National harmony is need of hour | By Faisal Zahid Malik


National harmony is need of hour

By the grace of Almighty Allah, the most dreaded danger of Pakistan being caught in a Sri Lanka-type default, which caused sleepless nights to all patriotic people of the country till a few weeks back, has virtually been averted.

However, it is a foregone conclusion that Pakistan, mired in a multitude of problems and challenges, still stands at crossroads politically and economically, requiring a well-knit strategy to secure its future.

It is all the more unfortunate that at a time when the country needs unity and solidarity to brace the challenges ahead squarely, the polarization of different sorts has become a hallmark of our society, political confrontation has assumed alarming dimensions, 5th generation war is going on against national institutions including the armed forces, social media is being used by vested interests and pressure groups in a free for all manner, conspiracies are being hatched by some foreign powers against economic development of Pakistan as is evident from the tooth and nail opposition to the purely economic initiative of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the monster of extremism and terrorism is, once again, rearing its ugly head and seeds of misunderstanding are being sown between Pakistan and Afghanistan by some unscrupulous elements.

The country is limping back to economic normalcy but uncertainty looms large mainly because of the continued political instability.

Theoretically speaking, there is hardly any justification or rationale for politics of confrontation, centred around the demand for early elections, as almost all parties are effectively in power both at the Centre and in provinces and delaying general elections till the completion of the five-year tenure of present assemblies by August 2023 would not damage political interests of any party in a big way.

Why to stoke political instability to damage economic and geo-strategic interests of the country when every party has a piece of the pie? Therefore, all parties and Federal/Provincial Governments should adopt a cooperative posture to help resolve challenges of the country and mitigate sufferings of the people, for whom back-breaking inflation is the number one concern.

As for early elections, given the prevailing mistrust and extreme positions adopted by different political parties it is highly unlikely that the next Government would be a stable one and deliver as per expectations of the people.

The most appropriate option for all parties would be to give the parliament its due importance and use its platform to sort out differences and chalk out a strategy for the future.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already counseled PTI, which has tendered en bloc resignations from the National Assembly, to return to the house to play its role in legislation and other issues and the party should give serious thought to the friendly advice.

Otherwise too, the logic of staying away from the National Assembly is losing its relevance when the party has its governments in Punjab and KP, is fully represented in the Senate and it misses no opportunity to contest by-elections.

Our newspaper has also been emphasizing, time and again, that there would be no point in holding elections if issues that cloud their legitimacy are not addressed through consensus reforms.

Almost all elections in the past were deprived of legitimacy in the face of repeated allegations of rigging and use of unfair means to influence the outcome of the entire exercise. Therefore, parties within the parliament and the outside should sit together to strike an understanding on vital electoral reforms.

People of Pakistan are also at a loss to see unending attacks on national institutions for petty political interests and those behind such campaigns are unable to realize that strong institutions make a country stronger.

Pakistan armed forces have always been in the forefront of efforts to promote core interests of the country both during wars and peace.

Pakistan is comparatively a small country but has a strategic clout mainly because of professionalism of its armed forces and watchful eyes of our premier intelligence agency, the ISI.

It is because of the established credentials of our armed forces as one of the best in the world that enemies have, so far, not succeeded in their nefarious designs against the country but they continue to conspire to undermine its unity and interests as has been established by their role in fanning internal differences.

According to media reports, investigations in recent anti-Army social media campaign have revealed involvement of Indian-origin accounts as well.

There are reasons to believe that what our enemy could not do through physical threats is trying to do through propaganda war aimed at weakening internal unity of our people.

It is in the knowledge of almost all Pakistanis that the country faced an existential threat due to foreign sponsored terrorism and the situation was so grim that no one was willing to invest in Pakistan, not even our own potential enterpreneurs, who were looking towards other destinations like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and UAE because of security threats.

Today, there is near normalcy in all parts of the country and this milestone was achieved because of sacrifices of our armed forces and security agencies, whose personnel are still being attacked by misguided elements in Balochistan at the behest of some regional and global powers who have made the province a battleground because of clash of interests.

There is also resurgence of terrorism in the erstwhile cleared areas of Swat and Buner and the situation demands forging consensus to foil designs of those who want to destabilize Pakistan for their own agendas.

Pakistan armed forces waged a successful campaign against terrorism after the parliament accepted the ownership of the counter-terrorism strategy and a similar approach is required to deal with the threat posed by TTP, enjoying safe havens in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The nature of challenges and threats facing the country can be gauged by the fact that, apart from its nuclear and missile programmes that are defensive in nature, there has been stiff opposition to projects like Gwadar Port, Steel Mills, Motorways, water reservoirs and now CPEC.

These projects were aimed at improving basic infrastructure, resolving some of the chronic problems like energy shortages and improving domestic and regional linkages.

It is quite understood that their opposition is opposition to the growth, development and prosperity of people of Pakistan and is motivated by a desire to keep the country dependent on foreign loans and thereby vulnerable to political and strategic pressures.

The contribution that the CPEC is making to socio-economic development of the country has the potential to strengthen our political and economic sovereignty but it all depends on our ability to resist the foreign pressure and implement CPEC with same momentum as was witnessed in initial years.

I am convinced that the dream of our forefathers to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state is attainable as we have all the ingredients for the purpose – demographic dividend; strategic location at the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia; fertile land; and an extensive irrigation system but what we need is unity, solidarity and continuity of policies to realize this dream.

We have long been hearing about national dialogue and Charter of Economy but have not moved beyond rhetoric because of extreme positions adopted by our political parties and power players.

President Dr. Arif Alvi has already expressed his readiness to bring the opposing side on the negotiating table and it is time he takes a practical step for the purpose especially when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is totally committed to reconciliation and mutual accommodation.

All political forces believe in serving the people and now that they have an effective say in the governance they should join hands to promote stability, and address economic and other external vulnerabilities of the country. The situation created by devastating floods also demands a ceasefire on the political front so that the federal and provincial governments focus on relief and rehabilitation activities.

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