ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan Headed The Sri Lanka Way Of Economic And Political Meltdown – Analysis

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Sri Lanka’s complete economic and political meltdown attributable to Sri Lanka’s bartering its fiscal and autonomy to China’s ‘Debt Traps’ under the seemingly redoubtable President-Prime Minister Duo Rajapaksha Brothers, should be an eye-opener for Pakistan as with Pakistani economic meltdown underway what awaits Pakistan is a political meltdown.

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Noticeably, Pakistan too like Sri Lanka’s leadership has courted and flirted with China economically and strategically. This became more marked in since 2018 when Pakistani masses mesmerised by Imran Khan selling dreams of a ‘Naya (New) Pakistan’ emerged as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

It is doubtful that a return to power of Imran Khan as Prime Minister could forestall Pakistan’s economic and political meltdown. On the contrary Imran Khan’s credentials and demonstrated performance indicate otherwise.

Pakistan’s economic spiral downslide resulted in a big way from then PM Imran Khan with boundless political arrogance fostered by his China-tilt connect with Beijing made him brash to jettison United States and Saudi Arabia as Pakistan’s main donors underwriting Pakistan’s financial solvency.

Pakistan’s comparative situation with Sri Lankan terms of economic and political meltdown has not gone unnoticed within Pakistan and some media Columnists have reflected these concerns.

One such informed Columnist, Mohsin Saleem Ullah on July 21 in Express Tribune has assessed and compared the economic situation in Pakistan as akin to Sri Lankan major crisis. It is brought out that Pakistan today is similarly plagued with severe external debt, high inflation, surge in unemployment and scarcity of food grains and medicines

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Further, reflected by this Columnist the disturbing similarities with Sri Lanka as import dependence on essential commodities, limited foreign exchange and piled up external debt.

Pakistan’s economic and political meltdown is a legacy issue of over three years of rule of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Pakistan was mercifully saved by the Constitutional Coup underwritten by Pakistan Army bringing PM Shahbaz Sharif to replace him. 

However, Pakistan seems to be in a self-destruct mode going by the recent by-poll election results in Pakistan’s majority province of Punjab. Former PM Imran Khan’s PTI party swept the polls leading to widespread speculation in Pakistan media that this could possibly herald the political resurrection of Imran Khan and his possible return as Pakistan’s Prime Minister. 

However, Imran Khan’s big win in Punjab was from seats in which earlier PTI legislators had stood disqualified. The PTI therefore can be said to have retained its earlier poetically strong con constituencies. PTI has nothing to show that it has enlarged its political base.

In South Asian politics, by-poll results are not an accurate barometer of political mood swings and more so in Pakistan where there are too many imponderables at play, bot external and internal.

Pakistan’s foreign policy under Imran Khan as Prime Minister was horribly messed-up both by Imran Khan’s own predilections for China and those of his impulsive and brash Foreign Minister Qureshi. Both of them, more than earlier regimes swung Pakistan firmly into China’s orbit and flirting with notions of Pakistan-Turkey-Malaysia Islamic Bloc to offset the more conservative hold of the Arab Monarchs Bloc on the Islamic World.

In both cases, Pakistan was geopolitically positioning itself with countries which patently were in adversarial mode with United States which controlled global financial institutions.

The economic spinoff of the above impulsive moves was that Pakistan so- positioning led to an economic squeeze of financial sustenance of Pakistan by major donors like United States and Saudi Arabia which were the very sources of financial largesse which had sustained Pakistan financially. 

Pakistan under Imran Khan Regime was not trusted by the United States and Saudi Arabia changed course only after PM Imran Khan went with a begging bowl to Jeddah and forsook moves to form Pakistan-Turkey-Malaysia Bloc as rival to Saudi-led Arab Monarchies Bloc.

The United States also made initial political outreach moves to Pakistan with exit of PM Imran Khan. The Pakistan Army Chief despite the Army’s predominant Chines military inventories publicly articulated that Pakistan sought good relations with the United States, signalling that it had not approved Imran Khan’s marked China-tilt.

Pakistan’s internal political dynamics, if going by recent by-poll results suggesting Pakistan’s political mood for return of Imran Khan as Prime Minister could then put United States political outreaches to Pakistan in jeopardy, and which in its wake ensures lending by global financial institutions slip into reverse gears.

Pakistan’s economy would take at least a decade to recover under present political conditions continuing to prevail. However, should political mood-swings veer towards Former PTI PM Imran Khan then Pakistan’s economic meltdown would get accelerated?

Former PM Imran Khan with all his political demagoguery is less likely to continue in power, even if he returns, as political meltdown is a natural corollary of Pakistan’s economic meltdown.

China has already exhibited that it can bail out Pakistan financially only up to a point where any Pakistani regime can ensure the security of Chinese economic and strategic interests in Pakistan. But how can a future Imran Khan Regime forestall Pakistan’s economic meltdown if China does not go in for massive re-scheduling of Chinese loans to Pakistan. Can China do it with its own declining economic growth?

While dwelling on the subject, the attitudes of Pakistan Army cannot be side-lined. The Pakistani Army is a strong determinator of Pakistan’s foreign policies and Pakistan’s political dynamics. Too much significance is being attached today to speculation that Pakistan Army is a ‘Divided House’ with some of the Generals supporting Imran Khan.

In the overall analysis, it can be safely asserted that when it would come to an eventual showdown on Pakistan Army losing its grip on Pakistan’s governance, then Pakistan Army hierarchy would close its ranks to safeguard its corporate interests.  Can it be forgotten by Pakistan Army hierarchy that Imran Khan as Prime Minister was dividing the Pakistan Army’s Collegium of Generals while in power?

Concluding, it can be asserted that if Pakistan is to avoid going the Sri Lanka path of economic and political meltdown, then Pakistan’s political dynamics seeking return of former PM Imran Khan to power would only hasten the meltdown of Pakistan. 

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

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