A resilient 2021

On the world stage of realpolitik, it was a defining year as US troops huddled to go back home in all uncertainty

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri January 01, 2022
The writer is a senior journalist currently associated with a think tank based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

The year 2021 was a collage of hope and despair. Yet, it was a year of resilience. People across the world managed to navigate their course of action in a contentious socio-economic environment, and survived to see the year’s last sunset. With no major catastrophe, it was a livable but tough year, irrespective of the fact that Covid-19 continued to haunt it, and does so. The showing up of the vaccine was the achievement of the year. Pandemic-2.0 called Omicron is the new curse, and the world should look beyond it in their socially un-distanced lives with a possible third dosage of so-called immunity.

On the world stage of realpolitik, it was a defining year as US troops huddled to go back home in all uncertainty. After two decades of policy chaos, Washington has exited from Kabul. The once condemnable Taliban are back to rule the war-torn country but, it seems, they will long for a de jure status for time immemorial. The White House saw a change of guard as Americans finally voted to power an impeccable politician, Joseph Biden. This brought to an end an era of White Supremacy under Donald Trump, whose supporters took over the Capitol Hill in protest, making Americans’ heads hang in shame.

Other footnotes of the year were UAE’s rise as the first Arab nation to reach Mars, focus on climate change and comeback of global economy after a slump in yesteryears. But rise in food prices worldwide along with the oil spiral cemented the course of the global economy, forcing Manhattan and bourses worldwide to lose trillions and cash on billions in a quid pro quo. The wave of economic uncertainty in 2021 led to more interdependence as trade and tourism remained the priority of governments to browbeat the lethal virus.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, it was a politically stable year with the pendulum of economics swinging wayward. The apex court was upbeat, and the fragile government of Imran Khan finally ushered in surprises by passing 33 bills and amendments in one go. The opposition lived in a castle of incredibility of its own, and couldn’t foment even a single tough day for one of the most unnerved governments since 1988.

Notwithstanding the strides that PM Khan was able to make, especially the Ehsaas Programme, universal health coverage in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, voting rights to expatriates and introduction of electronic voting machines, his government’s media management was a disaster. The rise of TLP tested the nerves of the government and establishment, alike, and has casted the dye for an emerging fourth force in politics.

A bumper crop, inflow of grand remittances, turning of current account deficit into a surplus for the first time in history and a promising growth rate were hallmarks of 2021. But the tide of progressivism nosedived and the country is gripped with double digit inflation, and a depreciating rupee. The IMF bite is bleeding the nation, and the government’s hard work to attain self-reliance is in defeatist mode. The year-end saw the worst energy crisis with the shortage of gas and fears of soaring unemployment, pushing it towards an ignominious mini-budget.

The Sword of Damocles hanging in the form of FATF conditionalities, India’s unending excesses in Kashmir along with a racist Hindutva agenda, the slaying of a Sri Lankan national by a mob in Sialkot and the ‘absolutely not’ shut-up call to the Americans were other noticeable happenings. But 2021 was a year that made strides as far as local bodies’ conceptualisation is concerned, and is a due credit to the skipper, like a well-earned win over India in the T20 World Cup.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2022.

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