IN a welcome development, top civil and military leadership have acknowledged that terrorism, economic revival and political stability are inter-connected and without political stability and economic progress, there can be no peace. The consensus emerged during a meeting of the Central Apex Committee chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday where the participants vowed to safeguard national security, stressing the need for national harmony on both economic and security matters. The meeting also called for building ‘national consensus’ on critical issues like terrorism as it mulled over options for addressing growing instability before it boils over.
The realization of the national leadership about the need for political stability is a positive indication but it would remain rhetoric until and unless practical steps are taken to stabilize the country battered by polarization of different sorts. It is a matter of concern that the country is in deep trouble for over a year and yet there are no signs of calm and tranquillity, which is the need of the hour but concrete steps to forge unity and address fissiparous tendencies are missing. No doubt, the country has paid a heavy price for revival of a loan accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but the economic conditions of the country are not improving as, according to latest reports, the AGPR has been asked by the Ministry of Finance to stop clearance of all bills including those relating to salaries of the federal employees. We might have avoided an external default so far but non-payment of salaries and pensions would amount to virtual internal default. One can also imagine the nature of the crisis that the country cannot even meet its day-to-day expenditure on its own without an injection of foreign aid. Crunch on the import side (requiring foreign exchange) is understandable but the move to stop clearance of all bills symphonizes a deeper malaise, needing an urgent surgery but that cannot be undertaken by a fragile political set-up. If the crisis persisted, we might not be able to spare necessary resources to wage a fresh struggle against the menace of terrorism which is once again raising its ugly head taking advantage of overall chaos and instability in the country.
Therefore, mere identification of the linkage between economy, security and political stability is not enough and this should be followed up by a concrete action plan to restore much-needed stability. For this to happen, institutions/major players will have to rise above self-interest and take decisions strictly in accordance with the national interests which in turn demand playing their role while remaining within the parameters of the Constitution. The widely criticized practice of encroaching upon the powers and authority of other institutions must come to an end forthwith and rule of the law and supremacy of the Constitution ensured at all costs. Parliament reflects the will of the people but it has been rendered to a paper organization due to infringements in its working and authority where in a true parliamentary democracy all issues should have been discussed threadbare on the floor of Parliament and decisions taken in the light of parliamentary feedback. Pakistan Army deserved appreciation for its conscientious and consensus decision not to interfere in politics but so far signals from the judiciary are highly confusing as there are open accusations of partisan approach even on clear legal and constitutional matters that are easy to understand even by a layman.
Politicians are also to be blamed for their inability to sort out their issues on the negotiating table and from the platform of Parliament. There is extreme polarization and politicians and parties are not willing to sit together and discuss issues like national security, resurgence of terrorism, economic policies and reforms, electoral reforms and foreign relations. They fail to realize that none of them could address the challenges facing the country in an effective and satisfactory manner on their own without national consensus. We have become so vulnerable that Afghanistan is now trying to dictate its terms as its wants Pakistan to bear the cost of disarming the TTP, which is nothing but clear blackmailing. In this backdrop, the Prime Minister has once again indirectly invited PTI to join hands with the Government in resolving serious challenges on different fronts and we hope a positive response w