Economy continues to deteriorate and so does politics (P-2)



Ansar M Bhatti

In the wake of Peshawar tragedy the government has decided to convene an All Parties Conference (APC) with a view to taking on board the entire political leadership and seek its guidance in order to cope with such situations in future. Even in the past we have witnessed such kind of APCs convened with a huge pump and show but ending without yielding tangible results. The political atmosphere however was not that bad as it is today. The PTI, the largest political party of the country, is not willing to sit together with the rest of the parties therefore the APC without the participation of the PTI won’t carry any importance. Till yesterday the PDM had been lambasting the leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for allowing the TTP to settle in the mainstream areas of the country. Not only this, the PDM religiously believes the PTI is responsible for all economic and political woes the country is facing these days. Above all the way the government has been bullying the PTI leaders by arresting them and subjecting them to humiliation perhaps provides the PTI with a solid justification not to be part of the APC. There are nevertheless some voices within the PTI ranks that believe the party should attend the huddle.

But like the past APCs this exercise is also unlikely to prove a success for it turns out to be a reactionary move – the main purpose of which is to do some firefighting after the gruesome Peshawar episode. In the presence of 2014 NAP there was no need to call such an APC. Rather, the government should have decided in the Apex Committee meeting that no stone should be left unturned to implement the NAP in letter and spirit. Additionally, the Apex Committee should have fixed the responsibility of the Peshawar tragedy and some heads must have rolled because after all it was a huge security lapse, as admitted by various security institutions. But hitherto nobody has been taken to task for this lapse. We have to understand that without a system of retribution things will not improve.

On the economic front the country is still reeling under distress. Thanks to the IMF, the government has finally issued a notification seeking details of the assets of the top bureaucrats – a creed which has always been treated as a sacred cow in Pakistan. Had there been no IMF pressure this kind of notification would have not been issued. People strongly believe that once the IMF tranche is through, the notification may immediately be withdrawn because in Pakistan we do not have a tradition and precedent of taking the influential people to task.

The recent FT report has pinpointed certain loopholes in the Pakistani system due to which the country has been struggling since long. The report rightly mentioned that ordinary people are never consulted in the decision making processes. Then, the bad governance is yet another bane that has plagued the Pakistani society, the report further claims. According to the FT, China that happens to be Pakistan’s close ‘ally and friend’ needs to reschedule debts and extend maximum support to Islamabad. When it comes to rescheduling of loans, it is not just China that has given us a cold shoulder response, even the brotherly countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia have also expressed similar intentions. This time they have linked all their future financial support with the IMF deal. This is something rare and strange keeping in view deep-rooted relations with these countries, therefore the Pakistani side must do some soul searching about what went wrong and where even the close friends had to attach strings to their support.

The incumbent government is in no mood to hold elections in the Punjab and KPK provinces simply because it fears elections at this stage may turn out to be a disappointment for it. If that is the case then it is very unfortunate. The Constitution is clear that elections must take place within 90 days after dissolution of the assemblies. The delay would amount to constitutional disobedience, which may have consequences.

This is yet another curse Pakistan has been going through ever since its inception. The powerful people always used the Constitution as per their wishes. And that is perhaps the biggest flaw in our system, which has not only impeded growth of this country but disallowed a true and genuine democratic system to take root. In letter and spirit implementation of the Constitution ostensibly can do wonders for this country, but the question is who will do it and when?

Summing up, the former President and military ruler General ® Pervez Musharraf has passed away. Despite all ifs and buts this was the time when Pakistan had performed quite well as compared with the civilian rulers. Everything was in everybody’s reach. One US dollar was equal to Rs 60 and the growth rate was 8.96 to 9.0. It has been my consistent view that military rules have always been beneficial from peoples’ point of view. Approximately 11.8 million new jobs were created during Musharraf’s term from 1999 to 2008, while primary school enrollment rose and the debt-to-GDP ratio dropped from 100 to 55 percent. Pakistan’s reserves increased from US$1.2 billion in October 1999 to US$10.7 billion on 30 June 2004. Agreed, these gains can be attributed also to the procurement of billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. aid to Pakistan in return for Pakistan’s support in the US-led war on terror, yet economic and governance reforms did play a key role as well.

During the PPP regime from 2008 onwards the country’s economy witnessed the worst kind of meltdown. However when the PML N led by Nawaz Sharif came to power the economic condition improved gradually and On 10 January 2017, The Economist forecasted Pakistan’s GDP to grow at 5.3 percent in 2017, making it the fifth fastest growing economy in the world and the fastest growing in the Muslim world.

There is no doubt that a true and not a sham democracy is a panacea for all problems. Political chaos always paved the way for alien interventions. The prevailing political situation may constitute a fit case for yet another intervention. However, the political parties and particularly the sitting government can rule out any such possibility by dint of good governance and exercising intra-party and inter-party unity.