“Among mortals second thoughts are wisest.”

                        – Euripides

Pakistan will get a new democratic government in about a week’s time although there is question mark on the fairness of the general elections particularly in two major cities of the country. The transition from one civil setup to another civil setup by itself is no small achievement and in case this process continues, there is every reason to hope that the country will not only come out of the economic morass but will also be able to tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism.

The incoming government will be beset with major challenges of law and order and the financial health of the country. Economic experts around the world have been pointing out that unless Mian Nawaz Sharif is able to expand the tax net and bring within its orbit all those who should be paying the taxes due from them there is very little chance for his government to succeed. The composition of the new National Assembly strongly suggests though, it will be extremely difficult for a PML -N government to introduce tax reforms mainly in the agricultural sector and to break cartels that are now a well known fact in Pakistan.

While it may be prudent for the government to seek foreign assistance and loans to tide over short-term difficulties, the only basis for improvement will come if it succeeds in making a radical reformation in the present system of tax collection. Another area that would require urgent attention would be to attract foreign investment which may not be possible under the prevailing law and order situation. The public sector corporations that have been a big drain on our financial resources will need to be placed under competent persons with experience and expertise.

The issue of circular debt which has ballooned to over seven hundred billion rupees will also have to be resolved. It would test the managerial and financial skills of the PML-N government. It has been reported that the Sharif family would by try to obtain furnace oil and petrol on deferred payment basis from the Saudi government with which it has cordial relations that would help lessen the seriousness of the problem of loadshedding to manageable proportions.

These issues are quite complex and would require deft handling by the PML-N leadership. Otherwise the patience of the people, already under a lot of strain, can explode into social unrest which is neither desirable nor affordable at this moment in time. How the government introduces and manages austerity measures that are genuine and not cosmetic will set tone for resolving the problem of excessive spending. Side by side with these issues, Mian Nawaz Sharif will have two powerful political adversaries in power, one in troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the other in Sindh. While KPK is racked by acts of terrorism, Sindh has volatile urban centres, especially Karachi, where targeted killing and violence against the rivals are a daily feature. If the country has to be put back on the road to progress, a remedy for these ills has to be found. To resolve these issues, Mian Nawaz Sharif would have to seek the support of both the PPP and the PTI to build a consensus about how to go about it. In case the federal government tries to impose its will on any of these two provinces it could result in serious polarization with the potential of damaging the institution of democracy.

It must be remembered that the new government might not have the traditional honeymoon period of one hundred days and might be held accountable right from day one which means that they have to act quickly and in the right direction; no amount of majority in the National assembly will help them. One hopes that the initial actions of the incoming government will speak louder than the words coming out of Raiwind and that the first budget that is around the corner will carefully tackle the economic issues that have made the lives of the common man unbearable. One also hopes that the government provides long-term relief and adopts a rational posture by taking the people into confidence not only about the reality behind the issues, but also the urgency of taking bold but bitter decisions.

A good beginning seems to have been made by the Elder Sharif, who in his maiden speech to his parliamentary party, refused to give a date by which the issue of loadshedding could be resolved. He assured them, however, that he would work hard to restore normal power supply as early as possible. It must be remembered that one of the basic reasons for the debacle the Peoples Party has suffered in the general elections was the issue of power outages and the different dates its Ministers were giving by which the people would be relieved of this agonising problem. It resulted in a serious backlash. Keeping in view Mian Nawaz Sharif is an experienced industrialist and businessman, it is expected that he will introduce workable and prudent economic policies and not run after ambitious plans which were the undoing of Peoples Party and its coalition partners.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.