Loose talk

How does the idea of an interim set-up flow from the Punjab Dissolution

The dissolution of the Punjab Assembly has not even caused the dissolution of the KP assembly so far, but it has already caused the sort of panic in Islamabad that it was supposed to, and there is some evidence that, the ruling PDM coalition, especially the PML(N) is leaning towards the idea of a ‘technocratic government.’ Its keeping petroleum product prices steady for the next fortnight indicates that it is not willing to take the sort of steps that the IMF requires it to, before it releases the next tranche of the ESF package. It seems as if the PML(N) is not willing to expend any more political capital, especially not before the coming election in at least the Punjab, and is tired of taking the difficult decisions that cost it popularity. Voices within it are saying that unpopular, inflationary, vote-repelling decisions are best made by a technocratic government.

The technocratic government idea is not a good one, because it has never worked. It has been tried often enough, by martial law governments, and by the previous government in the shape of an army of PM’s advisers and SAPMs, all of whom were advertised as the best thing since sliced bread. It merely provides an opportunity for a deviation from the Constitution. It was tried in Bangladesh, in 2007, when polls were postponed. This was an attempt to break free from politics which seemed monopolized by the Awami League and the BNP, but the result was disappointing, as these two parties came back in the elections in December 2008. The Awami League has ruled since, with questions being raised about subsequent elections. The only person who benefited was economist Fakhruddin Ahmed, who headed the government at this time. He was about as technocratic as they come, complete with a doctorate from Princeton.

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There should be no attempt to avoid elections, no matter how unpleasant the results are expected to be. Some PML(N) figures may look to a technocratic set-up to take the decisions it would prefer not to, and to put off the PTI victory that they fear, but ultimately, it should be realized, only an elected government can negotiate the crisis the country faces. A ‘technocratic government’ also suffers the disadvantage of the universal condemnation it has attracted across the political spectrum, and is unlikely to command even the limited authority it had in Bangladesh over a decade ago.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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