Top Stories of Pakistan - December 2019
Pakistan is going through interesting times. The country’s economy is finally showing some signs of improvement. Moody’s just listed Pakistan’s outlook as stable. The stock exchange also crossed 40,000 points.
While a lot more needs to be done to turn around the economy, the government seems resolved to fulfill its promise of ‘Naya Pakistan.’
Measures are finally being taken to address the governance issues prevailing in Punjab. Many people accuse the Punjab chief minister of being inept, but Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan and head of the ruling party in Punjab, stands firmly behind his handpicked chief minister, and had previously even termed him ‘Wasim Akram plus’.
Recently though, the tables seem to have turned for Buzdar, and while Buzdar’s seat is in no immediate threat, some bureaucracy that was handpicked by the chief minister has been transferred following the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint new inspector general and chief secretary of the province.
In the coming days, Punjab governance is expected to improve.
Sindh is another problem area rotting with corruption and inefficiency. People are beseeching the federal government to introduce a relief and reform package for Sindh. Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest economic hub and capital of Sindh is reportedly suffering the most under the Bhutto/Zardari leadership.
Another area where the government still needs to focus is education. While Khan is striving to improve the education standard and give every child the right to quality education as promised in article 25A of the constitution, a lot more needs to be done. The crisis is extremely severe as Pakistan faces more than 20 million out of school children. Another 35 million rot in government schools, which are in dire need of reforms.
If we talk about accountability issues, government offices continue practice selective accountability, but it would be unfair to say that things haven't improved considerably compared to the past.
The judiciary recently had a standoff with the government on the issue of the army chief’s extension. Some top journalists of Pakistan are predicting the matters to get worse in the coming days. If nothing else, the standoff proved that no one in Pakistan today can disrespect the top judiciary of the country or challenge its writ. In yester years, we saw the institution of judiciary mocked and even assaulted by previous governments.
The return of looted wealth to Pakistan is also being discussed these days. Recently, the National Crime Agency of UK agreed to hand over a sum of 190 million pounds back to Pakistan in a settlement reached with an influential real estate tycoon of the country. Malik Riaz, owner of Bahria Town, is so wealthy and influential that the mainstream media chose not to discuss the subject.
There are also unofficial references being made to a National Reconciliation Order (NRO) or in simple words, a settlement between the government and the country’s elite that is being tried for corruption and money laundering. While government denies it officially, it is no longer clamping down on the corrupt in the way it had been in the past few months. For instance, the government did not object to Nawaz Sharif’s departure to London on medical grounds. Nawaz, a former prime minister, is a convict and was serving jail term after proven guilty of corruption. His daughter who was recently released from NAB custody, is now looking to travel to the UK to be with her father. As she was being released, the court confiscated her passport. She is now filing request to have her travel document released.
In similar development, Zardari, a former president who is also serving jail term for corruption, has also filed a request to fly abroad for medical treatment. Pakistan sure is a good place to be a prime minister or a president, isn’t it? You loot and plunder, go to jail, get all the privileges one can think of in prison, and then after spending a few months, you fly abroad on medical grounds.
Student Solidarity March
In political matters, an interesting new development is the Student Solidarity March, which was held in all parts of the country. Students gathered and shed light on issues that were important to them. People demanded the reinstitution of student unions and a say in how universities are run. It was heartening to see the students unite and protest for their fundamental rights.
And while most people termed the protests as immensely successful, there were some untoward incidents, such as the arrest of some protesters who reportedly chanted slogans against state institutions.
Students prepping up for solidarity march protests in Lahore
What do you think about these latest stories from Pakistan? Did I miss an important story? Let me know in the comments.