The Prime Minister’s Speech

Spearhead Analysis – 20.08.2013

PM Nawaz Sharif Address To The NationThe Prime Minister’s long awaited speech was finally delivered and as if to make up for the delay it was a long speech — almost 55 minutes. It came 75 days into the five year tenure of the government — not enough time to resolve issues or give any good news to an energy starved and violence ridden nation. Enough time, however, to determine a strategic direction, forge policies and put together structures for the implementation of those policies. The Prime minister looked suitably awed and serious as he gave the nation a reality check and informed them that he had no idea of the magnitude of the crisis that the nation was facing before assuming his post. This must have surprised and further depressed a people who were actually experiencing what the Prime Minister was talking about and who thought that his government had come with their homework done and ready for action that would end or at least begin the process of ending their misery. The Prime Minister did speak with sincerity and obviously from his heart — some consolation to the people.

A very brief survey of the bigger picture in the greater region around Pakistan would have given context to the speech. Such a survey could have touched on recent developments relevant to Pakistan in India, Bangladesh, the Arab World, the Middle East, Afghanistan and China. This could have set the stage for telling the nation that radicalization and internal weakness in a country with nuclear weapons rang alarm bells and that Pakistan needed a strategic relationship with the US and with all its neighbors to bring the security and stability that would lead to economic recovery. This would have given the contours of the strategic direction that his government wanted to pursue and also indicated his determination to break with past policies and mindsets. The vision that he did give can only become a reality through such a strategic direction so one can hope that this will come about eventually.

It must have been hard for the Prime Minister to tell the people that the energy situation could only be resolved over a five year time span — the mandated duration of the elected government. Without energy the economic recovery cannot take place beyond marginal improvements. The Prime Minister did state that the security situation could only be resolved through dialogue. This is an existential issue for Pakistan and all depends on internal security as a precondition for progress in any direction. There was a need to spell out details — with who were the dialogues to take place, with what conditions and what was the alternative should dialogue fail. There was also a need to tell the nation the outlines of future policies and structures to implement those policies. Without these details the intentions remain just intentions. Perhaps these details will emerge over a period of time as will the responses to ongoing situations with India and Afghanistan and the pending issue with Iran.

To be fair it must be noted that in the 75 days of their rule the government has been confronted with many crises and horrendous levels of violence. It had to fend off the allegations of some manipulation in the elections and then come up with a budget under extremely difficult economic circumstances. It had to negotiate with the IMF and set relations with the US on a positive track as well as mend fences with India and Afghanistan without compromising on outstanding issues. The political arrangement had to be put in place and the security situation reviewed to evolve a national security policy — still a work in progress. And while all this was being done there were a series of mind numbing violent events each one orchestrated to demonstrate the helplessness and incompetence of the state to the world. The last such event was the standoff in Islamabad –by no means is this an unusual event in today’s world — but its sequel was the Interior Minister’s speech in Parliament hinting at dark conspiracies that he has promised to expose. Each of these events should be a learning exercise so that the next speech indicates the milestones crossed and the progress achieved.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual).