RE­GION Pak­istan

The Road to Nowhere

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Muham­mad Ali Eh­san The writer is a re­tired lieu­tenant colonel of the Pak­istan Army. He is cur­rently pur­su­ing a Ph.D in civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions.

To­gether the Im­ran Khan made ‘po­lit­i­cal calamity’ and the nat­u­ral calamity – floods – have taken a heavy toll on the peo­ple of Pak­istan. The coun­try’s econ­omy is go­ing down­hill and the peo­ple are suf­fer­ing. They are tired, ex­hausted and tense. Tired of the po­lit­i­cal dead­lock that does not seem to end; ex­hausted be­cause de­spite huge prom­ises, democ­racy has failed to de­liver in Pak­istan and tense be­cause not many are sure what the fu­ture holds for them. In the com­ing days when the floods and the brew­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in Is­lam­abad will have reached their apogee, it will be time to as­cer­tain the enor­mity of the eco­nomic cost.

Are the politi­cians on a mis­sion to de­stroy the coun­try’s econ­omy? It seems so. The vis­its of the heads of states of Sri Lanka, the Mal­dives and China were can­celled due po­lit­i­cal un­rest, which also forced an IMF del­e­ga­tion to post­pone its visit. It is feared that the or­ga­ni­za­tion might de­lay the re­lease of a tranche of $550 mil­lion to Pak­istan.

Im­ran Khan has al­ready warned the IMF and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions not to lend any money to the Nawaz gov­ern­ment. He claimed that when – and if – the PTI gov­ern­ment would come to power, it would not re­turn the bor­rowed money. The World Bank is also ap­pre­hen­sive about its coun­try part­ner­ship strat­egy with Pak­istan worth $11 bil­lion. An­nounced in April 2014, the pro­gram is struc­tured to help achieve the twin goals of ‘poverty re­duc­tion and shared pros­per­ity’. Al­ready strug­gling un­der grave se­cu­rity threats, is it wise to cre­ate road­blocks that can bring the econ­omy to its knees?

Im­ran Khan tried to use some ‘eco­nomic weapons’ to weaken the gov­ern­ment. He ex­horted the Pak­istani ex­pa­tri­ates to send their money through hundi and urged the lo­cal masses to ob­serve civil dis­obe­di­ence. In­stead of weak­en­ing the gov­ern­ment, th­ese de­mands have the po­ten­tial to dam­age the state, es­pe­cially at a time when po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty has al­ready shat­tered in­vestors’ con­fi­dence while the state is bat­tling a num­ber of other press­ing chal­lenges – floods, ter­ror­ism, vi­o­lence, per­sis­tent cor­rup­tion and crime.

So far, the loss to Pak­istan’s econ­omy as es­ti­mated by the gov­ern­ment stands at Rs.550 bil­lion. Around 4.3 per­cent of this loss is at­trib­uted to the de­pre­ci­a­tion of Pak­istani ru­pee against the U.S. dol­lar. The for­eign cur­rency re­serves that stood at $13.962 also showed a down­ward trend. Add to that Rs.357 mil­lion, the ex­penses paid from the na­tional ex­che­quer to pro­vide se­cu­rity to the pro­tes­tors, and the pic­ture be­comes even grim­mer. Ex­ports have slowed down and the im­port of raw ma­te­ri­als has de­clined. Eco­nomic ex­perts be­lieve that the con­ti­nu­ity of this trend will put fur­ther strain on the coun­try’s frag­ile econ­omy.

The can­cel­la­tion of the visit of the Chi­nese pres­i­dent was a huge blow for Pak­istan. China is an eco­nomic gi­ant that is suc­cess­fully chal­leng­ing the ex­ist­ing world or­der and is in the process of build­ing a new one. Pak­istan can­not af­ford to re­main alien­ated from this de­vel­op­ment and it must do ev­ery­thing to be a part of it. How­ever, a state can­not draw the ben­e­fits of any eco­nomic re­forms no mat­ter how cru­cial they are, un­less it un­der­takes po­lit­i­cal re­forms first.

While the Chi­nese pres­i­dent couldn’t visit Pak­istan, he went to In­dia. Set­ting aside its mil­i­tary ri­valry with China, the In­dian lead­er­ship

wel­comed the Chi­nese guest. A Pew survey con­ducted ear­lier this year in In­dia had shown that 56 per­cent of the In­di­ans con­sid­ered China as their num­ber one threat. Yet, the long term Sino-In­dian ri­valry was set aside by the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to boost eco­nomic ties.

The In­di­ans are mov­ing ahead to forge a new re­la­tion­ship with China, act­ing on the agenda of pro­mot­ing eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

On the con­trary, Pak­istan’s re­la­tion­ship with In­dia has been per­ma­nently marred by the Kashmir dis­pute, ter­ror­ism charges and skir­mishes across the Line of Con­trol. The last PML-N gov­ern­ment that tried to ap­ply a sim­i­lar Sino-In­dian frame­work of re­la­tion­ship to In­di­aPak­istan re­la­tions ended up pay­ing a huge po­lit­i­cal price. This left many won­der­ing whether a civil­ian gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan has the po­lit­i­cal free­dom and au­thor­ity to for­mu­late and ex­e­cute a for­eign pol­icy agenda not con­sis­tent with the for­eign pol­icy pro­posed by the mil­i­tary.

Can any civil­ian gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan at­tempt to change the ma­trix of Indo-Pak re­la­tions with­out an­noy­ing the army? Pak­istan can re­ceive eco­nomic and mil­i­tary aid from China, its time-tested friend, yet it will not move for­ward on the road of eco­nomic pros­per­ity un­less it re­pairs and mends its re­la­tion­ship with In­dia.

Another sig­nif­i­cant road­block to Pak­istan’s eco­nomic progress is the el­e­ment of cor­rup­tion. With­out an across the board ac­count­abil­ity and anti-cor­rup­tion mech­a­nism, eco­nomic progress can never take place. An earnest ef­fort is also re­quired to ini­ti­ate ju­di­cial re­forms in the coun­try so that laws can be ap­plied to all cit­i­zens with­out any fear or fa­vor.

One thing is cer­tain – Pak­istan is at a crit­i­cal junc­ture of its his­tory. It can­not af­ford the con­ti­nu­ity of the pol­i­tics of ag­i­ta­tion and vi­o­lence. This will spell eco­nomic doom for the coun­try. The eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties that knock at Pak­istan’s door to­day will be lost if the coun­try re­mains in­ter­nally desta­bi­lized.

Never mind the ‘utopian land’ promised by the protest­ing lead­ers, a great fear is that those who may lose power as a re­sult of the pol­i­tics of protest may try to seek it back through sim­i­lar means. If this hap­pens, it is likely that the state will fall vic­tim to ab­so­lute anar­chism and it will be­come dif­fi­cult to make any re­cov­ery – least of all eco­nomic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.