Democracy and country’s unity under severe challenge

Increased inflationary risks and serious impending balance of payments crisis has pushed Pakistan on the brink

Talat Masood April 06, 2022
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board


Pakistan’s present state of semi anarchic conditions are primarily attributable and a reflection of the quality of politics that is being pursued at the national level. The political leadership needs to seriously introspect as to what depths our politics has sunk and what are the likely consequences of it on the country. The mystery and importance initially given to the infamous letter is a classic manifestation of national confusion and its priorities. Imran Khan has woven his strategy that international forces led by the US in cohort with major opposition parties have conspired to oust his elected government and the letter is a proof of their designs. Are we living in an era where it is difficult to find out who is lying what is fiction and what is fact? Is it true that the letter really poses a danger to the state as Imran Khan believes or is it a part of a preposterous plan by him and the party to stay in power and brazenly defy even the fundamentals of democratic conduct? From what transpired in the National Assembly on Sunday was a gross violation of the basic rules governing the running of the assembly.

The other postulate could be that Imran Khan genuinely believes that the position he is taking serves a greater cause as it would facilitate his hold on power irrespective of the veracity of the letter. Having lost his majority in the parliament to use the letter as a proof of conspiracy raises concerns of Pakistan’s drift toward despotism. The pertinent question that should draw our attention is: are we going to get bogged down in some fictional threat and create a major constitutional crisis or seriously undertake the business of addressing the nation’s economic and political challenges that are both external and internal? It seems Imran Khan wants to believe in some conspiracy as a far better proposition than apprising the people of the real facts. And would this approach help the PTI rank and file to remain united with its leader?

These happenings, as many have alluded somewhat sarcastically, are more a reflection of a banana republic rather than of a responsible and mature democratic state. For indeed the state of political deprivation in one way or the other is a consequence of the undemocratic conduct of the political parties spread over years and involvement of state institutions in politics in the past.

Whichever side of the political divide one may be the fact is the country is facing a serious crisis with wide ranging external and internal dimensions. Imran Khan’s extreme disdain for the opposition and refusal to engage has been a catalyst in uniting them for promoting peaceful transition of power through elections. The crisis, unfortunately, is mostly of our own making. Hopefully, the Supreme Court judgement would set the direction toward a caretaker government and elections.

The greatest failing of our political leadership has been that they seldom look inwards and acknowledge their weaknesses that lead to people being compelled to take to streets or their own party members deserting their ranks. The high hopes that were raised when Imran Khan came to power were soon dashed to ground within a matter of a year or two. For ultimately what matters is how the government has handled the economy, improved political stability and governance. None of the criteria was met in any appreciable manner. In fact, most of the performance indicators showed a downward trend. According to experts, increased inflationary risks and serious impending balance of payments crisis has pushed Pakistan on the brink. The present political instability and security challenges have led foreign direct investment to decline sharply. Global financial slowdown caused first by the spread of the pandemic and now by the Russia-Ukraine conflict has further exacerbated the problems for Pakistan. And the country managers are looking to external assistance from IMF, China and other bailouts to stave off a balance of payments crisis and stay afloat. But with relations with the US going through a difficult phase IMF conditionalities may be fairly tough and demanding even if the programme is fully revived. The expected gains from CPEC and the development of Gwadar would largely depend on the security situation in Balochistan. The political leadership should bear in mind that the terrorist activity that had largely been brought under control by army’s firm handling and considerable sacrifice may resurface due to political uncertainty and economic downturn.

Pakistan has suffered from political leadership relying more on populism rather than working toward solid performance and delivery. Imran Khan had come to power with tall claims of reducing poverty and giving thousands of jobs and building millions of homes for the poor. However, in the last few years inflation has galloped, unemployment has risen sharply and the social sector remains grossly neglected. Poverty and people’s hardship are on the rise.

What matters to the people now is how the political leadership conducts itself to lead the country toward economic recovery and political stability. The current dismal economic indicators for our political leadership should be of foremost concern.

The military leadership while understandably deeply concerned about the prevailing political situation and economic free fall must be carefully monitoring the situation as it has serious ramifications for the well-being of the people and defence of the country. Downside risks of a continuous confrontation between the major political parties are great. Prolonged paralysis of governance and chaos combined with the present economic and security challenges clearly have grave implications. A continuing underperforming economy is having a serious impact on all human development indicators and we are trailing behind even the South Asian countries with the exception of Afghanistan. A faltering energy sector and political unrest would lead to flight of businessmen for better pastures and promote brain drain with talent moving to the Middle East and West. There is a lot at stake if only our political leadership realises the consequences of their actions.


Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2022.

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