The year that has gone by was a year lost and wasted
olitical stability, social cohesion and economic prosperity have been denied to the Pakistani people in their 75-year history. Crises, calamities and catastrophes have hardly afforded respite to the people inhabiting the country but the year drawing to a close was a dreadful dream even by local standards.
The year 2022 was punctuated with political uncertainty, chaos and acute polarisation. Law and constitution were violated deliberately and in a blatant way. Several politicians and journalists faced harassment, arrests and torture. Some journalists fled the country and a prominent media person was killed in Kenya. Television channels and newspapers faced stringent censorship.
Any serious student of politics might argue that a dispensation run by democratic politicians does not resort to torture and humiliation.
Use of brute force to muzzle opposition has become anachronistic. Resolving issues through negotiation and allowing the opposition to protest without placing any hurdles in its way are the contemporary way. Politicians have to shun resort to hyperbole and ham-handedness. They must pursue a policy of engagement with their political adversaries.
The worsening state of economy compounded the grievous situation. The rupee dipped appreciably against the US dollar, with foreign reserves depleting and a deal with the IMF gone awry. This made the task of governing the ‘ungovernable,’ as Ishrat Hussain calls Pakistan, insurmountable. Exports declined, remittances fell and foreign investment was scuttled. Progress on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was stunted.
Soaring inflation caused the prices of articles of daily use to spike. An energy crisis is looming on the horizon and the government appears to lack the wherewithal to resolve it. Unemployment has skyrocketed. The ruling clique seems to have no clue to how to address the challenge.
With electricity rates rising and fertilisers beyond their reach, the peasantry was pushed into a kind of deep despair it had not encountered before. The promise of improving the economy has not materialised.
With every passing day, the economy is closer to a precipice. There are fears that the country might default on external payments. Even the slightest of a silver lining seems distant. How we reached that dire state is a question that deserves serious deliberation.
For the economy to grow and attain sustenance, political stability is a sine qua non. A state devoid of viable political institutions and facing interference by non-political actors can hardly expect stability. Unfortunately many politicians in Pakistan lack maturity and moral uprightness. No wonder they are more interested in wooing the establishment than attending to the grievances of the populace.
Allowing the establishment to broker political deals will not ensure political stability that Pakistan desperately needs.
The role of the Judiciary came under great scrutiny this year. Many have started questioning the role of the Judiciary in politics and find it quite saddening that it has been playing second fiddle to those wielding power as this makes justice subservient to power. Politics of the people has virtually become a saga of the past. The political parties need to forge unanimity to ensure that non-political forces no longer guide the destiny of Pakistani politics like they have done in the past.
Politics and the issues pertaining to governance must be the sole preserve of the members of the parliament. Its supremacy must not be flouted by the establishment or another institution.
I have been arguing that Pakistan is a neo-colonial state and not a post-colonial dispensation like India or Bangladesh. My reason for saying so is Pakistan’s inordinate dependence on the US. If there is even an iota of credence to the assertion that the change of government in Pakistan was a result of the former prime minister’s visit to Russia in the context of the Ukraine war, it puts a big question mark on Pakistan’s independence.
The worsening state of the economy, coupled with political instability, has led to social alienation that often manifests itself in militancy. The recent episode in Bannu is a big wakeup call for the military establishment. It must attend to its primary obligation: assurance of national security. Any laxity in dealing with the Tehreek-i-Taliban-Pakistan can result in utter disaster.
Some of the developments at our western border are a sad reflection on the ineptness of our foreign policy.
The way the government had handled the flood situation speaks of incompetence. It took power with the promise sorting out the economic challenges but has not come up with a clear way forward. An undue reliance on borrowing from the international agencies has continued. If the government somehow manages to cut a loan deal, it is regarded as something laudable. Generating our own resources and raising the national income is not what successive governments have aimed for.
Another sad development in the realm of Pakistani politics has been the rise of blackmail through audio and video clips circulated to demonise one’s political opponents. Most of these videos and audios are faked produced with a malicious intent. This indicates how abysmally low our politics has sunk. The really worrying aspect of the matter is that no major leader has sought to discourage the abominable trend.
Pejorative adjectives like kafir and ghaddar have been in use in partisan politics from the very outset. Some more words were added to the list in 2022 and are being hurled at the adversaries with abandon. These include: gumrah, fitna, fasadpasand. Talk about manifestos of the party or critical analysis of the policies framed to put the economy on rails is not a significant part of the political debate.
Breach of privacy and character assassination are taken lightly. This spawns nothing but despair and hopelessness. Our political class needs to understand the primacy of the moral foundations on which politics and social values rest.
All said and done, the year that has gone by was a year lost and wasted.
The writer is Professor in the faculty of Liberal Arts at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. He can be reached at email@example.com