2013: The year of change | Pakistan Today

2013: The year of change

How 2013 has played for Pakistan

The year 2013 will end this week after brining a mix of good and bad news for the people of Pakistan. The year saw change at the top level in government, army and judiciary – the three pillars of the state.

Not only the general elections were held this year, Imran Khan’s slogan of change at least came true, albeit in a different manner, for Pakistan as the nation saw a new president, new prime minister, new army chief and a new chief justice.

This year the people of the county exercised their right to franchise and a new government took over at the centre as the era of PPP’s rule ended and another term started with Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N in the driving seat.

Following May 11 elections, not only did Nawaz Sharif take oath for a record third term as prime minister of the country but also new faces emerged as chief executives in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Baloch nationalist leader Dr Abdul Malik was sworn in as chief executive of the conflict-hit province of Balochistan while Pervez Khattak of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was sworn in as chief minister.

History repeated itself as Syed Qaim Ali Shah of PPP took oath as chief minister Sindh for a third term. Shahbaz Sharif was also sworn in as chief minister Punjab for a third term.

Mamnoon Hussain also became president of the country replacing a rare complete term for outgoing head of state Asif Ali Zardari. Being a Sindhi mohajir, Mamnoon replaced PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari who also belonged from Sindh. Previously, Mamnoon had served as governor Sindh.

With General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani completing two successive terms in office, a new chief of army staff also took reigns of the powerful armed forces with the swearing in of General Raheel Sharif as new COAS. Being a number three at merit list, media did not forget to remind Nawaz Sharif that he had breached another election promise made to the nation of installing a ‘senior-most’ army chief. It sounded as if Sharif has promised not to learn from his mistakes or history.

Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jilani also took oath as the 12th chief justice of the country. He replaced the legendary CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who completed his stipulated term of eight years in office.

PTI’s election campaign was badly hurt when on May 7 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan fell off from a fork lifter and got injured badly. Khan sustained severe injuries as his backbone was damaged and he had to spend over two months in bed. This injury badly affected the electoral campaign of the PTI.

On May 11, General Elections 2013 were held by the caretaker government which saw the PML-N winning the polls with majority and PPP and PTI emerged as second and third biggest parliamentary groups.

At the end of October, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went to Washington DC in order to have a meeting with US President Barack Obama. This tour did not bear the desired results and pundits termed this visit as failed one.

On November 1, TTP commander Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in Dande Darpakhel area of North Waziristan. Two of his close commanders were also among those killed in the missile attack.

On January 2, Mullah Nazir, a militant commander in North Waziristan, aged 37–38 years, was killed in a drone strike. He was the head of the Taliban from Wazir tribe. On January 4, Air Marshal (retd) Anwar Shamim Khan, 81, passed away. He remained Chief of Air Staff from1978 to 1985.

On January 6, former Jamaat-e-Islami chief and veteran politician Qazi Hussain Ahmad, 74, died of cardiac arrest. He remained Ameer of JI from 1987 to2009.

On January 10, in a series of terrorist attacks in Quetta, over 127 people were killed. This triggered the longest sit-in along with the bodies of the victims belonging to Hazara Shia community which finally was called off with the removal of the then PPP’s Balochistan government, led by Chief Minister Aslam Raisani. Governor’s rule was imposed by the then Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

On March 9, angry protestors set ablaze more than 100 houses of Christians over a blasphemy row in Joseph Colony, Lahore. According to reports, over 3,000 protestors turned violent over derogatory remarks allegedly made by a young Christian, Sawan Masih, 28, against the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in a Christian neighbourhood in Badami Bagh area.

2014 – Challenges and Threats for Nawaz Sharif & Co

Despite enjoying a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, the PML-N government is likely to face strong challenges from major opposition party – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as Imran Khan has been mobilising his supporters and sympathisers against the federal government.

This year, local body elections would prove to be the first and a formidable challenge to the PML-N chief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whose government has yet to prove its worth in dealing with the economic paralysis the country is faced with.

In the year 2013, the economic managers of the PML-N badly failed to manage the economic downslide as all economic indicators showed negative signs. From federal budget to the gearing of economic activity, the PML-N government failed on all major fronts. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team could neither streamline the economic mess nor could the minister invite foreign or local investment in the country. Imran Khan and his team, led by PTI’s economic wizard Asad Umar, would be hitting out at the government’s failure to manage the bleeding economy in the election campaign for local body elections.

Public enterprises reforms is another sector where the PML-N team failed to deliver and the bleeding continued in PIA, PSM and others. Railways is the only sector where some improvement was seen though critics term it as jugglery of words by Railways Minister Saad Rafique.

Energy is another sector where the PML-N government could not perform despite making tall claims and all these claims were razed down to ground when the media reports revealed that the circular debt had again accumulated up to Rs150 billion within a span of only a few months. Earlier, the PML-N government had cleared the circular debt of Rs500 billion.

But several national and foreign indicators reflected that the government had printed Rs500 billion currency notes just to clear the circular debt. Some economic monitors claimed in December that the inflation had reached at an alarming stage and the instant price hike was due to the same reason. The significant rise in inflation hit badly the people belonging to middle classes.

Moreover, on political side, other than local body polls, the PML-N government is likely to face strong challenges of growing law and order situation, mostly due to rising sectarian strife as well as terrorism.

The new TTP chief, Mullah Fazlullah had already threatened to launch terrorist attacks in Punjab and other settled areas besides targeting the military installations.

Moreover, the recent incidents of sectarian violence in Rawalpindi and some other areas have already hinted at the rise of polarisation. Moreover, the reluctance by the US government to halt drone strikes has already compromised the relationship between the PML-N and the PTI leadership, with Imran Khan announcing to build further pressure on the prime minister.

Another challenge for the PML-N government remains to be the civil-military relations as a special court is all set to indict former dictator and army chief General Pervez Musharraf. The COAS, General Raheel Sharif, is also set to face immense pressure from his soldiers who term Musharraf a great soldier and a darling for the khakis. This would also be a great test for General Raheel Sharif himself as he has been very closely linked to General Musharraf. Army circles claim that since Musharraf and Maj Shabir Sharif Shaheed, Nishan-e-Haider, were batch-mates, Musharraf always treated General Raheel as his younger brother. Musharraf was hence very instrumental in the rise of General Raheel. So now the indictment of General Musharraf may hamper the otherwise excellent relations between the civilian and military leadership of the country.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]