Sunday December 04, 2022

Comment: Talks, early elections only way out for political, economic stability

July 20, 2022

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will be ungovernable for anyone if the ruling coalition and Imran Khan-led PTI do not enter into a dialogue for the much-needed political and economic stability of the country.

The outcome of the Punjab by-elections has changed the politics of Pakistan altogether in favour of the PTI, and now the general elections cannot be delayed against the wishes of Imran Khan.

Before the July 17 political upset, the ruling coalition was comfortable and the next general elections were generally seen in October next year. But with PTI’s surprising and convincing victory on Sunday against the PMLN in Punjab, which was considered N-League’s stronghold, Imran Khan would now dictate the course of future politics.

Now there is a greater possibility of the general elections to be held in October-November this year, precisely what Imran Khan has been demanding. This is, however, not all about the win of one political party and defeat of the other. What is far more important and critical is the political instability that has been caused by the outcome of the Punjab elections. Just within 48 hours of these by-polls, the political instability has dropped the Pak rupee to new lows against the US dollar.

The rupee on Tuesday plunged to an all-time low of Rs224 against the US dollar. Karachi Stock Exchange also had two consecutive bad days. For countries like Pakistan, political instability invites economic uncertainty. The longer the political instability, the greater will be the economic uncertainty.

Unfortunately, Pakistan, which was already going through severe financial conditions, is now pushed into a situation where the country’s economy will be seriously hurt unless the country achieves political stability. Speculations creating doubts about the IMF bailout package despite the staff-level agreement is further hurting the economy, though experts believe that the Fund’s board will approve the deal as Pakistan has already met all the major pre-conditions for the revival of the program.

Top leaders of the ruling coalition are still determined to complete the term. Imran Khan is also rigid and shows no sign of engaging with his political opponents. In case the ruling parties shy away from general elections in October-November this year, the continuation of the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition will further the political instability, which is bound to increase with every passing day. Imran Khan is not going to sit calmly and wait for the end of the National Assembly’s tenure. He will intensify in his attacks against the government, ECP and the establishment.

In case the two sides do not talk and decide the political irritants, political instability would prolong that means disaster for the country’s economy.

Both the ruling coalition as well as Imran Khan-led PTI need to understand that none of them could rule the country if the economic situation gets from bad to worse. Political instability will make the country ungovernable. To avert such a scenario, which is not in favour of any political party, the best option available is to encourage a dialogue between the government and the opposition.

These talks should decide the date of general elections and settle other key issues like electoral reforms and appointment of caretaker prime minister. But more importantly a consensus should be evolved on economic policies so that with the formation of a caretaker government no confused signals are sent to international financial institutions, including the IMF and Pakistan’s friendly countries. The very initiation of these talks will help create political stability besides immediately sending positive signals to local businesses.