Sunday, January 9, 2011

Predictions, past and future

My first column in this newspaper every year is about predictions I made the previous year, how right I was, and then about predictions for the new year. So first about my predictions for the past year (‘Old predictions and new’, Daily Times, January 4, 2010) and how well I did.

“President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and all the chief ministers and provincial governments will stay essentially where they are right now. Of these, the only person who might be at risk is PM Gilani, but I believe that he will continue in his present position.” And I was right about all of them.
“Basant of course will again be cancelled.” Right about that again.
Now to what I called the more dicey predictions. “The CJ and the higher courts will settle down into a state of ‘judicial restraint’ after their initial activist exuberance of the past year.” Wrong about that.
“The fallout of the disappearing National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) will however escalate, slowly but surely, and some of the former ‘beneficiaries’ of this law will either be forced out of government for good or at least be forced to resign until such time that that they are cleared by the courts or settle with the authorities.” Wrong about it, but perhaps we have not seen the end of this yet.
“The recipients of major loans that were ‘forgiven’ during successive past governments will be the next major category of people to be brought under investigation.” Probably not entirely wrong about it.
“The 17th Amendment will eventually go this year but not until the PPP, without whose parliamentary support no new amendment can be passed, has extracted its ‘pound of flesh’ (and blood) from the N-League leadership. I do not believe that Mian Nawaz Sharif will contest for a national assembly seat as long as the 17th Amendment is still in place.” Definitely not wrong since the amendment is history and Mr Nawaz Sharif has done nothing to upset the PPP applecart nor has he contested any bye-elections since the passage of the 18th Amendment. “A precursor to the repeal of the 17th Amendment in my opinion will be the return of the PPP as an active part of the Punjab government.” Wrong about this.
“Since I do not see any ‘mid-term’ elections happening this year, therefore I do not foresee any important structural changes in any of the major political parties this year either.” Right about that one as also about not getting a ‘national government’ during the year that just went by.
“I predict that some form of healthcare legislation will be passed this year that de-criminalises medical ‘malpractice’ with a simultaneous increase in surveillance of private medical centres and of the lax ‘certification’ process of private medical colleges and universities and of their graduates.” Right about that but no real implementation of these laws.
“Concerning load shedding, I actually believe that by the end of this year it will really become much less of a problem.” Wrong!
“It is my considered belief that the recent spate of terrorist activity will settle down as the Pakistan Army continues to put pressure on the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).” Wrong.
“About the US ‘surge’ in Afghanistan I do not think it will succeed in pacifying Afghanistan.” Right about that. “And I do not think that the Chief of Army Staff will get an extension.” Could not have been more wrong on that one.
However, nobody could possibly have predicted the disastrous floods last year. In spite of dire predictions, there have been no reports of major corruption associated with the relief efforts. Therefore, the resettlement of the displaced victims of the floods has not become a political problem and the aftermath of the floods will probably have little bearing on the political scenarios that unfold during this year.
About future predictions now. First, the easier ones. Mr Zardari will continue as the president and I do not think that there will be any ‘in-house’ change or a non-PPP government at the Centre. Also I do not foresee that the PML-N government in Punjab will be replaced by a PPP-PML-Q coalition but Mr Salmaan Taseer will most likely stay on as governor and continue to be a thorn in the side of the PML-N. Also, the MQM will stay in coalition with the PPP until such time that the assemblies are dissolved and a new election is called for.
As far as the assemblies are concerned, I think that they will be dissolved by the end of this year and elections will be held early next year. This prediction is based on the assessment that the major problems facing the country, especially terrorism, inflation, power shortages and corruption are not going to get better any time soon. Therefore, the PPP government would like to call it quits earlier rather than later and call for snap elections. The PPP would like an interim government to take over and come out sort of unencumbered to contest the next election. The only variable is going to be the duration of an ‘interim’ government since this might depend on factors that are difficult to predict at this time.
Also the blasphemy laws are here to stay and no politician in his right mind is even going to try and tinker with them. And I can predict with reasonable certainty that the most honourable superior courts of Pakistan are not going to take any suo motu actions to protect non-Muslims being falsely accused under the blasphemy laws. However, the superior courts, especially the honourable Supreme Court, will continue to pursue all wealthy ‘evildoers’ with ever greater vigilance and will in the process make Pakistan an even less business-friendly place than it is at this time.
Finally, the Pakistan Army will eventually have to take action against the ‘miscreants’ in North Waziristan once this winter is over. Not because the US wants it but because it is necessary.

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