South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Challenges and the way forward
muhammad Jamil

PEOPLE of Pakistan especially the youth inspired by Imran Khan, who made promises of ensuring good governance and improving the lives of teeming millions, had thronged polling stations in the May 2018 general election. However, they are feeling the pangs of flawed decisions and ineptness of the earlier governments that resulted in ballooning trade deficit, current account deficit, fiscal deficit and unsustainable debt accumulated especially during the last ten years. PPP and PML-N governments did not focus on hydro-power projects and relied on Independent Power Producers who used mostly furnace oil or other expensive fuel with the result that the cost of electricity became unbearable for the common man as well as for industry, which could not compete in the world market. Any further increase in utilities and devaluation of rupee due to IMF conditionalities will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back.

PTI government under the leadership of Imran Khan has the will and determination to face challenges. Of course, it has opportunities of utilizing the immense national resources, which is possible by forging unity among the people of all federating units. The task of creating cohesion in the starkly polarized polity and knit it together into a harmonious one whole is nerve-wrecking, too demanding and no easy to carry out. People do not understand that to revive sagging economy it would require painful, bitter and drastic reforms to overcome the challenges faced by the country. Therefore, they demand of the government to fulfil promises of relief to them as soon as possible. The Opposition is poised to take advantage of inflation and ever-rising prices. They should rather give the incumbent government time so that it does not say that it was not allowed to work for nation’s well-being.
The Opposition and a section of media are critical of the decisions taken by the government such as inducting unelected technocrats in the government to use their expertise to overcome economic challenges. The debate is raging over shuffle in the Cabinet by Imran Khan increasing pressure on the government and indirectly targeting the Establishment for backing the government. The fact of the matter is that PML-N and PPP top leaders face charges of corruption and for amassing wealth beyond means. But neither military establishment nor PTI put them in the dock, as the process started after Panama Leaks. However, despite enough time given by the courts they could not present money trail to prove that the assets they possessed were made through legitimate means. Instead of giving proof and evidence, they have been targeting judiciary and military on the pretext that it was a conspiracy against them.
Pakistan cannot afford political instability at this crucial juncture because of two reasons. First, it is bane to investment. Secondly, any dent in present political dispensation will result into a backlash against the Establishment. If one looks at the sophisticated campaign launched against PTI government, the target seems to be gradually shifting towards the Establishment. But the fact of the matter is that there are elements who relish demonizing military establishment. Even when the court allowed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif bail for six weeks on medical grounds, there was propaganda that there was some deal between the PML-N and military. However, military leadership understands that propaganda campaign in social media is of little consequence, as according to a survey only three per cent use the face book, twitter and Instagram. The percentage is even smaller so far as readership of editorials and opinion pages of English dailies and weeklies is concerned.
Last week, an anti-state editorial titled “Conspiracy Theories” was published in ‘Friday Times’ in which leader-writer conjectured: “The Miltablishment has reviewed its political engineering design and finds that it is woefully short on expectations. Imran Khan’s parliamentary team is nothing short of a disaster, because its ownership falls squarely on the shoulders of the Miltablishment. Imran Khan may throw his hands in despair, claim that he is being thwarted from reform, dissolve the Assemblies, call fresh elections and ask the people to give them two-thirds mandate so that he can do the job he was ordained by Allah”. It appears that the leader writer is suggesting that “a caretaker set-up of technocrats is firmed up. It imposes a Financial Emergency and requests the Supreme Court to allow a postponement of the elections until the country is out of the crisis (or until Imran Khan is somehow enabled to sweep the elections).
Anyhow, life does not stand still; and history is on the march making it necessary to evolve new forms to cope with new developments. It is here that the role of the leaders assumes importance. Genuine leaders endowed with vision, wisdom and courage can see through the intense conflict between dynamic reality and static forms. The leaders today must possess the vision that enables them to remain at the crust of the movement that brought them to power. Otherwise, they are bound to become the flotsam and jetsam of history. Imran Khan has performed well through a balancing act in foreign policy vis-à-vis relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. The CPEC will allow regional connectivity; it will project Pakistan as zipper of civilizations whereby all international players are welcome to join Pakistan in its quest for collective economic development and poverty alleviation.