Gillani’s 100-day plan mere wish list?

April 10th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by admin  

By Zofeen T. Ebrahim
Karachi, April 10 (IANS) The 100-day reforms package announced by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani may have been widely hailed but experts say it could turn out to be just another round of hollow promises to appease the masses. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government set the tone right March 29 by promising to work on issues such as terrorism, the unprecedented price rise, the energy crisis, role of the army and propping up a collapsing economy.

But, says senior journalist Najma Sadeque with scepticism, “they (PPP) will find overwhelming resistance to their plans from all vested interests - the feudals, the industrialists and investors, the international lending agencies and, of course, the US government.”

“The elections may have been largely democratic, but the winners are still largely elite, feudal and self-serving,” she says with derision.

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri, news editor with Geo News, a private TV channel, says: “The 100-day plan is meant more for political consumption in the days and years to come than for immediate relief for the public at large.

“As far as the micro-economic issues of inflation and unemployment are concerned, this is no more than rhetoric.”

The prime minister’s announcement of lifting the decades-old ban on student and trade unions, restoration of the deposed judiciary and lifting of curbs on media have been lauded as “steps in the right direction” towards establishing the country’s democratic credentials.

“Allowing student and trade unions is a welcome step,” avers A.H. Nayyar, a leading educationist, advising “setting up of a commission to suggest measures to minimise the negative working of unions (like coercion, blackmail and disruption).”

Failure to do so may result in the administration banning them once again, he fears.

The government also intends to do away with the Frontier Crimes Regulations in the tribal areas under which decisions made by the local jirgas could not be challenged in a court and rein in the National Accountability Bureau by bringing it under the judiciary.

“It was important to give a 100-day plan,” says Haris Gazdar, an economist. “But the real questions are around the politics of consensus-building, specially around the provinces.

“These cannot, obviously, go into a 100-day plan but there seems to be a lot of political energy around creating agreements among different parties and interests groups on the civilian side” which is encouraging.

But if the prime minister took up a hundred-odd issues, just as many were swept under the carpet. Perhaps the one most conspicuous by its omission was that of land reforms.

“Among the two issues that place him at the same level as everybody else - unless they were deliberately avoided - the more important one was land reforms that re-distributes land to the peasants, promised at the time of independence,” observes Sadeque.

According to her, the second issue - food insecurity - will only get critical unless the people are handed over the land and “there is a return to natural farming which alone can rehabilitate chemically-damaged soils and the environment while out-producing industrial farming methods”.

“It is weak on commitment to human rights, especially women’s rights,” says legislator Bushra Gohar, central vice president of the Awami National Party, one of the ruling coalition partners.

Gohar says the plan is “vague on the ‘hows’ of dealing with rising extremism and militancy”.

Further, she says, there should have been a clear mention of doing away with the National Security Council and bringing all national security matters under the ambit of a standing committee of parliament.

She fears the plan could end up “as a long wish list without a clear accountability mechanism in place for each policy commitment and without a change in the status quo”.

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