The Chaotic Situation In Pakistan Emerged When Third Option Backfired: What Next? – OpEd
Pakistan is facing a perfect storm of crisis that made political and economic turmoil followed by unprecedented judicial polarization, after devastating flooding, resurgence of terrorist activities in the country and IMF demands of substantial reforms against the 6 billion bailout program the country needs to avoid defaulting.
Further internal and external security challenges have been no less imposing since the country’s inception, confronting it with enduring dilemmas. The burden of history and tyranny of geography —volatile neighborhoods and the headwinds of geopolitics unleashed by big power competition — first US and former Soviet Union in the Cold War era now US-Chines have consistently pushed the country into a vicious cycle of political instability and economic meltdown.
There are two main reasons for the perfect storm-like situation in the country; first political
Pakistan’s long seventy-five years history tells us that the country has been in a perpetual political crisis and none of the Prime ministers has ever completed his term in office including Imran khan. Most of them have been removed, jailed, exiled, or assassinated. The military establishment has always undermined the democratic government by using state institutions like fist bureaucracy and now the judiciary.
We have witnessed more than thirty-three years of direct rule of the military by carrying out military coups. On the other hand, those political elites have not been able to do something good for the public because they were and are highly corrupt, their dynastic style of politics, and in fact, they are unwilling democrats. They couldn’t bring democratic governance into the country or either tried to establish themselves as a political entity or establish supremacy over the establishment in the country.
Furthermore, the political elites due to, populism, cult, and power politics have made themselves always dependent on the military establishment to reach into the corridors of power,and in return, the establishment has used and abused them according to their interests and whenever the political elites have tried to challenge the military establishment, they are either removed or exiled. This infighting between the civil-military elite class reached its climax when Nawaz Sharif and Late Benazir Bhutto signed the Charter of Democracy and pledged to block the interference of the establishment in politics in the future. As a countermeasure, the establishment launched Imran khan’s project as a third option. This hob nob reached its logical conclusion when Nawaz Sharif was removed before time through the judiciary and Imran Khan got a majority in the 2018 election with help of the military establishment, the rest is now history.
Unfortunately, the third option backfired when the country descended into Chaos on almost all counts during three and half years of the PTI government led by Imran Khan. Khan when came into power, though he was seen as a puppet of the army, pledged to a new Pakistan that would provide jobs to the unemployed youths, houses for the poor, and fix the scourge of corruption but in fact, Imran Khan simply proved itself as incapable of ruling — for reasons ranging from his choice of people to the corruption of those around him to his blunders on the diplomatic front.
Initially, Khan and the army were on the same page but later on Khan turned chaotic specifically after Khan tried to interfere in the army’s internal affairs by pushing his favorite Generals to the helm for securing his second term in the forthcoming election. This move of khan was the biggest mistake, some time back the previous Prime minister have done and paid a high cost. That is when the army struck back and the then army chief Qamar Bajwa pulled the rug from the Khan’s under feet consequently, In the year 2021, the PDM led by PMLN and PPP and JUI started a movement to remove IK through the constitutional move when they saw that he has lost the confidence of the military establishment. Since then Imran khan has become more dangerous and hardened in the way of establishment and the coalition government led by Shahbaz Sharif.
IK regained its lost image of bad and corrupt governance in the public and get massive support and confidence of the public by using various tactics to hold early elections and by building false narratives of anti-Americanism, and anti-establishment, using religious sentiments and claiming that he has been removed in a conspiracy, named and shamed the military establishment, dissolutions of two provincial assemblies to trigger new election before the retirement of President Alvi and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the month of September this year.
The second reason is, economic crisis
The present economic crisis is one of the worst in our history because of the large external debt over the last five years. Pakistan is to pay about 30 billion dollars each year to the multilateral as well as bilateral national donors coupled with a trade deficit of 20 billion dollars and depleted foreign exchange reserves of up to 4.5 billion dollars at the movement down from about 17 billion dollars last year. Furthermore, devaluation of the Pakistani currency, inflation is higher than ever and the food inflation is about 40% which has caused food insecurity and risen the poverty level.
Furthermore, the recent flood has contributed massively, and the devastation estimated by the World Bank is about 15 billion dollars which is twice what Pakistan owes to IMF. It has affected almost 33 million people and destroyed 60% of standing crops. The change in the geopolitical situation, Pakistan is no more a key favorite, it cannot extract its geo-strategic rent from other countries especially from the US, as it did in the past especially from IMF and lateral donors such as China and the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, as they are not playing ball as they did before.
To deal with the present perturbed conditions, Pakistan is working to secure funds from International Financial Institutions such as IMF and World Bank. Pakistan is working hard to implement the IMF program for the revival of the economy. Despite meeting all the technical conditionalities, IMF has not yet reached a staff-level agreement with the government. Apparently, there are three reasons.
The first reason is the political deadlock
The chaotic situation emerged from the head-on collision between the sitting government and IK which is evident from the statement made by interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan. He said that former premier Imran Khan has steered his political rivalry to a point of enmity where “either we will maintain our existence or he”, He said further that peace could not be guaranteed until Mr. Khan was there in the political arena.
He also made it clear that if they (his party) found that they were being eliminated (from the politics), they would go to any extent to save themselves, without thinking about the merits and demerits of their steps, whether these were democratic or undemocratic, principled or unprincipled. He clarified that Now either he will be eliminated from the political arena or us. Only Imran is to be blamed for bringing us to this stage,”
Mr. Shahbaz Sharif’s address to the parliament today further diminished the chance of rapprochement with Imran Khan, when the PM declared IK the biggest fraudulent person in the history of the country and demanded that he should apologize to the nation for the misdeeds he has committed so far.
On the other hand, Mr. Khan tit for tat has challenged that the incumbent rulers don’t have the ability or the intention to save the country, rather they are a bunch of known corrupt people united against me and spare no effort to ridicule, blackmail, and attempt to assassinate him … he said, adding that he would happily step aside if “ the establishment tells me ‘we have a plan’ but I know what the program is…there is no program.” We will not back off under any circumstance,” the former premier vowed. Mr. khan further went into the public and blamed the government for planning a plot to murder him in the way Murtaza Bhutto was killed by police in front of his house.
The second reason for the delay in the IMF deal with the government
The trust deficit between the IMF and the government because of the government’s track record of violating IMF conditionalities coupled with the apprehension shown by some elected representatives that there is international pressure on the government to neutralize its nuclear arsenals instead of an IMF deal. This is not the first time that Pakistan is facing such pressure though the current finance minister on the floor of the house has categorically denied such pressure and assured that it will never accept any such demand from any quarter. In the past, Pakistan refused the proposal to “cap” its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the release of the F-16s when during the visit of the then army chief Gen Waheed Kakar to Washington, he flatly told the Americans that “Pakistan’s national security was non-negotiable”. In the end, the Brown Amendment was adopted, economic sanctions lifted and military equipment worth $368 million was released except the F-16s.
Third—unprecedented polarization in the superior judiciary will further delay the deal
Polarization in the superior judiciary came evident when yesterday two Justices, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail of the Supreme Court have called for revisiting the power of the “one-man show” enjoyed by the chief justice, saying that the country’s top court could not “be dependent on the solitary decision of one man”.
The two made the remarks in a detailed dissenting note released on Monday hours after the SC took up the PTI plea challenging the postponement of elections in Punjab — for the top court’s 1st march regarding holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the two provincial assemblies have been dissolved and in response, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said today that the opinion of two judges in the previous Supreme Court (SC) verdict over provincial assembly elections is not relevant in the case concerning the postponement of Punjab Assembly polls. Such polarization has further deepened the chaotic situation and is the biggest constitutional crisis and detrimental to the country’s image of having a fragile and politicized judicial system.
In the wake of a such chaotic situation, five questions come to the minds of every conscious and responsible person. Those are:
- Why has Pakistan come to the brink of collapse again?
- Why has the economy gone into free fall?
- What is the IK game plan and what is the current government doing about it?
- Will the Pakistan military establishment intervene and take over as happened in the past, if the political and constitutional deadlock coupled with economic crisis persists?
- Will Pakistan be on the pathway of Egypt, when in 2013 Egyptian coup d’état took place and Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led a coalition to remove the democratically elected President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi, from power and suspended the Egyptian constitution of 2012 due to persistent political deadlock and uncompromising behavior of political parties in Egypt?
Is Pakistan impossible to govern?
I think, yes, it is possible, no doubt Pakistan is one of the toughest, most difficult, and extremely complicated countries in the world to govern because the country with a population of 235 million, is ethnically and linguistically diverse, and it’s a geopolitical context. Facing internal and external security challenges, its long history of being incredibly dependent economically on the west by renting out its geo-strategic location to the USA.
Furthermore, it is possible to govern provided, the political elites, judicial bigwigs and military establishment reach a consensus and are willing to allow democracy to flourish, strengthen the institutions, and let them be free to work within the constitutional boundaries. Upholding constitution and rule of law, making parliament relevant, holding free and fair elections,Inclusive and pro-public policies in health and education. Drastic reforms in the tax regime, investment in human capital, land reforms, give away the debt consumption model of the economy, good industrialization policies, and creation of a conducive environment to attract FDI. Last but not least modernization of the society, industrialization of the economy, and democratization of the polity.
Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant as secretary education government of Baluchistan. The writer can be reached at [email protected]
3 thoughts on “The Chaotic Situation In Pakistan Emerged When Third Option Backfired: What Next? – OpEd”
Realistic analysis .The country will be relieved of the chaos if the recommendations were followed.
Absolute realities has been elaborated and nicely analysed.Also the respinse of third option backfired would seem to be the remedy.
A very comprehensive account of chronic ailments of the country is grappling with. The formidable contradiction it is confronted with is the ideological mooring it aspires to strengthen and the modernization and progress it is keen to achieve. It constitutes a pull and push scenerio which keeps it perpetually in turmoil, destabilized and unsafe for long term investment.