In the eye of the storm | By Tariq Aqil


In the eye of the storm

THE country has been in the eye of the tornado unleashed by the cataclysmic ouster of the Imran Khan regime in the beginning of April this year and since then it has been a roller coaster ride of constitutional crisis in the federal capital and the still ongoing crisis in Punjab.

So far there have appeared two very obvious political trends for the newly elected coalition government.

The first challenge is the precarious and dangerous state of the national economy and the second is the hostile, bitter, confrontational and polarized campaign of opposition initiated by Imran Khan and his PTI stalwarts.

After the exit of the PTI government unfortunately the new team of economic managers have yet to define their policy initiatives about what plans they have for some economic reforms or their actual plans for governing the country on the edge of an economic disaster.

The confusion is confounded when we see two brains managing the economy that is a former Finance Minister sitting in London and Miftah Ismail in Islamabad.

Both seem to be directionless with their narratives contradicting each other and thus adding more confusion to an already confused and murky economic picture.

The present government has now been in control for over six weeks and it now appears as if they do not have the foggiest idea or a concrete plan to correct the mistakes of the previous regime.

Today the global economy is under strain because of war, supply chain disruptions, aftermath of the pandemic, East-West tension and an impending global crisis, that will certainly result in increased inflation, rising currencies and interest rates at a global level.

The present set of rulers need to wake up and immediately come up with a practical and workable economic plan.

Blaming the previous government like Imran Khan did during his tenure will not achieve anything.

The present leaders of the coalition government were very well aware of the precarious state of the national economy and this was one of the main reasons for tabling the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan.

Now at this stage they should realize that if they did not have the courage and the skill to set things straight they should not have campaigned tooth and nail to vote out the PTI regime.

The economy started to slide down with the start of the PTI rule and in the next three and a half years reached a dangerously precarious state.

This state of affairs is definitely the result of mismanagement and bad governance of the Imran Khan regime who failed miserably to undertake any structural reforms.

The situation in the last few weeks has deteriorated further. The rupee is weakening, stock market is sliding down, prices are increasing and load shedding is making life miserable for ordinary citizens.

All expectations and hopes from the new government are now fading rapidly.

Initially the new government appeared to be a breath of fresh air and hope of a better future but unfortunately now all such expectations are fading away.

The morbid stench of failure is in the air, the vultures are circling overhead and the fear of a dying economy is looming large on the horizon.

Today the rate of inflation in the country stands at 13% and the government is focused totally on the IMF for relief and economic support.

The stringent policies of the IMF appear to be the only hope of the government to manage its economic policy.

The policy of getting another loan from the IMF and the hope that some other donors will follow suite will increase the rate of inflation.

Weak rupee, growing imports, the expanding current account deficit and the fiscal deficit will create more serious problems and then the IMF conditions to remove subsidy on petroleum products will add fuel to the raging fires of economic crisis.

The biggest impediment or obstacle in the economic planning of the present government is that it does not know how long it will be in power and this uncertainty in its tenure has undermined all its initiatives regarding economic, political or social planning.

After each election no matter what state the economy is in every government knows that it has five years to plan and execute its program or even to experiment without of the box ideas but unfortunately this government does not have the luxury of time.

They have to act now or very soon they too will face the wrath of the citizens and face a defeat in the next election.

All political indications are that the present coalition partners are determined to stay in the driving seat at least till November 2022 when decision for the appointment of the new COAS will be made.

The manipulations by the power that be in the 2018 elections are now very clear and it is now hoped that the powerful agencies that brought Imran Khan into power have learnt a lesson and will now remain neutral in future elections.

The political elite of the country should now wake up to the fact that the old structures, institutions and arrangements do not work any longer. Only a radical, progressive and democratic political structure can deliver.

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


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