For the past few weeks there has been an unprecedented upsurge of government propaganda through hundreds of large and colourful advertisements in newspapers to celebrate one year of President Asif Ali Zardari's rule. The advertisements placed by almost all the government departments and corporations, inevitably at a huge cost to the taxpayer, were full of ridiculously high-sounding claims of success in every field of life due to the benign rule of the president in an amazingly short period of only one year. In the backdrop of extreme shortage of flour and sugar in the country, long lines of poor people in front of shops in the scorching heat, some fainting and others dying to buy a bag of flour or sugar at subsidised rates, millions of people suffering sleepless nights and suffocating days due to constant load-shedding, the tall claims about the blessings of the Zardari rule sound ridiculous. Most newspapers are publishing these advertisements like propaganda handouts released by the PR staff of the government departments. It is indeed surprising that the president is allowing this to continue, knowing fully well that the claims are untrue and misleading. It is in fact the most negative propaganda damaging the already dwindling credibility of the government. There was a time when government propaganda on the national network, the only TV channel in the country owned by the government, and NPT newspapers continued relentlessly day and night. The viewers neither liked nor believed in it. However, now there are several private television and radio channels that are reporting news unhindered and also objectively. Some channels have also developed expertise to produce top class investigative reports on corruption scams as well as the government's failure to improve the country's alarming economic situation, contain corruption, and unbelievable escalation in prices of the essential items of daily use. Poverty is rising and the public patience with the government's performance is growing thin. Recently, PM Gilani complained about the media's negative projection of the government's performance in controlling these multiple crises. He directed the Ministry of Information to chalk out a media plan for a better projection of the government and its policies. Such efforts were also made in the past by more qualified experts present in the governments of Ayub, Bhutto, Zia and finally Musharraf. However, it did not work because the best propaganda for the government is the solution of the peoples' problems. The shortage of electricity, flour, and sugar are being discussed everyday in several talk shows that are aired on the private television channels, but the concerned ministers always cut a sorry figure because they have no convincing answers. Undoubtedly, democracy cannot survive unless all its pillars stand firm and the elected representatives are honest and dedicated to work diligently for the welfare of the people which does not seem to be the case with our democracy. The present Cabinet, which is large and unwieldy, is not functioning efficiently and most of the ministers are just unknown entities who are not performing their duties properly or are not capable of doing so. They have been inducted only to keep certain political groups happy at a great cost to the taxpayer's money. The prime minister knows that and has given indications several times to downsize the Cabinet, but seems to have failed due to pressures from various political elements. This Cabinet is an unnecessary burden on the meagre resources of the country which is surviving on the dole of foreign countries and loans from IMF and other agencies. The government has miserably failed to tackle the electricity crisis. Poverty and corruption which are a chronic cause of Pakistan's woes also need immediate attention because so long as they exist, this country cannot progress. Propaganda alone cannot fulfil the people's needs. The classic example was the projection of the so-called "Decade of Development" during Ayub's rule in1969 for which NPT newspapers, Radio Pakistan and PTV were mercilessly used. It backfired and President Ayub had to step down shortly afterwards. This kind of propaganda and the media blitz to promote "One year of Zardari rule" is self-defeating and may backfire. A communication expert has said that projection on media is like poison. If given in measured doses it helps, but an overdose certainly kills. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also became a victim of over-projection in the last days of his government which ultimately collapsed. Governments do not learn the lesson of judicious use of media for the projection of their performance, unless it hits back, when there is no time to recover or even keep the balance. In most developed democracies there is no Information Ministry to fall back upon. Such ministries exist only in the so-called democratic countries of the third world to project the personalities of their rulers and cover up their failings. There is a saying in journalistic circle: "What the government hides is news, what it reveals is just propaganda." Normally, information ministries perform this duty. The writer is former director, PTV. E-mail: