Cover Story

Diminishing Gravity

Today Pakistan gives the impression of a rudderless ship hijacked by pirates and about to sink in a swirling vortex of multiple crises.

By Brig. Saleem Qamar Butt (Retd.) | May 2023

“Throughout the infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”

The regime change operation in Pakistan in April 2022 has obviously gone wrong against the expectations of the perpetrators. Consequently, the country is experiencing the worst ever economic woes, unbelievable political polarisation, judicial fissures and simmering security situation.

As for dwindling economy, just in one year i.e. April 2022 to April 2023, the inflation in the country has risen from approximately 12% to almost 35%, US$ is gone up from Rs. 182 to Rs. 284, petrol price up from Rs. 150 to Rs. 272 per liter and reserves went down from 16.4 to 4.2 Bn USD. In a similar vein, interest rate has gone up from 11% to 21%, FDI went down from 1.32 to 784 Mln USD, exports went down from 2.78 to 2.32 Bn USD and MOODY’s rating has changed from B3 to CAA3.

The lifeline provided by the IMF has ultimately caused asphyxia with unbearable strings attached to release of anymore oxygen. The textile production, car manufacturers and other export generating industries are fast shutting down with the worst economic crises and unemployment in the country. The increase in energy prices and devaluation of Pakistan Rupee coupled with uncontrolled food prices have turned the lives of the public miserable. There are reports of dozens dying and injured on a daily basis — in stampedes during distributions of free/subsidized flour or on distribution of food and charity by the affluent people throughout the country.

The political differences have transformed into personal enmity with broad daylight murder attempt on former Prime Minister Imran khan, followed by almost 150 politically motivated cases registered against him and appalling police raids on his residence and his party leadership. The threats to Imran Khan’s life continue as publicly conveyed by the opposing political elite in power. The political dialogue has been replaced by most disgusting hate speeches, bad mouthing, slanders, threats, abuses and lies setting the worst possible lows. The heavy-handed suppression of political dissent and state oppression against supporters of the PTI as well as media/ journalists is also witnessing unprecedented levels, especially since killing of a famous TV anchor Arshad Sharif. Therefore, most of the journalists, media outlets and newspapers find it safe and more profitable to propagate the government’s narrative.

On the foreign policy front too, Pakistan seemed to have missed the bus moving in the right strategic direction vis-à-vis India and other regional countries. In a nutshell, the governance system in Pakistan appears to be on the brink of complete breakdown. A large number of Pakistani people are migrating to other countries in complete desperation. Nevertheless, a few members of the judiciary, bureaucracy, and ruling-class continue to remain engrossed in narcissistic, blinkered and paltry battles for self rather than national interest with focus on delaying and avoiding already overdue two provincial, as well as national general elections due in October 2023.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has been contesting the Constitution and the Supreme Court on the issue of holding two provincial assemblies’ elections within ninety days. While the country is now facing an unprecedented predicaments, the incumbent PDM government which came into power as a result of mid-night judicial decision on 9th April 2022 against then Prime Minister Imran Khan, is now targeting the same Supreme Court with open slanders, threats and defiance after its decision to hold elections in Punjab (and KPK) within 90 days as per the Constitution. The prime minister of Pakistan attacks the President and the Chief justice of Pakistan/ the Supreme Court and erroneously accuses them of prejudices; passing 42 members (out of 342) signed resolutions against the CJP/Supreme Court with threat of filing references against the CJP and asking him to resign.

Above all the more dangerous are the deep cracks that have been exposed in the superior judiciary. The PDM government is apparently trying a repeat of 1997 assault on the Apex Court and the CJP in a slightly different mode and even attempting to drag in the military by convening NSC meeting on April 7, 2023, but hopefully in vain. Whether the bullish PDM regime succeeds in pulverizing the Constitution and the Apex Court or the Supreme Court knocks down the raging bull with the final judicial punch, remains to be seen till writing of these lines. Consequently, faced with the worst political, economic and judicial crises, the country seems on the verge of an emergency or even worst a civil war, as incumbent government perceives holding of provincial or general elections as a political suicide.

Understandably, the Establishment should also be considering its options on how to render due help in tackling the highly polarized polity, economic bankruptcy, and judicial predicament. Ironically, at present Army is itself faced with the most alarming and unparalleled phenomenon that has been in place since April 2022, i.e. sharp public criticism on the senior military leadership as well as against the otherwise most respected national institutions, which had always been looked up to as the last hope after Almighty Allah.

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