Ship with a Hole

Pakistan is on a breaking bad route and is speedily heading towards economic disaster.

By Imran Jan | September 2023

Looking down memory lane 13 years ago, this scribe remembers those days in the United States; the country’s politics, the charged environment, and the extremely weird relationship between Pakistan and the United States. Muslims were generally viewed as terrorists, and especially after the Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistanis were at the receiving end of that hatred.

The memory is still fresh as to how we Pakistanis had to prove socially that how we hated the terrorists and believed in a liberal lifestyle. However, one incident I will never forget. I was sitting in my class during my graduate studies. The international politics professor was talking about terrorism. The topic turned to Osama Bin Laden. He asked a tough question about him, which I can’t recall, but his aim was to see who could answer. The entire class turned their necks and started looking at me. I have always enjoyed being a backbencher, but at that moment, I did not enjoy sitting there, considered to be the best expert on terrorism and Bin Laden because of where I came from.

America has changed a lot ever since. And, for that matter, Pakistan too. Because today, the same Pakistanis living in America have to fight against that terrorist label. Only this time around, the label comes from the state of Pakistan. And once again, not because we believe in terrorism but because we speak our minds.

Globally, some of humanity’s threats include climate change and a potential nuclear war. The erosion of democracy around the world is also somewhere in the litany of threats that humanity faces worldwide. Pakistan was never home to true and organic democracy, but this time around; the situation is unspeakable. I choose to use the word unspeakable to paint a picture of reality and avoid speaking about it much because that is what earns the terrorist label now.

The erosion of democracy in Pakistan is particularly important to pay attention to at this time because the leader dethroned is the one loved by most of the people, especially by the overseas Pakistanis. I am not trying to elevate them to some higher level of citizenship, but these are the people who send massive foreign remittances to Pakistan. And the money sent through unofficial means does not even register on the system’s radar. That runs into billions of dollars. That money runs a significant chunk of the country’s economy. The erosion of democracy before meant nothing to these overseas Pakistanis.

This time around, they are rethinking their strategy of supporting their families remotely. They are investing time and money into getting their relatives abroad to where they are living and working. The desire to visit Pakistan and the drive to return someday is diminishing every day because of what is happening in Pakistan. About a million people have already left Pakistan in 2022. You can safely bet that more than that will leave Pakistan in 2023. And those who are leaving are some failures of society but rather educated and talented people who see no future in a country like Pakistan.

Apart from that, the US dollar rate has spiked to where it has almost doubled in about 15 months since former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted. The prices of everything except human life have increased to the size of the Himalayas, while the income has not increased even by a hair. So, when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar or other mambo jumbo-spewing experts sit in front of TV cameras to remind the nation about how the oil prices are lower in Pakistan than in other countries, carefully ignore the reality that people’s buying power compared to those other countries’ citizens is ridiculously low, as well as how incomes in those other countries have increased to a decent extent.

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