Friday June 21, 2024

The tipping point

By Kamila Hyat
July 29, 2022

Pakistan is dangerously close to slipping into economic and, quite possibly, social and political chaos. The almost unprecedented anarchy we recently saw on the political scene and other fronts is responsible for the mess we are stuck in so is the endless conjecture and speculation.

Last week, rumours of ‘soft intervention’ started doing the rounds. While we hope this does not happen, most experts are unsure about what will happen next; it is becoming impossible to predict.

Politicians need to be aware of their duties. Never before has the country’s political front been this chaotic despite its never-ending leadership crisis; Pakistan does not have passionate leaders who can take the country towards the kind of progress that Bangladesh and other countries around the world have made. The people of Pakistan have not been able to elect such leaders to power, and we see the consequences of this inability around us all the time.

At present, tens of thousands of people are jobless and struggling to keep their children in school, feed their families or receive basic healthcare. This is not a tolerable situation for a nation which has plenty of resources and a good number of people who can offer their expert advice. The simple fact that Pakistan is on an IMF programme shows that it has a sinking economy. No matter how many times we deny it or how much we try to shift the blame on others, this is the reality. No country chooses to go to the IMF unless it is in dire straits – and we are in desperate straits on many fronts.

It is time our senior politicians began to get their acts together. Asif Ali Zardari and Moonis Elahi’s visits to Ch Shujaat Hussain’s house before the Punjab CM election are the kind of childish games which have thrown us into a much-greater crisis. The will of the people has been sabotaged in this manner. This simply cannot be allowed. All parties need to overcome their differences – especially the PTI which has refused to talk to the other parties – and determine that they wish to work for their country rather than against its people.

To do so, all political parties will need to act. In the first place, the extreme polarization between the parties has to end, and a way should be found to sit together and work out a joint action plan. This does not necessarily mean that they should agree on all matters or solely agree on what should happen next. But there should at least be the possibility of talks with each other and also an agreement that the existing parliamentary rules, set in place at the time when we adopted the British parliamentary system, must be followed no matter what is happening.

Our dilemma is that so much hatred and vitriol has been created that it is difficult to get politicians to talk to each other or draft an agenda which works for the people. It is the Pakistani people who need help, and we should remember that the main task of politicians who sit in parliament and are paid from our tax money is to improve the living standards of their fellow citizens instead of hurting them further by playing various political games or using money to purchase loyalty or engaging in other dubious practices. The news we received about the role played by young politicians in the Chaudhry family is rather disturbing given that we need a new leadership to enter the political scene and one day take over the country.

Right now, we need calm and order. The courts may only decide on a contentious matter; it is not their task to ensure that calm has been restored. It is the task of senior politicians to ensure that this can happen and that something can be done to put in place a social welfare programme for people and then take other steps to ensure parties follow rules. At the moment, no rules are being followed at all, and it is impossible to predict the outcomes of simple matters like the CM election or a no-confidence vote against the prime minister. So far, these moves have led us down curious and peculiar paths.

We appear to live somewhere in a nightmarish land where creatures from the dark pop up at every point and alter the scene that should otherwise be taking people towards calm and a better future. Certainly, this is not happening at the moment and we remain increasingly dependent on the superior courts and the establishment with Imran Khan insisting that various institutions of the country play some role in the current political scene. Of course, their duties are clearly laid out in the constitution and if each branch of the government and each institution followed the constitution, things would be made much simpler.

With Punjab also sinking into increased acrimony and chaos, something which will continue no matter who leads it as CM in the coming few months, we have fewer choices lying ahead of us. It is essential that a plan be worked out.

Many are calling for early elections so that the current chaos can be resolved. But will an election achieve stability? It is difficult to say, especially since Imran Khan continues to hurl accusations at the chief election commissioner, a man he appointed himself. This means that any coming election will be disputed and its results challenged by the PTI and perhaps by other parties. The situation is obviously more chaotic than almost any we have seen before in the country, since it came into being.

The question that all politicians and all political parties need to ask is how they can raise themselves above petty politics and overcome their differences and dislike for each other to sit together and come up with a plan which will work for the country and help it escape its problems. The country cannot continue to fall further into anarchy with the PTI continuously warning us that we are likely to end up like Sri Lanka. We can only hope this never happens and that we never reach this situation again.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. She can be reached at: