THE PML-N has launched its manifesto for election 2018 with great fanfare, perhaps in an attempt to fight off the pall cast over the party by the recent proceedings in court.

The party’s promises ahead of the 2018 poll appear to be a follow-up to the pledges it made in 2013. Back then, the stated aim was to correct the system, primarily in the area of energy, and focus on other infrastructure development and law and order.

However, an independent look at the document suggests that much of what was promised remains undelivered. Development has been patchy, with the smaller provinces accusing the federal government of favouritism. True, militancy has been controlled, but this is in spite of the PML-N rulers’ inaction. The manifesto ignores these sore points and claims that the party has built a sufficient base for it to carry on.

In 2013, the PML-N had made the provision of employment a top priority — a goal it struggled to achieve in its five-year term. But it appears the party is confident that, if elected, it can pull off a quick recovery in the area of employment and the financial sector as a whole, in part because of the megawatts added to the national energy grid during its tenure.

The PML-N is aiming for 7pc GDP growth and revival of top-gear economic activity spurred on by tapping into local potential and attracting foreign investment. In an attempt to link its name to the provision of better public transport facilities, it promises to introduce Lahore-like commuter services all over the country.

To address issues of disparity and favouritism, it pledges to spend more in areas which lag behind to bring them at a par with those that have already travelled quite a distance.

The document has obviously been written playing on what is looked upon as the strong points of the PML-N’s new head. It might be a statement of intent but it is also a reminder of what Shahbaz Sharif believes he can bring to the table.

The party has hardly tried to engage with those who say that the former chief minister’s favourite themes encroach deeply on other issues such as health, education and environment which are in greater need of intervention and investment.

The promise, essentially, is to turn ‘Punjab speed’ — a reference to the pace of development work in the province — into ‘Pakistan speed’. But is this exercise in the rest of the country going to be less arbitrary than it was in Punjab?

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018

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