Pakistan is once again in the eye of the hurricane. Since the constitutional ouster of the PTI government, Pakistan has become dangerously polarized. It has become impossible to hold a dialogue on political issues. The ongoing political hurricane has resulted in a severe economic meltdown — with rising inflation, depleted resources, increased unemployment, rising prices, increasing fuel prices, weakening currency — and the added danger of an out of control population.
On the external side, the US sees Pakistan’s alliance with China and enmity with India as an obstacle to the India-Pak strategic partnership against China. The US has also opposed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and called it a debt trap. The US would like Pakistan’s strategic capabilities to be restrained if not completely rolled back. In an extreme scenario, political and economic chaos in Pakistan, could be used as an excuse to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
Pakistan and the US have always maintained a love-hate relationship. Now, with the US defeat in Afghanistan, and Imran Khan’s support for the Taliban, the two countries are not on talking terms.
The relations with India too have further soured. India is bent on gaining regional hegemony. A nuclear-armed India, with the US support, is in no mood to compromise with Pakistan. Pakistan will not change its stance on Kashmir or other bilateral disputes with India so there cannot be any meaningful improvement in relations. Modi wants to further weaken Pakistan, annex Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. The Indian government’s repression of the Muslim community and denigration of Islam further indicate its intentions. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baloch separatists are operating with impunity from across the border in Afghanistan, possibly with the support of the Taliban regime in Kabul.
Never in our history, not even in the dark days of 1971, has the nation’s morale been so low. It is about time that all the political leaders wake up, and assume collective responsibility for the present economic and political plight.
Every effort must be made to explore economic opportunities with Russia and western pressure against the cooperation should be countered. India, despite a strategic alliance with the US, is already buying cheaper oil from Russia, and there is no reason why Pakistan should not do the same.
The steep rise in fuel prices has dented the PML-N-led coalition government’s credibility. The short-term measures, like IMF bailout packages and borrowed money, would result in temporary relief. A long-term sustainable economic growth strategy and structural reforms would bring an end to elite capture of the economy.
Endemic corruption, inefficiency and the VIP culture have to be eliminated through a transparent, impartial and honest judicial system. Imported energy has to be stopped and substituted by local resources such as coal, gas, hydro solar and wind energy. Privatization of loss making public sector industrial concerns must be completed in quick time and greater investments in technical and scientific education is the need of the time.
We must identify our security and business partners in the world. China is our only all-weather friend. Presently, however, the Pakistan-China relations are giving out weak signals. Impediments to all the CPEC projects must be removed and the highest priority to the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan must be ensured. Every effort must be made to explore economic opportunities with Russia and western pressure against the cooperation should be countered. India, despite a strategic alliance with the US, is already buying cheaper oil from Russia, and there is no reason why Pakistan should not do the same.
If Pakistan has to survive and prosper, we have to adopt farsighted, bold and pragmatic domestic and foreign policies — so that the country is able to weather the massive economic and political storm it is confronted with. It will be a difficult process but there is no other option for our survival.