Pakistan from crisis to crisis | By Tariq Aqil


Pakistan from crisis to crisis

THE year 2020 has finally ended leaving in its wake political turmoil, economic crisis, constitutional crisis, climate induced flooding and the ugly specter of religious extremism rising again.

The country is once again faced with the ever present confrontation between the military establishment and the elected government.

The army high command has now declared to remain neutral in politics but that is yet to be proved.

State institutions are on the brink of a collapse and the country appears to be on the edge of a precipice faced with daunting internal and external challenges and dangers.

Will Pakistan manage to overcome these crises in the New Year or will it be another year of fear and uncertainty for the people of Pakistan?

Last year was a year long agony and pain of a long political crisis more serious and severe ever faced by the nation that tested the resilience and the patience of our democratic institutions.

For the first time in our political history an elected Government. headed by Imran Khan was ousted from power by a parliamentary vote of no confidence and this parliamentary and constitutional exercise threw the country into a series of political crises.

The ousted Prime Minister was capable of encompassing almost all the state institutions in this crisis of his own creation.

Parliament, Supreme Court, Presidency, Provincial Assemblies, Senate, Election Commission, Military Establishment and Civil Services were all dragged into the political and social storm created by the head of the PTI Imran Khan on the false, flimsy and unsubstantiated claim of a foreign conspiracy to remove him from the premiership of the country.

Imran Khan was never able to produce any evidence of his concocted foreign conspiracy but his loyal fanatical followers swallowed the bait hook line and sinker.

His aim of humiliating and demonizing the military establishment backfired very rapidly when the military spokesperson rejected his false claims to be followed by the rejoinder from the National Security Committee.

In the aftermath of the Imran Khan ouster the thirteen opposition parties hurriedly cobbled together a coalition government that took off with a slow and unsteady start and this coalition the largest in our history even after eight months in power has failed to provide any relief to the common citizens of the country.

As we enter the New Year of 2023 Pakistani society of today is a deeply fractured and polarized nation faced with some daunting and formidable economic and political challenges.

The year 2022 was the scene of political confrontation and a continuous slogging match between the PDM government and the PTI leadership.

Throughout the year Imran Khan continued to mount tremendous pressure on the government to announce immediate elections and the PDM continued to project its stance to continue in power until the newly elected Government.

completes its tenure in August 2023. The biggest province of the country, Punjab, was engulfed in a bitter power conflict reaching unprecedented levels.

The PTI along with their coalition partner PMLQ led by Choudhry Pervez Elahi managed to grab control of the province after getting rid of the brief stint by Hamza Shehbaz.

Throughout this time Punjab remained paralysed and no sign of any decent level of governance due to the bitter infighting between the Federal Government and the Provincial setup of the Punjab.

By the year’s end, both sides are still in a fierce struggle with the PTI determined to dissolve the provincial legislature and the PDM coalition hell bent on avoiding any such happenings by political manoeuvres.

Ironically we are faced with a very dismal prospect as we start the New Year. The performance of the PDM Government. leaves a lot to be desired.

The multi-party coalition appears to lack the capability to steer the country out of the present difficult phase.

The failure of the Government. to take rational and difficult decisions has now deepened the ongoing economic crisis and their efforts to gain political mileage instead of taking the correct and harsh decisions does not auger well for the future.

Pakistan is now facing an imminent economic collapse and a political crisis of monumental proportions.

We are almost in a default situation and all negotiations with the IMF on a bailout package are on hold.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have been depleted to dangerous levels and the country’s ability to service its foreign debts is now in question.

The situation is now truly alarming because not only the external debt but also the staggering internal debt has taken the country very close to bankruptcy.

Inflation is sky high, letters of credit are not being opened, industrial production is declining and factories are closing down.

Some international factors like the rise in petroleum and commodities prices and the war in Ukraine are also responsible for economic plight but mainly it is the flawed policies of successive governments.

That has resulted in the present sorry state of affairs. Pakistan now is in a very vulnerable state. At stake is the survival and territorial integrity of the nuclear armed state of Pakistan.

Economic recovery and political stability will be the biggest challenges faced by the country in the New Year.

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