Editorial : Presidential address - 18th March, 2012

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/18/presidential-address.html

NEVER before has a Pakistani head of state marked the beginning of a government’s fifth parliamentary year. Like other governments before it, this one has also faced threats to its survival in which both real and implied failures of governance could have been used as excuses to interrupt the course of democracy. But through a combination of savvy politics, an assertion of its own role vis-à-vis other state institutions and changes in the internal calculations of those institutions, it has managed to hang on. In the context of this country’s failed attempts at sustained democracy, that is no mean achievement.
But the fact of having survived is not enough to justify the optimism of Mr Zardari’s assessment of where the country is today. The Pakistan he spoke of yesterday was not the one most Pakistanis would recognise. Playing the role of a head of government — and, in his case, of a party — rather than a head of state, he listed the administration’s actual and fictional accomplishments while paying little attention to shortcomings, painting a picture of a government that has taken giant strides in addressing the energy problem, tackling militancy and improving key economic indicators. Based on the quality of their day-to-day lives, most Pakistanis, it is safe to say, would disagree. It is fair enough to remind the country of achievements in constitutional reform or challenges posed by the last administration’s decisions, the floods and the global recession. But a refusal to move beyond these to sufficiently acknowledge the severity of Pakistan’s continuing challenges, especially on the economic, security and foreign-relations fronts, only further eroded trust in the current leadership’s ability, or desire, to govern effectively. Nor did the president offer any glimpse of a way forward, any hint of what the government might do in its last year to create structural reform or improve the lives of a broader cross-section of Pakistanis rather than, say, the recipients of BISP funds or
fertiliser subsidies.
All of this was entirely predictable, one could argue, given the president’s political allegiances, his previous annual addresses, and the fact that this is his last address before the country goes to the polls. But given the state of the nation, it is still disappointing, more so the fifth time around than the first time around. What the government has done is to bring us to a place where Pakistanis will almost certainly cast their next vote under a civilian dispensation, whether in the next few months
or early next year. The hope now is that the exercise of that right will, over time, produce more candid and accountable administrations.

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