The Last Resort

The political turmoil in Pakistan has further worsened with Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9, along with ensuing violent protests and attacks aimed against the military establishment.

By Col. Muhammad Hanif (R) | June 2023

On April 18, 2022, the then prime minister Imran Khan was voted out from the Prime Minister’s Office through a no-confidence motion brought in the National Assembly by the Opposition, namely Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance comprising 13 political parties with Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam F (JUI-F) being the main political parties. At the time of its removal from the federal government, however, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was still very strong in the provinces with its governments in the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

Having ousted the PTI government from power, the PDM formed a coalition government under the prime ministership of Shehbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N. On April 17, 2023, the PDM government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, completed its one year. This article discusses Pakistan’s political and economic situation on completion of the PDM government’s one year rule. To carry out an objective analysis of the situation, it is necessary to have a broad overview of the political and economic situation of the country that prevailed during and after the PTI’s 3-year rule.

The PTI government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, focused on the economy, addressing the pressing issue of loan repayment of almost $12 billion per year on foreign loans of $95 billion piled by the previous governments since 1972. As per macro trends, out of $95 billion loan, the military governments had taken only $24 billion, however, the PPPP and the PML (N) governments had taken $71 billion in terms of foreign debt, that too without taking measures to create enough foreign exchange reserves to return the loan.

During its tenure, the PTI government signed an economic assistance programme worth $6 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a 3-year period, and it also received financial assistance from friendly countries. Due to a host of budgetary constraints imposed by the IMF, the Pakistani Rupee was devalued gradually, from the previous government’s Rs. 110 to 162 per US dollar up to April 2022, while the inflation rate went up from 5.1 per cent to 9.5 per cent. Since the prices of daily use items also reached a new record high, the poor people came under pressure, notwithstanding the help they were receiving through Ehsas programme and health insurance.

To enable Pakistan to repay foreign debt, the PTI government also concentrated on increasing the country’s foreign exchange reserves by focusing on economic growth, particularly in the tourism sector and by increasing exports, along with foreign remittances. Thus, when the PTI government ended in April 2022, the economy was in control as the exchange rate had almost reached at Rs. 162 equal to one US dollar, the economic growth was 6.2 per cent, the inflation rate was around 9.5 per cent, and exports were increased by $5 billion, while foreign exchange reserves increased from $14 billion to $22 billion.

Despite faring well in terms of its economic performance, the PTI government could not handle domestic politics well. The then prime minister Imran Khan did not realize the fact that politics was the art of possibility. During his premiership, PM Imran Khan antagonized his MNAs, MPAs and the people of Punjab by appointing Usman Buzdar as the chief minister of Punjab. Other than refusing to sit with the Opposition in the National Assembly, Imran Khan also could not maintain a friendly working relationship with the Army’s high command.

As mentioned above, Imran Khan failed to keep PTI ranks united because of his stern attitude towards his party members owing to some valid reasons, who later formed a dissident group. As Imran did not try to reconcile with the dissident MNAs, the PDM was able to entice them to join the opposition alliance to support a no-confidence move against Imran Khan. Thus, the PDM was able to oust Imran Khan and his government from power in April 2022, almost 18 months earlier than the completion of the PTI government’s 5-year rule.

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