other federating units. The much-vaunted Danish schools may have benefited a few thousand students, but one wonders why not all schools have been modernized in the same way. Even these schools were not viable.
It is not just education that has been ignored by all successive governments, including the PML-Ns. The health sector was also not on the priority list of any political party. For example, a 2018 report from the Punjab Health Agency found that the province has only 94,179 doctors and dentists registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) in addition to 64,846 nurses, 44,452 agents. Women’s Health Supervisors (LHW) and 1,799 Women’s Health Supervisors. The hepatitis seropositivity rate is currently over 14 percent in the province while a few years ago, the largest province contributed 63 percent of the country’s total TB cases. If adequate measures had been taken, the situation would not have been so grim.
Thus, it is quite clear that on issues related to an ordinary citizen of this country, the performance of all political parties is the same; because everyone believes in the philosophy of the free market and unbridled capitalism. Take economic policies – from General Zia to Imran Khan. Nawaz, Zardari, Musharraf and Imran Khan all want to privatize state-owned enterprises. All serve the interests of private capital and want to appease cronies and private profiteers.
The Orange Line was developed in the Punjab, but the metro-style transport system was also introduced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. Six towns in Punjab witnessed the installation of security cameras, but Sindh, KP and even Balochistan did not stay behind in the race, pumping billions of rupees into the project claiming it would help. to control crime (which is rising instead of falling). All political parties have a penchant for megaprojects and capital-intensive development initiatives, leaving very little money for health, education, sanitation and poverty reduction.
It is time for the PML-N and other political parties to do some soul-searching. If they are serious about establishing the supremacy of the civilian regime, they will have to serve the people, focusing on a program that could eradicate the poverty that plagues the lives of over 40% of Pakistanis, with millions condemned to lead. a miserable life in slums. . They could also expand free health, education and sanitation facilities. Raising important questions is good, but finding answers is difficult.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
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