Descent into chaos | By Tariq Aqil

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Descent into chaos

THE new government composed of the opposition alliance headed by Shahbaz Sharif is now in the driving seat.

Their task is to initiate the process of economic recovery and stop the rapid slide into chaos created by the recent political upheaval in the country.

Easier said than done the government does not have a magic wand to correct everything and with each passing day it is now becoming more and more apparent that the country is now on the edge of the precipice and could very likely descent into social and economic chaos.

Presently, the State Bank of Pakistan has merely $10.5 billion hardly enough to cover the import bill for two months.

The trade and current account deficit have widened to dangerous levels because of the incompetence and bad governance of the previous government.

The country needs foreign exchange reserves immediately to prop up the fragile economy. Traditionally the first foreign visit of any Pakistani Prime Minister has always been the oil rich country of Saudi Arabia and Shehbaz Sharif has already taken a trip to Riyadh in the hope of arranging a bail-out financial package.

During the previous government a financial package of $4.2 Billion was arranged and as part of the package Saudi government deposited $3billion with the State Bank and $1.2 was kept for purchase of oil on deferred payment.

This package brought out the level of mistrust between the two countries because under this agreement the Saudis can withdraw $3 billion on a short notice of 72 hours.

Saudi Arabia has extended such help many times in the past and even converted loans into grants when Pakistan was unable to pay.

Today even the best friends of the country are unwilling and reluctant to extend financial support because we are always looking for bail-out packages instead of trying to first put our own house in order or to make an effort to stand on our own two feet without asking for help so frequently.

Thanks to the faulty policies of the past we have reached a state when even our closest friends and allies are now fed up of helping and bailing us out and it appears that we are now up against the wall with no options to manage the economy of the country.

Today there is an immediate and dire need of an economic plan to rectify the structural faults in our economy so that we can run the country without massive injections of foreign currency from abroad.

The world at large and our friends have had enough of this begging policy and with each passing day we are now running out of options to keep our economy afloat on bail-out packages and financial grants by other countries.

We need an immediate plan of action to jumpstart our economy and reduce the reliance on foreign aid and grants.

This may not be possible in the super charged political climate created by Imran Khan who wants immediate elections.

Let us not forget that immediate elections will not solve our economic woes. There is no guarantee that the PTI leadership will accept the outcome and will not launch another agitation if this party fails to win the election.

Imran Khan wants a clean sweep with two thirds majority in Parliament. If by some miracle without the support of the powers that matter he wins the election can he deliver this time?

Imran Khan’s first stint in office proves conclusively that he lacks the political vision or economic sense to save the country from an economic collapse and put us back on the path to political stability and economic progress.

The plethora of challenges faced by Pakistan are more than what a single party can overcome.

There is a dire need of a grand dialogue among all stake holders to analyze the present grave situation and try to find the way forward.

On many economic and foreign policy issues there has to be a consensus among all political parties as it is on Kashmir and the nuclear policy of the country.

Here again the biggest stumbling block is Imran Khan and his political rhetoric of spewing hatred and toxicity against all political leaders.

According to the PTI leaders Imran Khan is the only honest leader and all others are thieves, crooks, looters and plunderers and now the dangerous accusations of calling all political opponents traitors and agents of foreign powers.

In the present attitude of the PTI no dialogue between political parties is possible but unfortunately without dialogue no government will be able to initiate the process of reforms.

Since the ouster of Imran Khan the country’s politics has been injected with a poisonous quality of political conversation and the entire society has been polarised to a dangerous level.

Provocative and vulgar language used by the PTI leaders is adding fuel to the raging inferno of hatred and bitterness.

The no holds barred vilification of political opponents has turned politics into a shouting match of insults and rude allegations without any proof.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

 

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