The price of the failed experiment

Harmony between Islamabad and Pindi would lead to necessary reforms in all sectors particularly on the economic front


Kamran Yousaf October 18, 2021
This writer is a senior foreign affairs correspondent at The Express Tribune

Let’s call spade a spade. No elected government in Pakistan enjoyed as much support from the establishment and other organs of the state as the current dispensation, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has. The idea to back the cricketer-turned politician was clear: people or the state needed a break from the likes of Sharifs, Bhuttos and Zardaris who in view of the powers-that-be are corrupt from the core and their interests do not lie with Pakistan. Imran Khan on the other hand is “honest, charismatic, patriotic” and possesses all the qualities of a leader who could pull the country out of quagmire with the full support of all the state institutions. An honest civilian leader, whose only interest is to advance Pakistan’s interests, at the Prime Minister Office would work wonders for Pakistan both internally and externally. The harmony between Islamabad and Pindi would lead to necessary reforms in all sectors particularly on the economic front.

To achieve that objective, the state institutions since August 2018 went out of the way to support this dispensation. From managing the economy to foreign policy and from hounding opposition politicians to manipulating parliamentary affairs, Imran Khan got what he wished for. In return for this unflinching support, the state institutions had great expectations that the PTI government would deliver on all fronts. The success would then give reasons to the powers-that-be to justify the change and as a result people would shun “corrupt” leaders like Nawaz and Zaradri forever. They would also bring home a point that the problem was not with the establishment but the leaders sitting at the helm of the PM Office. Imran Khan is sincere and once he delivers the goods that would justify the support extended to him by every state institution.

But after more than three-year in office, the situation is back to square one – in fact, worse. On the internal front, the economy has failed to take off. The much-promised economic reforms remain a distant dream. In the name of structural reforms, the government slowed down the economic growth for the first two years as demanded by the IMF. The masses were asked to swallow the bitter pill in the hope that this would lead to sustainable growth breaking the boom and bust cycle that Pakistan’s economy has been accustomed to. But the government failed on both counts. It has failed to bring the necessary reforms and hence nothing has changed.

Last week, the government raised electricity prices and increased petrol prices to a record high. This came as the government struggled to revive the IMF programme which has set tough conditions for the release of next $1 billion tranche. The much-touted success of turning the current account deficit into surplus was also short lived. When in opposition, Imran Khan blamed corruption as the root cause of inflation and rise in petrol prices and utilities’ charges. But a layman, unaware of economic complexities, has a simple question: if corruption was the main reason for earlier Pakistan problems then who should be blamed for the current mess?

On top of it, the ‘same page’ seems to be torn apart. Despite the government claims of all is well, the fact remains that there is a friction between the civil and military leadership. The incompetence and poor decision-making is so visible that sensitive appointments have become the subject of public debate. Had PML-N or PPP been in power they would have been taken to the cleaners. The trouble is how one deals with a person who was presented as a “messiah” with years of a carefully orchestrated campaign. No matter what will happen next, the country and the masses are paying the ultimate price of this failed experiment.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2021.

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