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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Patwari Bhands of an Ancient Punjabi Regime

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Javed Hassan |

It’s a universal truth that change is not easy, and for those who have enjoyed a cozy cordiality with past regimes, having to accept any disruption to the convenient arrangements of the bygone era can be unbearably painful. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that there’s a new cottage industry in the media whose main purpose appears to be nothing else but to attack the new order under any pretext, fair or foul.  One of the key planks of this effort is to try and pin the entire blame of the present economic crunch on the 50 days old government of Imran Khan.

From the old guard like Irfan Hussain writing about amateurism and gross incompetence of Asad Umar in Dawn to newer attack hounds such as Imad Zafar in Asia Times comparing Imran Khan to Don Quixote, there is common theme, which is a woeful level of illiteracy on economics combined with a palpable animus of the new Pakistani PM and his team. Zafar condescendingly states of Imran Khan, “He in his hallucinations was sure that he would bring back the imaginary billion dollars of looted money from the Swiss banks and the United Kingdom”.

Clearly what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. No quarter shall be given and every opportunity to nitpick Khan will be relished by the Patwari bhaands.

To try and suggest that Khan’s drive against corruption and his government’s effort to retrieve ill-gotten monies laundered abroad is the main economic plank of the new government, could not be further away from the reality of overall economic agenda. The other aspect of the synchronized attack on the PTI government’s 50 days economic performance is the remarkable amnesia of the disastrous legacy left behind by Nawaz Sharif and his merry band of incompetent ministers.

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It is inconceivable for the detractors of the PTI government that any of the blame of the present economic crises should be placed on the previous regime, when in reality that is exactly where it exclusively belongs. Let’s remind ourselves once again that it’s only been about fifty days since the new government has come into power. It would take a remarkable effort that has never happened anywhere else, ever, that a new government can influence inflation, exchange rates, and overall economic growth in so short a period.

As this writer had pointed out before the elections, “A spectre haunts Pakistan, one of economic implosion and one that is entirely the making of the previous PML-N government… epic incompetence and malign neglect by the economic managers has ensured that the country is likely to be faced with an economic crunch in the coming months”.  There’s little that PM Imran Khan or Asad Umar could have done to avert this day of reckoning that is now upon us.

One of the key planks of this effort is to try and pin the entire blame of the present economic crunch on the 50 days old government of Imran Khan.

Holding them responsible for any of the current crises would be akin to blaming the Great Recession of 2008 on Obama, which is universally accepted as being created by Bush’s war on terror misadventures as well as the irresponsible lending policies by the big banks. However, Imran Khan and his finance minister could be faulted for not having appreciated the depth of the looming crises.

As a great leader, who clearly commands the confidence of millions in this country, he could have done more to prepare the people of the oncoming storm by better laying out the economic wreckage that he was inheriting. It might have served him better to more explicitly impress upon the masses that he was left with an empty treasury that in the short term limits his ability to bring about the tabdeeli that he is determined to bring out in due course. This way he would have set the baseline from which to be measured against.

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Expectations of large sums of funds being retrieved from overseas should have been aligned with the reality that this is going to be a tortuous and long drawn process. Having acknowledged such errors of judgment, largely in terms of messaging, it is churlish to suggest that it would have made much difference if the government had gone to IMF on the second day of taking reign rather than fifty days that it took. This delay was primarily due to taking time to carefully consider to all the policy options available, as well as determining exactly how much loan should be asked from the lender of last resort.

Finally, it is interesting to note how these commentators, who are now prolix on economic affairs and the imaginary failings of the current government in that area, chose largely to remain silent when the carnage was being created by the misguided policies of the previous regime. Clearly what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. No quarter shall be given and every opportunity to nitpick Khan will be relished by the Patwari bhaands.

Javed Hassan is a graduate of Imperial College London and an MBA from London Business School. He is an investment banker who has worked in London, Hong Kong, and Karachi. He tweets as @javedhassan. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.