Before it is too late


Abdul Sattar

SINCE coming into power Prime Minister Imran Khan and his tedious acolytes have only used rhetoric to solve people’s problems. They made tall claims before ascending to power but have failed to deliver even on a single promise. From economy to foreign affairs and accountability to delivery on social services, the government seems to have completely failed. Mr Khan seems to have become a master of double-speak. His close comrades have also made ludicrous assertions that have turned the party of revolution into a laughing stock.
No man with a modicum of common sense would believe that the maverick politician Rana Sanaullah will place drugs in his own car to be caught red handed by Anti-Narcotics Force. The action clearly reeks of political victimization. In the past Imran accused PPP and N-League of politically victimizing opponents but if Mr Khan also has to come up with such bizarre allegations then in what way could he claim to be different. The treatment meted out to Sanaullah and Imran’s meeting with PML-N law makers a few weeks ago to buy them off has dented his moral standing that he believed was the greatest asset of any politician. The meeting was surely meant to buy their loyalties and the failure of no confidence motion against Sanjrani vindicated the claims of horse trading. The PTI is already brimming with the comrades of “corrupt Zardari” and confidantes of General Musharraf who was lambasted by the champion of change in a number of TV talk shows.
On foreign front Pakistan’s ties with Iran, Afghanistan and India could not be described as warm. The normalization of ties with the US seems to have come after the threatening tweets of Trump, whose bullying tactics forced Mr Khan to beseech India for dialogue. Now, the government is also likely to grant transit route to Afghanistan. Interestingly no longer does one hear the slogan that echoed in PTI rallies—Modi’s buddy is a traitor of Pakistan. Though ties with the US seem to be on the right tract, many fear Pakistan is falling into American camp once again. Some go to the extent of claiming that the country is again going to be a part of a possible regional conflict which might tear our social fabric apart. On economic front the magical band of Mr Shaikh proved ineffective. The much-vaunted financial reforms are creating miseries for millions of people. Despite the rupee devaluation exports failed to increase. Agriculture is not in good shape either. Remittances did not witness any substantial rise. Growth is witnessing a downward spiral. Debts continue to rise and revenues did not meet the expectations. With the storm of inflation and hike in energy price, industries are likely to suffer again, rendering thousands or possibly millions of people jobless in coming years. Owing to the slow-down in global economy, there are little chances that economy will grow, which means more hardships for the common people.
As if this is not enough, the sagacious Finance Minister, jubilant at the approval of six billion dollar loan, has announced that more difficult decisions would have to be taken. Electricity is already expensive. Prices of gas have been increased manifolds. A flood of taxes seem to have panicked masses. A meagre charity was added to the salaries of government employees while the minimum wage of the labourer did not witness any substantial rise. So, what is left to be done now? How many more hard decisions will be made? Will such decisions affect the palatial of ministers and advisers or they will only fall as a curse on the heads of masses?
Mr Shaikh happily announced that six billion had been approved and that other creditors are ready to offer 38 billion dollars. It is widely believed that this would all be used to correct the fiscal imbalances. The question is: The country’s external debts and liabilities have already crossed the $100 billion mark. Nine billion dollars were recently deposited in Pakistani banks by China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Six billion dollars have been approved by the IMF and 38 billion dollars would further be offered but who would pay these all debts? Do we have a mechanism to pay back these loans? What plan Mr Shaikh has to lift the country out of the quagmire of these loans and debts? What implications these huge loans will have on social security of the people and the sovereignty of the country? Since the government is busy harassing opposition, it seldom thinks about these silly questions.
On social front the situation is also dismal. The prices of medicines have witnessed a sharp rise—especially the imported ones. Social sector development funds have been halved by Punjab Government while the Federal Government and KP ruling elite have also carried out cuts on these funds. More than eighty percent diseases are still water-born. Around 25 million children are still out of school. Thousands of educational institutions in Punjab and KP are still bereft of water, toilet and other facilities. Millions of people were already deprived of a decent housing and Khan’s government has added tens of thousands to this list of hapless masses. Thousands of such poor souls are condemned to live in sweltering heat in cities like Karachi where these wretched creatures have been rendered shelterless in the name of mega projects. More than 40 per cent children are stunted but anti-poor policies will take it to over fifty percent in coming years. Like emperor Aurengzaib, Imran Khan is fighting on multiple fronts, immiserating the lives of millions and burdening people with more taxes. All types of dissenting voices are being stifled, closing all doors of catharsis which could push the country towards a violent change. It is, therefore, important for Mr Khan to keep an eye on the rising anger of the people before it is too late.
—The author is a freelance journalist based in Karachi.

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