In the 75 year history of Pakistan since its creation in 1947, except 1971, never before had the country encountered such a dangerous political and economic crisis as it is going through now. Threatening the very foundations of Pakistan the year 2022 witnessed grave political instability and economic meltdown. Even then, there is no plausible roadmap for pulling the country from the brink of disaster, jeopardizing the present and future of some 220 million people of this country.
Those who are wielding power and are so-called custodians of the country seem to have let the people down because of their irresponsible, unprofessional and imprudent handling of issues which reflected poor management of political and economic crisis. From the engineered vote of no-confidence against former prime minister Imran Khan to finally bringing regime change on April 11, 2022, there has been no let-up in political crisis, imperilling economy, governance and the rule of law.
Is there a silver lining or light at the end of tunnel for a better present and future of Pakistan? How there can be a plausible roadmap for achieving political and economy stability? What are the impediments which derail the process of managing political crisis and economic degeneration? From any standpoint, there is a close linkage between politics and economics and if the former is in dire straits, it negatively impacts on the country’s economy. Those who engineered vote of no-confidence against the then prime minister Imran Khan and ousted him from power should have redeemed the consequences in terms of growing political schism and economic instability. Greed for power and focus on personal gains rather than national interest is their mode of thinking which augmented Pakistan’s economic vulnerability to the extent of sovereign default and eventual collapse.
The ensuing political crisis in Punjab in the shape of vote of confidence and no-confidence against the incumbent chief minister, horse trading to win the support of members of rival political parties, polarization in Karachi in the elections of local bodies and demand of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for an early elections reflect myopic political parties who are only interested in power politics, instead of resolving critical issues confronting about 220 million people of Pakistan. Now, when Punjab’s Chief Minister obtained vote of confidence from provincial assembly on January 12 and subsequently dissolved the assembly, one can expect prevailing political crisis in the country to take a new shape.
As a sequel to political instability followed by regime change in April 2022, the economy of Pakistan was caught in the vicious cycle of default. Four major indications of the economic default are: lowest level of foreign exchange reserves capable of meeting only three weeks of imports; failure to make payments to friendly countries of the amount which they had kept with the State Bank of Pakistan; failure to honour letter of credit (LC) of several hundred million dollars and to open new LC’s causing severe crisis of raw materials, medicines and other essential items; the shocking statement of Federal Finance Minister Mr. Ishaq Dar stating that instead of 4.5 billion dollars, the country has 10 billion dollars of foreign exchange reserves, but in reality, 5.5 billion dollars are with private banks not with the State Bank. It is suspected that the government is resorting to amount of dollars kept in private banks to pay for imports and meet international obligations.
It bears mention that that when Pakistan conducted nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, the then government immediately froze foreign currency accounts of about 11 billion dollars because it had used the bulk of that amount to pay for imports. ‘The great bank robbery’ attributing to the freezing of foreign currency accounts shattered the trust of people on the government, and for a long period of time foreign currency accounts were not allowed to open. Now, unlike 1998 when 11 billion dollars were kept in foreign currency account, presently there are 5.5 billion dollars which the government cannot touch. But, unlike the statement of federal finance ministry official that the money of customers in foreign currency accounts is safe, there is no evidence that the government has not spent 5.5 billion dollars of private account holders. Growing trust deficit of people on governmental policies is a major source of economic meltdown in Pakistan.
A plausible roadmap to political and economic stability in Pakistan cannot be devised in a vacuum but would require four measures with a time span of ten years. First, eradication of the VVIP culture, adherence to merit, good governance, accountability and the rule of law. But who is going to do all such things particularly when from bottom to top and vice-versa the culture of corruption, inefficiency, laziness and inefficiency is deep–rooted? History is replete with examples that when a country is going down the hill and is about to collapse, it can only be saved by people who are above self-interest and not after perks, privileges and greed for power.
The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi and can be reached at email@example.com
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