During the 1990s, American President Bill Clinton is said to have kept a sign on his desk which read simply, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” The sign was meant to remind him at all times what he should be working on if he wanted to remain popular among the masses. As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces protests and failing support, he should borrow Bill Clinton’s idea and place in the middle of his office a sign that reminds him every day: “It’s Load Shedding, Stupid!”
Imran Khan is planning his next round of protests based on alleged discrepancies in the 2013 elections, but it’s not allegations of vote rigging that are hurting the government.
The popular view that Mr Sharif is floundering has been reinforced by his failure to end power cuts lasting up to 16 hours a day during the heat of summer and by his 10-day visit to Saudi Arabia on a spiritual journey at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan…
In the poor Barakahu neighbourhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, Faqeer Khattak, a truck driver who voted for the PML-N last year, echoes common complaints about power cuts and electrical appliances being damaged by unreliable electricity supplies.
“Our fridge broke down and we now use it for storing shoes and clothes,” he says. “I will never vote for this party again because they have failed to improve conditions in Pakistan.”
Nawaz has responded to critics by echoing Asif Zardari and saying that Pakistan can only make progress if it continued to move forward on the path of democracy. Completing a term may have been a good enough goal for the last government (though it wasn’t enough to win re-election), but it certainly isn’t enough now.
Load shedding has reached historic levels to the degree that it is not merely an inconvenience but presenting an imminent threat to the national economy. This should be especially bothersome to the industrialist whose primary political asset is supposed to be his ability to manage the economy.
Nawaz is barely one year into his term, and already things appear to be falling apart. It’s not too early to lose control, but it’s not too late to save it either. If Nawaz wants to save his legacy, he needs to do something quick. It’s not hard to find the obvious answer, either: It’s Load Shedding, Stupid!