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Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: The Express Tribune
Dated: Monday, 25 June 2012

For the first time in Pakistan's history an elected government has been removed consequent upon a Supreme Court judgment. This indicates the power of an independent judiciary that is vital for the democratic structure. At the same time the possibility of the next government meeting a similar fate could accentuate the present political turmoil and thereby undermine the very democratic edifice that the judiciary by its assertion of independence, seeks to strengthen. Let us outline the challenges ahead, in addressing which each of the key organs of the state has a role to play: the government, the military the judiciary and the parliament.

The first challenge is to end power outages, which are sparking rioting, weakening industry and accentuating the unemployment problem. The core of the power crisis lies in three facts: (a) As much as 82 percent of total electricity production now is oil based when oil prices have risen astronomically. By contrast a decade ago only 50 percent of electricity output was fuel based with the remaining 50 percent coming from much cheaper hydro electric power. Consequently the average cost of electricity has become so high that the government simply does not have the fiscal capacity to provide the subsidy necessary to supply electricity at a price which most consumers could afford. Indeed increasing oil based electricity would involve doubling the price of the additional supply. (b) A related problem is billions of rupees of unpaid electricity bills by provincial governments, semi autonomous corporations and federal government departments. This recoveries shortfall prevents the government from paying its dues to the independent power producers who are then forced to cut back production. (c) Institutional weakness combined with obsolete transmission technology result in theft and transmission losses amounting to 30 percent of total electricity generated. The long term solution of course is to invest today in hydro electric power. In the short term apart from improving recoveries, an annual foreign aid of about USD 5 billion may be required for the next five years to achieve full capacity utilization and supply electricity at an affordable price. This means shifting our policy of confrontation with the West to co operation.

The second challenge is to pull the economy out of recession onto a path of sustained high growth. This means, apart from institutional change, shifting focus away from reducing the budget deficit through economic contraction to stimulating the economy: increased expenditures on physical infrastructure, health, education and training; and public-private partnerships for stimulating small scale enterprises and small farm sectors that could generate employment. This requires changing the composition of government expenditure from non productive to productive expenditure.

The third challenge is to manage widespread violence and establish order. For this the government needs to formulate a strategy to combat the Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates who threaten both Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time the recurrent spasms of violence in Karachi by armed criminal gangs aligned with various political parties and extremist ethnic organizations, must be brought to an end.

The fourth challenge is to end a colonial policy towards Baluchistan: stop "forced disappearances", abductions, torture and murder of Baluch nationalists and bring them into the mainstream of Pakistani politics as equal citizens.

These are challenges that must be addressed if Pakistan is to survive and prosper. In this great endeavour the various organs of the state will have to co operate and establish a semblance of political stability.  Early elections are now necessary. For this, political parties need to agree on an interim government, the Supreme Court needs to exercise judicious restraint to prevent an unraveling of the very political order within which justice is dispensed, and the military must persist in its wisdom of refraining from a disastrous coup d'etat.

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