The political roulette

The coalition government seems to be in a decisive mood to take on the challenges upfront

May 19, 2022


The coalition government seems to be in a decisive mood to take on the challenges upfront. At a time when the economy is nosedived and political uncertainty is soaring, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has reportedly taken his allies on board to chalk out a way out of the crisis. It is a good omen that the government, at least, is not abdicating its responsibilities to address the gigantic tasks ahead and diligently trying to craft a way out. But the point is that it is not a piece of cake, and some substantive out-of-the-box thinking is needed to get it going. The tough decisions that would be required include increasing the prices of petroleum products, slashing subsidies on electricity and reassessing the interest rate to keep the economy afloat. While that is the only option at hand to surmount the pressing demands of the IMF and to avoid a looming default, it would come at the cost of severe public backlash. This is where the political price lies, and it is not sure whether the sitting dispensation can stand its toll or not.

The flip side is too horrendous to ignore. The opposition under former PM Imran Khan is on the streets and is pressing for elections. Its narrative that the PTI government was dislodged at the behest of foreign interference is not only sowing unrest but also abject instability. Under these circumstances, it won’t be easy to go ahead with critical reforms when an apparent institutional breakdown is looming. The resignation of PTI legislators from the National Assembly and the pendulum swinging in Punjab Assembly makes it an acute cumbersome equation. Thus, the coalition partners’ desire to introduce electoral reforms and hold census before going into next elections would surely be a tough nut to crack. But what will keep Prime Minister Shehbaz and his Cabinet bogged down will be economic regulation and the difference that the government could make before it decides to seek a fresh mandate. Ushering in long-term sustainability and synergising the national institutions is a must, and these objectives must take precedence over political jingoism. The roulette is set, and it has to be played.


Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2022.

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