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November 29, 2020

Zero-sum

Opinion

November 29, 2020

Zero-sum is a situation in game theory in which PM Imran Khan’s gain is equivalent to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s loss (and vice versa), so the net change in wealth or benefit to 220 million Pakistanis is zero. PM Imran Khan labels the entire opposition as “corrupt” and a “gang of dacoits”.

The opposition calls a legally elected prime minister as “selected”. That’s the entire game. Let the Angel of Darkness run the business of the state. Let Satan play with the economy. Let the foreign policy go down into the abyss. Finally, let the Devil seduce the 220 million into extreme poverty, impoverishment and destitution.

Two years ago, Imran Khan won and Nawaz Sharif lost. Two years ago, Imran Khan became the prime minister and Nawaz Sharif went to jail. Two years ago, 70 million Pakistanis were below the line of poverty – today there are 90 million. Lo and behold, that’s worse than zero-sum. Two years ago, our public debt was Rs30,000 billion – today it is Rs43,000 billion. Two years ago, our GDP was $310 billion – today it is $270 billion. That’s worse than zero-sum. Two years ago, the power sector’s circular debt was Rs1,200 billion – today it is Rs2,400 billion. That’s worse than zero-sum. Two years ago, wheat flour was Rs33 per kg – today it is Rs70 per kg. That’s also worse than zero-sum. Imran Khan’s gain is equivalent to Nawaz Sharif’s loss but zero-sum for 220 million.

All that the PTI is doing is trying to weaken the opposition. All that the opposition is doing is trying to bring down the PTI. What we have is a zero-sum democracy. What we need is a non-zero-sum democracy. What we need is a democracy where ‘policy produces results that meet the needs of the masses’. Over the 1990-2019 period, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia all grew much much faster than did Pakistan. China’s ‘political meritocracy’ has managed to bring the poverty rate down from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent. Amazingly, China has lifted more than 850 million people out of extreme poverty in a couple of decades.

Food for thought. What’s really preventing our ‘procedural democracy’ from reforming State Owned Enterprises (annual burden Rs1,800 million)? Is it the so-called ‘establishment’? What’s really preventing our ‘procedural democracy’ from reforming the power sector? Is it the so-called ‘establishment’? Why has the price of wheat flour jumped from Rs33 per kg to Rs70 per kg? Is the so-called ‘establishment’ behind it? Intriguingly, if Nawaz Sharif is brought back would the price of sugar come down?

We have had 11 general elections over the past 48 years. We have the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Political Parties Act, the Representation of the People Rules, the Electoral Rolls Act and the Delimitation of Constituencies Act.

Question: Why has it all been a zero-sum game? Answer: All we have is a ‘procedural democracy’. What we need is a ‘substantive democracy’. And what’s the difference: A procedural democracy “concerns itself with the so-called democratic features whereas a substantive democracy concerns itself whether policy has produced results that meet the needs of the masses.” PM Imran Khan must strive to do two things without losing any more time: control inflation and create jobs.

PS: Of the 193 member-states of the United Nations 162 (84 percent) recognise Israel.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh