Pakistan thrives in spite of political jolts

Kaswar Klasra

Islamabad—Pakistan, the only Muslim nuclear power in the world, is passing through testing times.
While the Opposition parties and anti-democratic forces are leaving no stone unturned to topple the Nawaz Sharif-led government, the excellent coordination between the civil-military leadership is neutralising their every move.
Perhaps it is for the first time in Pakistan that military leadership is fully supportive of the government to keep democracy rolling in the country. And credit goes to the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Where Nawaz Sharif, third time Prime Minister , is busy launching projects worth billions of dollars across country, Raheel Sharif, the powerful army chief is motivating his force to guard not only country’s borders but is also taking on militants and terrorists inside the country.
Following Panama Papers leaks which named Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family members as owners of offshore companies, the government surprised everyone by writing a letter to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court to set up a commission to probe allegations levelled against the prime minister and his family.
On the other hand, in an extremely rare move late last month, the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif dismissed 12 high-ranking officers, including two generals and three brigadiers, over corruption. This prompted a warning from Pakistan’s top general of across-the-board accountability in the country.
Many in Pakistan are used to believing the obvious to happen under the political circumstances, but to their dismay it did not happen.
Despite the Opposition’s hue and cry following Panama Papers leaks, Pakistani stocks closed at a record high earlier on Monday, rising for the fifth straight session on buying led by foreign funds and on hopes the country’s main stock exchange would soon be included in a key emerging markets index, local media reports quoted the dealers as saying.
The benchmark 100-share index of the Pakistan Stock Exchange finished 0.73 per cent higher, or 261.30 points, to hit a record high closing level of 36,234.99, breaching the 36,000-mark for the second consecutive session earlier in the day. The index crossed the 36,000 level in intraday trade last Friday, the first time since Aug 12, 2015.
Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) is expected to discuss the inclusion of the Pakistan Stock Exchange (which was earlier known as the Karachi Stock Exchange) in its emerging markets index during an upcoming annual market classification review on June 14, said Fawad Khan, head of research at KASB Securities Pvt Ltd.
Pakistan was excluded from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and classified as a higher-risk frontier market after the Karachi Stock Exchange was temporarily closed in late 2008 to prevent investors from withdrawing funds.
Experts in Pakistan believe country is moving in right direction despite all odds.
According to a World Bank’s latest survey, Pakistan’s fast-growing remittances rising investments under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have supported economic growth of the country.
According to the same report, Pakistan’s modest economic recovery would continue.
However growth remains well below the 5.5 per cent target envisaged in the Pakistan’s Annual Plan and the South Asia average of 7.5 per cent, the bank reported.
Pakistan’s growth, the bank said, is expected to pick up to 4.5 per cent from 4.2 per cent.
Like the rest of the region, the country is benefitting supported by low oil prices, high remittances and CPEC investment from low oil prices, which have reduced the trade deficit (despite a notable decline in exports) and increased consumption, it said.
The World Bank is of the view that structural challenges prevent Pakistan from growing as quickly as its neighbours. The effects of the high remittances and low oil price windfall (driving such high growth rates in the rest of South Asia) are somewhat hampered in Pakistan by its continuing domestic structural challenges.
The bank said that the government is making progress on the structural reforms that will be essential to safeguard growth. It also said that the government has made great strides in increasing foreign exchange reserves and has recently made progress in the power sector and revenue reforms, but its ambitious reforms agenda is necessarily a medium- to long-term plan.
In short, off the record conversation with well informed people including politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats and background interviews revealed that incumbent government was likely to complete term and that there is no threat to democracy in Pakistan.

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