New Year wishes for Pakistan | By Frank F Islam, US

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New Year wishes for Pakistan 

2022 has been a difficult year for Pakistan bringing challenges on the political, climate, and economic fronts.

Politically, there was the transition of executive and military leadership as both the Prime Minister and Army chief were replaced.

Former premier Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote amid much political uproar triggering continuous chaos in the country.

New army chief General Syed Asim Munir sworn in after former chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa completed his second tenure.

The climate consequences were catastrophic. 8 million people were displaced and became climate refugees after historic flooding during the monsoon season.

These refugees had to leave their homes, livestock and almost all belongings to be safe from flash floods, submerging areas from the mountains of Karakoram to coastal belts.

Prior to the floods, Pakistan was hit with historically devastating heat-waves and forest fires.

These challenges might seem insurmountable, but they were not. The people of Pakistan remained resilient and found numerous reasons for hope and joy in 2022.

They included but are not limited to the following:- Covid-19 cases kept on declining as all restrictions were gradually removed.

-Pakistan managed a safe exit from the FATF grey list.

-Pakistan, with the joint effort of G77 group, managed to have an announcement of setting up“Fund for Loss and Damage” at COP27 at Sharm-El-Sheikh.

-Many foreign cricket teams including West Indies, England and New Zealand visited the country for cricket series.

Pakistan has performed surprisingly well at the T20 world cup.

-Thefilm ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ crossed the magical figure of Rs 100 crore for the first time in Pakistani showbiz industry.

The film has so far earned a gross business of Rs 238 crore worldwide and is still running in cinemas.

These successes and the steadfastness of the Pakistanis provide the positive perspective required to convert the challenges encountered in 2023 into opportunities.

Those conversions will be essential because experts forecast that the New Year will be another difficult one for Pakistan with the major challenges being: political instability, the economy and climate change.

Niloufer Siddiqui, a political science professor at the State University of New York in an interview stated,” Pakistan will continue to face a number of challenges in the coming year; a deepening economic crisis amid a rising political instability.

” The political instability challenge is created by the turmoil since the government of Imran Khan was ousted.

Khan has been campaigning all over the country since then, calling for ‘snap polls’ – early elections – to reverse this situation.

The opportunity to respond to this political challenge is to ensure that whenever and wherever the elections are held that they are conducted in a “free and fair” manner to continue the democratic process and the orderly governance of the country.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in a talk predicted, “In 2023, the government will focus on the usual short-term fixes that buy Pakistan more time but ultimately don’t end up solving the underlying problems, until the cycle plays out anew.

So, we can expect Islamabad to look for more bailout funds from the usual benefactors— China and the Gulf countries,”

Another opportunity to combat the economic challenge is to pay attention and follow the recommendations provided in The State Bank of Pakistan’s Governor’s Annual Report 2021/22.

That Report advises, “Navigating these challenges in FY23 will require prudent monetary and fiscal policies, steps to curtail food prices, ensuring that the IMF programme remains on track, and the timely materialization of planned external inflows.

” Finally, there is the climate change challenge. Climate experts observe that weather patterns are putting certain segments of the population at risk and estimate that by 2050 Pakistan will be a home to about two million climate migrants.

This challenge can be converted to an opportunity by focusing externally and internally. Externally, the steps must be taken to secure a meaningful level of financing by the developed nations for the “Loss and Damage Fund” that was agreed to at COP27.

Internally, the federal government can provide the necessary assistance to local and state governments to support their climate control initiatives.

In closing, let me say to all those in Pakistan, in 2022, you proved that you can stay the course in tough times by confronting tough challenges.

I hope that your reward for doing this in the past year will be the ability in 2023 to chart new paths to convert those challenges into opportunities.

That said, my fondest wishes for Pakistan and Pakistanis for the New Year are peace, progress and prosperity. Happy New Year!

—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.