After weeks of melodrama, climax and late-night anti-climax, things have started coming back to normal tracks and yesterday’s opposition has become today’s treasury in the National Assembly. That’s the ultimate beauty of democracy. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has become the 23rd prime minister of the country. The election would have become an interesting competition, had the opposition not boycotted the contest, despite fielding its candidate. The prime minister has started off his journey with a refreshing note, announcing several relief measures as a goodwill gesture for the public and calling an in-camera session of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security for a briefing on the “threat letter” in order to end that controversy once for all. It is interesting to note that when the PTI was in power, it also called a similar meeting, only to get a tepid response from the then opposition. Now, today’s opposition – the PTI – has rejected the offer and insists on a judicial commission to ascertain the facts. Now, when the prime minister’s oath ceremony has been held, Shehbaz Sharif’s first task should be fixing the economy. He has been a torchbearer of a ‘charter of economy’, an epitome of the famous ‘Charter of Democracy’. Sadly, the previous government rejected his offer which later on, turned out to be a bad deal.
The new government has announced a range of welfare measures for the inflation-stricken public, such as increasing the minimum wage to Rs25,000 from April 1 onwards. This is what the PPP-led Sindh government enforced in the last budget. In the same vein, he appealed to the investors to increase the salaries of their employees whose monthly income was Rs100,000 or less. It would be better if Shehbaz Sharif started the salary increase from his own factories, including the infamous Ramzan Sugar Mills. Moreover, a salary and pension increment of 10 percent for civil and military employees and pensioners is also a welcome step and an Eid gift. But the pressing task for the Shehbaz-led coalition government is controlling inflation, addressing the high prices of petrol and electricity and taking measures for the progress of smaller provinces. While introducing the new measures, the prime minister should not forget the exemplary measures launched by the previous governments. In this regard, the re-launch of the Benazir Income Support Programme, which was later rebranded as the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme is a welcome step.