By Asad Ali
Pakistan’s political environment has rapidly become aggressive since the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan through a constitutionally tabled vote of no-confidence. The former Premier has launched an aggressive political campaign in order to press the incumbent government of Shehbaz Sharif to hold free and fair early elections. As per the constitution and democratic norms, political rallies and gatherings are his fundamental right and indeed he is enjoying that. However, one shouldn’t put the security and foreign policy of the state at risk just to accomplish political objectives. Since his ouster, Imran Khan has been accusing state institutions including the Army of supporting the opposition’s bid to overthrow his government. In addition, he has also been accusing US administration of playing a major role in de-seating him. All of his claims are mere accusations, having no solid evidence and grounds. He has failed to even justify US conspiracy and horse-trading in Pakistan.
In democratic countries, one shouldn’t malign his own country’s institution for the ouster of the government. The fact is that Imran Khan had failed to provide uplift the economy of the country. He has even worsened economic indicators. During his time, inflation increased significantly. Poor people suffered terribly under his regime. His party came to the government with the narrative to eradicate corruption but failed miserably. He put the foreign policy of the country at stake by targeting the Biden administration. He must understand that Pakistan cannot afford any kind of hostility with US in given circumstances. The US is a major strategic and economic partner of Pakistan. It has been providing Pakistan huge amount of aid to uplift its economic sector and modernize its armed forces. Likewise, the US is Pakistan’s largest export partner.
As per former Trade Advisor of Pakistan Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s exports during July-February of FY 2022 were recorded at 20.552 billion US dollars as compared to 16.324 billion dollars during the corresponding period of last fiscal year. Pakistan is getting a major chunk of its foreign exchange from US. How we can afford animosity with them for merely the political objectives of a single party and politician? The is insane. Imran Khan’s political discourse has been creating negative optics for Pakistan at international political, economic and strategic fronts. This must be changed. Economic experts in Pakistan has repeatedly warned government regarding any hostile ties with US and other Western states and its outcomes for our economic discourse.
Similarly, Pakistan has also fruitful and strong strategic ties with West and Russia as well. Unfortunately, Imran Khan’s rhetoric has created severe challenges for Pakistan at diplomatic fronts especially in US and Western states, who are leading trade partner of Pakistan. In sovereign states, one must establish strong strategic, political and economic ties with other states. However, Imran Khan tried to put Pakistan in camp politics which triggered negative optics for Islamabad. The new government under Shahbaz Sharif will have to work hard at diplomatic fronts to repair its ties with West and US, who are major trading partner of Islamabad. The government must also have to maintain balance in its ties with Russia and Western states, which is likely to be difficult task for Pakistani diplomats.
Likewise, Imran Khan’s planned political rally in Islamabad is also being viewed as threat to entire system. To satisfy his egoistic political approach, he is putting the country once again in chaos by spreading anarchic environment. If he comes in Islamabad and tries to block road and other major installations, the country will face severe economic blockage which will further put our already dwindling economy in jeopardy. Sadly, there seems no sane voices within PTI who can convince former Prime Minister to postpone his political oriented movement for economic prosperity of the country. His must reconsider his decision regarding resignations for assemblies. In batter interests of the country, Mr. Khan should sit in the parliament, talk to treasury benches, work for election reforms for free and fair general elections and become part of the parliamentary business of the country. With mass resignations from National Assembly, Mr. Khan is betraying mandate of millions Pakistanis who voted for him. He must not blame state institutions for his ouster.
Due to Imran’s divisive politics, Pakistan today has echoes of the post-January 6 moment in US, a polarization so deep that each faction sees no validity in the other’s arguments. Khan’s supporters in particular distrust anything the new government or the military says, which is dangerous for future of our political system. In recent weeks, politicians from PTI has also resorted to using religion to attack the other side.
In the end, what Pakistan’s soaring political tension amounts to is an opportunistic struggle for power, which Imran Khan is trying to grab in any case. It has left the country a political tinderbox. And in all of it, little regard is displayed on either side for the ongoing suffering of ordinary Pakistanis, who continue to pay the price for the country’s long history of political instability. Pakistan’s economy is a shambles, and the political chaos, even after the ouster of former PM Imran Khan, is far from over. So, PTI and its leader Imran Khan must act in a sensible way.
It has a core interest in internal stability. This means that extended political turmoil is problematic, especially if it has the risk of descending into violence. And given just how highly charged and hyper polarized the current political environment is, violence certainly can’t be ruled out. In a nutshell, the security situation for the country, and changing regional and global geopolitical dynamics, are disturbing for Pakistan economically and politically.
The writer is Islamabad regular contributor.