Sunday June 23, 2024

Is a new party needed?

By Farrukh Javed Abbasi
October 14, 2023

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has repeatedly mentioned that there is room for a new political party. There are many opinions about this within Pakistani political circles, but none of these appear to be forward-looking. Imagine Pakistan in 2026-27, when the top-tier leadership of our country has all exceeded the age of 75. At this age, engaging in high-level politics becomes nearly impossible.

The current political landscape indicates that Maulana Fazlur Rehman will appoint his son Maulana Asad. Asfandyar Wali has already granted Aimal Wali the authority to lead his party. Mian Nawaz Sharif has designated his daughter Maryam Nawaz as the chief organizer. And Asif Zardari’s party is under the complete control of Bilawal Bhutto. Those who oppose Mr Abbasi’s idea believe that a hereditary transfer of political influence is the most probable outcome for all of these parties and everyone else will fall in line to support the children of our current top leaders.

This transition of power will solidify Imran Khan’s narrative about these parties, and newer generations will likely lose their political influence on the system. With a continual rise in inflation and the devaluation of the rupee, 99.9 per cent of Pakistanis are already disillusioned with politicians in general. The military establishment has also recognized that these political parties have evolved into family-dominated echo chambers, primarily focused on a power grab rather than resolving the country’s problems.

In the past decades, several events have taken place which prove that the way these families keep their place on the top directly hurts the general population. Examples include a leaked audio recording of Shehbaz Sharif’s chief secretary revealing that Maryam Nawaz wanted the government to make an exception for his son-in-law to import machinery from India. This was around the same time Maryam lobbied to replace Miftah Ismail with Ishaq Dar. In the PPP’s case, the Anwar Majeed case highlights the extent of the corruption and how it is being protected, and in the PTI’s case the stories of Farah Gogi and Bushra Bibi, Aleema Khan, and Dr Burki serve as examples of how the top-tier leadership and controlling families of all three political parties in Pakistan utilize their power for personal gain, compromising the country’s interests.

When top-tier leadership makes these choices, people with integrity get filtered out of their political parties. Dr Miftah Ismail continues as a perfect example of this idea. When good people leave their posts, they are replaced by people who focus more on appeasing their leaders and make big politically appealing decisions that put a dent in the pockets of the general populace. Shaukat Tarin’s petrol subsidy cost Pakistan Rs862 billion, while Ishaq Dar’s management of the dollar artificially resulted in the loss of tens of billions in remittances and the creation of black markets for currency exchange. Ultimately, it is the people that are bearing the burden of Shaukat Tarin and Dar’s mistakes through high grocery prices, utility bills, and petrol costs. The country needs a thorough reset from this political system that primarily benefits a few. After all these events, the country is unlikely to accept the children of the same politicians as the next generation of Pakistan’s politicians.

The people of Pakistan are beginning to realize that these entrenched political families lack comprehensive solutions to the country’s problems. They offer fragmented ideas that may temporarily improve the situation, but as soon as new variables come into play, these fragmented ideas tend to disrupt everything. People should ask themselves a question. Can our country afford five or ten or more years of Ishaq Dar or five more years of Usman Buzdar? Or a repeat of the 2008-13 era when the global economic system was in crisis and the PPP-led government increased salaries by 50-100 per cent, causing massive fiscal deficits (as a percentage of GDP)? The economy is currently on the edge, and if Pakistan were to fall into a crisis like Argentina, Greece, or Sri Lanka, chaos would ensue and no one would be able to maintain control.

In conclusion, there are two types of people in our country: those who resist change and those who seek comprehensive transformation. Pakistan is approaching a critical juncture where children of political leaders who have failed everyone are going to take over. If these children were competent compared to their parents, the country wouldn’t be disillusioned by them. Imagine being a 27-year-old corporate banker in Karachi or a 32-year-old successful tech entrepreneur in Lahore or a recently graduated high schooler. Everyone in the real Pakistan sees that their parents and grandparents lived a better life than their own and they all want to move abroad. The only way this country is going to improve is to change the way power works at the top. The powerful have to focus on the idea that the country isn’t fair anymore and if people with integrity and dignity from all political parties sit together and decide that they want a fairer Pakistan where everyone has a shot at a good life, I think that is the ‘space’ Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is talking about.

The writer tweets/posts@FarrukhJAbbasi