Monday January 30, 2023

Pakistan’s stalled outlook

November 02, 2022

As Pakistan’s ruling rivals intensify their battle to seize charge of Islamabad, the downside risk to the country’s future has grown exponentially in a relatively short time.

Just months after this year’s devastating rainfalls caused the most intense human displacement in Pakistan’s history, the ironic contrast between the rush for power over Islamabad versus the powerful reality across the flood-stricken regions is very clear.

As Pakistan’s outlook suffers like never before, the race to grab power intensifies. Exactly what would it take to work as a wakeup call for the ruling elite across the board remains unclear. And, yet, the downward sliding conditions in today’s Pakistan will eventually more than just dent prospects for the country’s future in unpredictable ways.

Beyond the clash between Pakistan’s main political rivals – the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif versus former prime minister Imran Khan – a very public and unprecedented message by the Pakistan Army has proverbially raised the temperature of an already boiling pot.

While the exact implication is yet to play itself out, the rare public message by head of the ISI Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum for now has fueled speculation over Pakistan’s most powerful institution publicly joining the political fray. The widely discussed contents of Gen Anjum’s remarks ranged from slain journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing to circumstances that brought down former prime minister Imran Khan from power.

Together, the escalating political discord plus the army’s public role in this matter has deepened Pakistan’s already stalled outlook. The ultimate outcome is set to haunt not only every institution and political player but indeed most if not all of Pakistan’s households.

Faced with an increasingly calamitous outlook, Pakistan badly needs to rebuild parts of its internal framework – notably, key matters at the heart of its economy. The floods have already not just exposed the fragility of long ignored issues across Pakistan. They have also laid bare the increasingly weak capacity under successive regimes to tackle some of the mightiest challenges confronting the country.

Chiefly, these have to do with redefining the relationship between the elite and the rest of Pakistan, so far only subject to lip service. Across the power corridors of Pakistan, a cursory but comprehensive look at the life of the rich and influential immediately sheds much light on a growing gap between the haves versus the have nots. Is this going to unravel with a revolutionary change? Maybe so. But more dangerous will be the painful outcome from leaving the gap unattended.

For now, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and recently brought in Finance Minister Ishaq Dar appear to keep a bold face in public. As the former left for China on Tuesday amid fanfare over new economic deals to be signed, the latter went on TV just the night before to announce a further liberalization of letters of intent for importers including those dealing with luxury stuff.

Dar, the blue eyed of the ruling party notably due to his close relationship with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appears to have turned his face away from some of the most compelling realities surrounding Pakistan. He is still determined to oversee an appreciation of the rupee exchange rate versus the US dollar in spite of the greenback gaining ground across the world. And his mission for now is embedded in creating a feel good factor ahead of the next elections. However, Pakistan’s time for ‘Darnomics’ was up a long time ago.

Across the road on the other side of Pakistan’s political divide, Imran Khan’s repeated calls for immediate elections are also devoid of facing reality. At a time when Pakistan may already be in default mode with or without a formal acknowledgement, the time is just not right for a mass mobilization around the next polls. The time to save Pakistan is now and the actions required are urgent.

Yet again, Pakistan faces the compelling question if the country’s ruling elite are capable of carrying out painful reforms? Going forward, the idea of installing a neutral government of experts for a few years is powerful enough to be considered. And last but not the least, all institutions need to acknowledge their own failures and come on board with a new dispensation equipped with just one task – to reverse Pakistan’s slide into a potentially painful unknown without a precedent.

Unless the triangular structure – the government, the opposition and the army – together embrace the idea of reforming Pakistan, the idea of Pakistan as known in the past 75 years may be over. Is that the outcome that is worth acceptance by those who hold an increasingly frail charge of the country’s ruling structure?

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs. He can be reached at:


    Farrukh commented 3 months ago

    Nice Article

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