In the second half of 2013, when the PML-N had just taken over, Pakistan’s economic ills and mis-governance were blamed on the previous PPP government.

A year later, in 2014, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was declared the villain for holding a long dharna and destablising the country. Senior PML-N leaders didn’t miss a single occasion to accuse the PTI chairman of scaring away much-needed international investment. In particular, the postponement of the long-awaited visit of the Chinese president to Pakistan was blamed on PTI.

We are now in the second half of 2015, within touching distance of the halfway mark of the five year term. However, this time around Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cannot shift responsibility on to anyone else. The PPP rule is now firmly part of the past and a tamed PTI may still be whipping up a storm in its press conferences, but it is no longer in a position to threaten a dharna or demand the prime minister’s resignation.

In other words, whatever the government has delivered or failed to deliver, in 2015 or later, will be PML-N’s responsibility alone.

Because of this, the PML-N has already begun to feel the heat.

For some months now, the government’s mistakes and mis-governance have been doing the rounds. From the opposition parties to the media, the PML-N is everyone’s favourite target.

Be it Nandipur; the LNG pricing issue or the absence of a full-time foreign minister, the PML-N is being battered.

Undoubtedly, the power sector is the most-discussed issue. After all, the PML-N had used the loadshedding card to win the election. But two and a half years later, the government has failed to introduce urgently-needed reforms in the power sector. Despite a small army of advisers and energy experts, the line losses of the ten electricity distribution companies have jumped from Rs30 billion to Rs50 billion in the last two years.

Before this revelation, the 425MW Nandipur Power Project fiasco, the embarrassing launch of the 6,500 MW Gadani power park and the inordinate delay in the completion of the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project have also been highlighted as proof of the government’s dismal performance in improving the electricity supply situation.

The PML-N, despite its reputation for arrogance, has been facing the onslaught of criticism. Appearing in talkshow after talkshow, they have also held multiple press conferences to explain their side of the story.

This, however, is not all that the PML-N is grappling with.

Accountability and its implementation are giving the ruling party members sleepless nights. In the past two years, there was little accountability of the governing elite as the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly (PAC), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau, appeared listless and compromised.

In fact, when NAB, under the Supreme Court’s pressure, made public the list of 150 scandals, which included cases involving the two Sharif brothers, the party lashed out at the Bureau. And later, when the NAB and FIA, magically, woke up from their slumber and began gunning for the ‘guilty’, the PML-N was held responsible by its political friends such as the PPP.

This criticism continues, as the PPP and others feel that the PML-N is now willing to let everyone but their own be investigated. Allegations of a biased accountability process are growing louder.

On the legislation front, as always, the PML-N government has nothing much to offer.

All it has to its credit is the infamous 21st constitutional amendment, which allowed the setting up of military courts. But the government has taken no steps for meaningful judicial reforms or improving the prosecution system and so on.

The government has also failed to legislate on other issues as well such as women rights or drafting an acceptable cybercrime bill. This is one area where the PPP’s performance outstrips the PML-N. The former passed a number of important laws including the all important 18th amendment.

With this track record, it’s easy to predict that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the rest of his party will continue to face a hostile media and an aggressive opposition in the coming weeks and months.

The party seems to be aware of this.

“We are in no doubt that if we fail to end loadshedding before the next general elections, it will be a tough contest for us against the PTI. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is aware of this fact and brings it up regularly during the cabinet meetings,” commented a senior government minister on the condition of anonymity.

But he had no answer when asked what the government was doing to meet its challenges.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2015

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