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Head of PPP Media Cell
The back to back defeat suffered by the ruling party in the by-elections throughout the country clearly suggests it has run out of steam to move on notwithstanding the support of the state institutions. The elixir for this government without which it may not survive the following day. Is the fast unfolding situation tenable? The immediate question that agitates the mind warrants an answer. The answer may be big no. It also clearly casts aspersions on the defenders and celestial supporters who may be consequentially deemed as accomplices of punishing the people who have been suffering very badly at the hands of the ‘hybrid system’ pushing them deep in the morass of acute poverty, massive unemployment and perverse sense of loss and sorrow with no hope of turnaround during the foreseeable future. This perception has been flying thick and fast that almost has assumed crescendo to the utter disappointment of all. The likely desperate endeavor of the government for revenue generation under the pressure of (IMF) clearly implied the worst is yet to come for the people who are already at the brink of precipice. Nothing may be more hostile to the people and the country if the ruling leadership continues to follow the failed policies since it was imposed upon the people. Instead of stocktaking of the failed policies in favor of pro-people plan, it seems the self-righteousness does not allow collective wisdom to take charge of the situation for the better.
Time available may be limited providing a window of opportunity to let the acrimonious politics be the relic of the past with resolution to pursue new paradigm. The unseemly politics may be done away with for being destructive and futile serving no good cause at all. Also, the combative politics has seemingly completed its full circle as the diminishing return of this politicking has hit the rock bottom with little chance of its reinvigorating any time in the future. In the absence of new paradigm, the ferocity of legitimacy issue may bite hardest during the days to come. The humiliating defeat of the ruling party in the by-elections in the country in general and in Daska NA-75 in particular has indeed reinforced the finality of the narrative of the fake mandate during 2018 devoid of the choice of the people. It had evidently given rise to the legitimacy issue across the board that had been increasingly becoming unforgiving for the government in various forms and manifestations. Now, lots of waters have flown under the bridges as the albatross of legitimacy issue has firmly validated the incumbent government cannot deliver because it has been foisted upon the people through rigged elections as maintained by the credible local and foreign organizations those monitored the elections. The New York Times in its edition of August 31, 2018, while comprehensively commenting on the 2018 elections stated, ‘By all accounts his victory (IK) was far from fair. Human Rights Groups, academics, western diplomats and political analysts have said that Pakistan’s Establishment systematically targeted Mr. Khan’s political rivals in the months before elections helping him to win’. Pakistan Human Rights Group (HRPC) also maintained that the elections were stood rigged. Witch hunting of the mainstream parties leaders was the part of the selective accountability to accrue political dividends for the ‘King Party’.
Old habits die hard, but the ground realities may surely reassert to humble the short-sighted leaders to force them to bite the dust in the final analysis. Manipulations and political engineering in the political process had been self-defeating exercise and will remain so after inflicting prohibitive cost to the nation and the country. The history of government and politics of Pakistan and the present hybrid system may be the explicit explanation of the aftermaths of such politicking undermining the aspirations of the people. It may prove as short term gains but long terms pain for the undertakers. In the historic judgment the Supreme Court has aptly adjudicated this ironical political history of the country in the following words, ‘We have come to this unfortunate pass, in most part, because of the repeated direct unconstitutional interventions, and manipulations by undemocratic forces. Public welfare and poverty alleviation are at the lowest rung of our priorities. An egalitarian order remains the distant dream’. Unfortunately, the state institutions and the ruling elite have not changed yet to correlate its policies equating with the ideals of welfare state.
The people have been crying horse for the promised relief but the corridors of power remain tone deaf as there are no signs of strategy formulation for letting up of their plight and deprivation. The inflation has been going through the roof curtailing their purchasing power to the extent that they cannot afford food for the family members not to speak of expenditures on health and education. The middle and poor class of the society are at the verge of the extinction with 150 million people having pushed down the poverty line, according to the Prime Minister. The irony is that the government seems standing as bystander giving the impression that it is helpless as the new (IMF) conditionalities contain the seeds of the worst yet to come .The government has committed the levy of new taxes of whooping Rs.1.3 trillion during the next financial year. It is bound to usher an era of joblessness, pervasive poverty with startling socio-economic negative implications as job creation may hit bitterly when development expenditures have to be cut in line with the commitments made to (IMF). The widespread and frequent protests by the professionals, traders, farmers and the workers have become normal exhibiting the mood of the people in the country. The government may read the obtaining situation with utter seriousness and take tangible steps of providing relief on top priority basis.
The perception has been increasingly gaining ground of the government’s helplessness because the dire state of the economy cannot be straightened out in the absence of competent team. The perception further entrenched with the sudden and un-ceremonial exist of the former Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. The bizarre reversal of the decision to import sugar and cotton from India also reflected the lopsided decision making process that was surely could not be afforded at that level when stakes were astoundingly so high. Now, we see series of statements from the cabinet ministers and the spokespersons including the Prime Minister seeking more time to bring about changes in the economy on sustainable basis. It may be recalled that the prime minister requested the people to give him three months to bring qualitative change in the lives of the people individually and collectively in the context of delivery of services. The government is almost completing three years of its term but the promised good times seems a far-fetched cry. Sadly, the change is there but may be for the worse. How ironic?
The state institutions may understand once for all the indispensible co-relationship between the political stability and the economic development. Economic development and political stability are intertwined without a grain of doubt. The era of political stability will only commence when all the institutions work within the ambit of the constitution. There had been propensity in Pakistan where tricotimy of power had been repeatedly violated with impunity, and the political stability became its victim with pulling down of the economy as collateral. The incumbent hybrid system in the country may be yet another manifestation of the violation of the trcotimy of power and the resultant economic meltdown may not surprise many. The continuity of the democratic process in the countries in this part of the region have been making significant strides in their national life, and Bangladesh stands out in this count. On the other hand, Pakistan has been sliding back because of the repeated interventions in the political process by the unauthorized and authoritarian forces depriving the economy of the much needed political continuity.
Understandably, Pakistan’s economy is in the situation equating with between the see and the devil. It has indeed become hostage to the (IMF) stringent conditions those are rigorous and punitive. Beggars may not be choosers is the fundamental rule of the international banking system. Such conditions may be justified from the point of view of loan extending agencies to secure the repayment of their loans even at the expense of the tear, toil and blood of the people. The recipient governments have to put their house in order while adhering to the tough conditionalities of the (IMF) — an uphill task though. It may be more problematic in Pakistan in the face of political polarization that this country has been facing since 2018.
The government’s reckless pursuit of getting loans from whatever sources is extremely worrisome. It is responsible for surging national debts constituting 45% of total loans taken by all the successive governments during about seventy years. The utter disregard to the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of Parliament cannot be starker. Undoubtedly, Pakistan is in dire straight of debt trap that may continue to tighten its noose around the neck leaving it gasping for air with increased possibility of choking. Meaning thereby, choking the national security -- as economic security constitutes the dominant part of the national security. The quest and implementation of such policies need no outside enemy for hurtling national tragedy. The collapse of the Soviet Union is the recent example of the validity of the profound importance of the economic security to bolster and sustain the national security.