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May 15, 2019

Why Pakistan needs Charter of Economy


May 15, 2019

Political parties time and again have shown maturity when it comes to Pakistan, whether it is an issue of national security, terrorism, extremism or removing sense of deprivation of smaller provinces.

On Monday, they all came on ‘one page’ over Fata merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an historic day in country’s history.

It is the right time that the parties should reach a broad-based consensus on national economy and none other than Prime Minister Imran Khan should take the initiative and invite national leadership before the national budget on ‘Charter of Economy’. Remember economic disorder can also affect fight against terrorism.

As far as corruption cases against some leaders are concerned let the law takes its own course and if leaders are found guilty they should be punished. After all, both government and Opposition were already engaged in evolving a consensus on bringing change in the NAB law.

It is a fact that every government goes to International Monetary Fund, and every Opposition opposes it but do the same when they come to power. So the PTI government is not different from the PML-N or PPP in this connection.

But there are issues which need to be dealt above political consideration and which directly affects common man. PM Imran Khan needs to welcome the proposal of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif for ‘Charter of Economy’ and there is nothing wrong in it.

The premier has appreciated and thanked all the political parties Monday, when they unanimously passed 26th Constitutional Amendment. In the past we had seen such consensus on premier national issues like National Action Plan in 2014, after APS Peshawar massacre or after Pulwama attack. So why not on ‘economy’ that is as important as any other national issue. It is time to bury the politics of blame game over who was responsible for the present economic condition and who is not. Led the history judge it but the fact remains that every ruler promised to break the begging bowl and every ruler goes to IMF with a new ‘Kashkol’ for a bailout package. This time they may give us $6 billion in three years but have put some tough conditions.

Pakistan does have very able and competent economists and experts. Prime minister can invite them all, both non-political or technocrats as well as those with political affiliations including those in the Opposition and ask them to prepare a comprehensive ‘Charter of Economy’ which should then be presented before the parliament.

There is a need to bring political temperature down and government can defuse tension like the one we had witnessed Monday. PM needs to understand that without political stability you cannot bring economic stability or fight menace of terrorism and extremism.

New wave of terror with attacks particularly on a five-star hotel at Gwadar was direct attack on Pakistan’s economic corridor. It would be wrong if we merely considered it just like another terrorist attack. Besides attack on security personnel near Data Darbar in Lahore and in Quetta once again raised serious questions regarding intelligence failure or weakness in anti-terror efforts.

Similarly it is time that national parties should sit and reach a consensus above all political consideration on its economic and commercial hub Karachi which had been neglected for decades. How could the country’s leadership ignore the city, which gave 70 percent revenue to the entire country and hardly gets 25 to 30 percent in return.

Karachi which is also a provincial capital of Sindh needs to be given the status of ‘Metropolitan Corporation’ and the mayor should be regarded as the major of the whole city and not of 35 percent area.

Therefore, devolution of power to the grassroots level should also be part of the ‘Charter of Economy’. It is also time to give more importance to institutions like Council of Common Interests and National Finance Commission as well as Provincial Finance Commissions. The latter have not been constituted as yet by the provinces.

It is a dilemma of our political leadership that 2006 ‘Charter of Democracy’ (CoD) was not implemented in letter and spirit. It is by far the best document after 1973 Constitution. This not only led to back-to-back elections after 2008, smooth transfer of power from one elected government to another, but also led to settle long-standing issue like provincial autonomy through unanimously passed 18th Amendment. Under the same spirit, the political parties evolved consensus on interim setup before elections, giving key position of Public Accounts Committee to Opposition, which unfortunately was not implemented in its true spirit in Sindh and KP.

Every government seeks ‘sacrifice’ from the people but no ruler ever led from the front. The PTI has come to power with high hopes. It is still a long way to go as Prime Minister Imran Khan has five years term but asking people to bear the ‘economic burden’ for at least two years without giving them any relief is perhaps asking too much.

The premier who firmly believes that in democracy leaders do taken ‘U-turn’ has taken a ‘big turn’ over what he once believed not going to the IMF and accepted its tough conditions, which many believe would bring extra ‘burden on already heavily burdened salaried class.

Government has already failed in stopping the unprecedented rise in the medicine prices including life-saving drugs and it’s almost out of reach of the common man. Now with more increase in prices of petrol, electricity and gas; things can go out of control as its direct impact would come on masses life.

So it is time that ruling as well as Opposition parties should reach a national consensus on country’s economic condition and to make Pakistan economically strong. For this, PM has to take initiative on ‘Charter of Economy’ above political consideration. Pakistan can only come out its economic crisis or from IMF dependency if there is political and economic stability. Can PM Imran Khan take a bold initiative? People cannot afford another ‘tsunami’ of price hike.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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