On eve of New Year

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THE outgoing year 2022 proved to be one of the turbulent years in the checkered history of the country in terms of political turmoil, economic and financial crises, Constitutional and legal issues, rule of law, unprecedented rains and floods, resurrection of the terrorist threat and challenges on the external front.

What happened during the eventful year offers an insight into a multitude of malaises afflicting the country and the urgent need on the part of all stakeholders to review their strategies, keeping national interests above everything else.

Ups and downs come in the life of a nation but countries with mature leadership pass through thick and thin safely.

However, developments of the outgoing year proved that we have not learnt any lesson and the country continues to suffer due to self-centred policies and actions of all stakeholders in the system.

In democracies, parliamentary moves are tackled in a light hearted manner but in our case the tabling of the no-confidence resolution against the then Government by the combined opposition pushed the country into a serious political trouble.

The move was dubbed as foreign-inspired conspiracy and both fair and unfair means were applied to subvert the Constitutional process and the country was brought back from the brink of virtual disaster through the intervention of the courts.

After the change of the Government through a purely Constitutional process, the country should have been allowed to be ruled smoothly in view of the economic mess created by the previous Government but the opposition kept on agitating the change throughout the year.

The country witnessed several rounds of long marches and threats of sit-ins but none of them could benefit the opposition in political terms but in the process the fragile economy of the country suffered further.

The largest province of the country – Punjab – previously known for relative political stability and steady march on the road to progress and development, was the worst victim of the entire situation as the province continues to be governed in an ad-hoc manner.

The Buzdar Government was replaced by the Hamza Shehbaz-led coalition but it could last only a few weeks as judicial intervention and strange interpretation of relevant Constitutional provisions, laws and regulations of the assembly handed over the reins of the province to the Pervaiz Elahi-led coalition.

There is still extreme level of uncertainty and confusion as the Governor de-notified the CM after he failed to take a vote of confidence from the house but his action was suspended by the Lahore High Court and no one knows for sure what ultimately would happen to the province as PTI is still adamant to implement its intentions of dissolving the assembly to force the Centre to go for general elections.

As for elections, there is still no consensus on its timings and even some circles are proposing an interim set up consisting of technocrats.

There can be no two opinions that the PTI Government became extremely unpopular because of its pathetic attitude towards inflation, which assumed menacing dimensions during its tenure, rampant corruption, bad governance, growing unemployment and its casual handling of the foreign affairs.

There was a predominant view that the Government would suffer hugely whenever elections are held but the change of the Government made all the difference and the narrative propagated by PTI saved its political fortunes while the coalition Government is now facing the wrath of the people for owning all the failure of its predecessors.

The economic scenario is no better than April last year as foreign exchange reserves are on the decline, remittances by overseas Pakistanis are also going down, there is no worthwhile investment, inflation has further accentuated, reduced family incomes are forcing people to compromise on the quality of life, developmental activities are on a halt and foreign aid is not coming as expected by the rulers.

Credit surely goes to the incumbent Government for averting a default, which was imminent around April 2022 but the threat is not yet over because of political instability, leg-pulling and non-facilitation by other organs of the state.

The country badly needs stability but the opposition is not in a mood to help resolve all issues through discussions and dialogue.

Despite speedily exhausting all its options, the PTI has now once again opted to agitate on roads and streets on the plea of price-hike, gas shortage and snap polls, ignoring that such recourse would harm the country further.

Apart from the serious economic crisis, the country has to tackle the menace of terrorism which is rearing its ugly head once again, a new variant of Covid-19 is also raising alarm bells while flood affected people are desperately waiting for their rehabilitation and reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure in their regions.

People had pinned great hopes on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who had the vision and the capability to deliver but so far he seems to be helpless in the given situation.

He has not been able to deliver on his commitment of bringing down the rupee-dollar parity to about 200 and addressing the phenomenon of price-hike.

As foreign exchange reserves have dipped to an eight year low, some circles are expressing the apprehension that the country might face the fate like that of Sri Lank, which could not meet its debt payment obligations.

However, Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha is expressing optimism that the country will pay all its external obligations in coming months and that the resource position would improve with dollar inflows.

She was also hopeful of receiving $3 billion in assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Government is, no doubt, trying its best to improve the situation through external financing, a cut in expenditure and slashing of development budget but 2023 being election year, the Government might find itself in a tight corner as inflation-stricken people are expecting major relief in the next budget if not earlier.

There is, therefore, no silver-lining on the horizon for the next year, barring a return of sanity among the political leadership.

We have seen some stakeholders on one page in the past for limited objectives but it is time all stakeholders should come on the same page for the sake of the country.