Thursday June 20, 2024

Caretaker govt’s decisions put Pakistan on path of stability, development and peace

By Jan Achakzai
November 20, 2023
The caretaker government during a meeting under the chair of Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq on November 15, 2023, in Islamabad. — X/@GovtofPakistan
The caretaker government during a meeting under the chair of Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq on November 15, 2023, in Islamabad. — X/@GovtofPakistan

The caretaker government made decisions that were not based on populism, electoral considerations, or any other extraneous factors. These decisions had been pending for decades, and previous governments lacked the political will to act.

Let us begin with the issue of illegal immigrants. Nearly 1.7 million illegal immigrants were living in Pakistan. Many of them were involved in terrorism and crime – including being associated with the TTP in some ways.

In the past, seven federal government and five provincial government departments were dealing with this issue, but none of them had the will, coordination or resources to resolve it effectively.

Under the leadership of Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq, a decision was made to address this issue head-on. The unwavering support of the armed forces, particularly Army Chief General Asim Munir, ensured that the entire state was behind this move. This happened despite pressure from vested interest groups.

Political parties, even mainstream ones, not to mention ethnic or provincial parties, are still trying to play populist politics. This shows their lack of maturity in dealing with an issue linked to our national interest.

It also suggests that with the next elected government, there may be attempts to slow down the next two phases of relocating foreigners, including Afghan refugees, to their respective countries. However, since this is a state policy, it will be fenced -- and no political government will be able to amend or reverse it.

The next major issue was the threat posed by terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Past political governments failed to realize that appeasement was not a viable policy towards terrorist groups like the TTP and their backers in Afghanistan. The ill-conceived policy of engaging with TTP terrorists through dialogue under the former PTI government only worsened the situation and amplified the threat manifold.

The caretaker government took a firm stance against the Afghan Taliban government, sharing dossiers on terrorist sanctuaries and putting them on notice: either they choose Pakistan or the TTP proxy. This is why they are trying to influence Islamabad through third parties to soften its stance on issues related to Afghanistan. However, the caretaker government is resolute in its determination that if the threat from Afghanistan is not eliminated, it will send back all Afghans to Afghanistan and sensitize the international community to designate rogue elements in the Afghan government as sponsors of terrorism.

Such a clear-headed policy could not have been taken by any previous political government.

The third most important decision was to dismantle the grey economy in the border regions; the grey economy was based on smuggling, currency smuggling, and the drug trade emanating from Afghan transit reverse trade, Iranian smuggled oil, and poppy cultivation in border regions

In Balochistan alone, 15,000 hawala/hundi businesses were operating. Ironically, the Afghan reverse trade reached $7 billion, while Afghanistan’s total imports were only $2 billion. The FBR put all electronics, polyesters/cloths, and tyres on a negative list, and all containers containing banned items were stopped at ports entering the country. The volume of Iranian smuggled oil reached 22 million liters per day, but its demand has been reduced by 90 per cent by blocking it at the borders of Balochistan with Punjab and Sindh. This is a remarkable achievement of the caretaker government, and no previous political government had the will to dismantle the black economy that had flourished for decades.

The caretaker government stabilized the economy, brought down the dollar’s value, successfully contained inflation (by mainly reducing fuel by Rs42 per liter), and reached another deal with the IMF. Also, by the end of its tenure, the caretaker government would have privatized all sick units, including PIA and Pakistan Steel, something that had never been done in decades. One-window business operations and the SIFC-led foreign investment of $70 billion will be remarkable achievements of the caretaker government, which is in the pipeline.

Additionally, in line with the army chief’s vision of making Pakistan a normal country open for business, Pakistan’s borders are being regulated through a single document regime -- passports and visas. This effort encompasses checking smuggling, overcoming terrorism within the country, and curbing sanctuaries at borders, despite all pressures from the center-right and left political spectrum. The will, the resolve, and the highest level of clear thinking will ultimately make Pakistan a respected nation in the community of nations. Make no mistake, all these efforts will continue beyond the caretaker government.

Jan Achakzai is the Information and Public Relations Minister of Balochistan govt. He tweets at @Jan_Achakzai