Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Saturday said Pakistan’s progress was always halted by military dictators. The premier made these remarks during the inauguration ceremony of Pakistan International Bulk Terminal in Karachi.
The 59-year old Abbasi who was handpicked by former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif as his replacement after the latter was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama Case, asserted that people must decide who they want in the government.“The masses have always elected political parties that have performed well for them,” he said adding that leaders who do not perform well should be sent home. But the process should be democratic and the people should decide,” Abbasi said while hinting at the oft-repeated claim of the PML-N that “hidden forces” are subverting democracy in the garb of the farce of accountability
According to political commentators, the ruling party wants to divert attention from the impending indictment of the Sharif family by whipping up the conspiracy narrative.
Abbasi seemingly took a jibe at the concerns raised by the Army Chief, General Bajwa regarding the country’s sky-high debt. He said the government, in its 4-year stint, has stabilized the economy. “The previous government faced an energy crisis, our government has brought stability in the country and added 10,000 MWs to the national power grid,” Abbasi said. The Army Chief while addressing the business community in Karachi earlier this week had pointed out:”Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high. The performances in infrastructure and energy sectors have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favor,”
The remarks come at a time when comments on the economic profile by the Army Chief have led to an indirect war of words between the civilian and military leadership. Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal who recently was involved in the controversy with Rangers, lashed out at DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor. Iqbal said:”Such irresponsible statements should not be made whose cost the country has to pay. I think DG ISPR has no capacity to make such commentary on the economy,” he said.
General Ghafoor while responding to a question regarding Army Chief’s comment had said:“If Pakistan’s economy is not bad, it’s not good either.”
Analysts are seeing this as yet another front opening in the ongoing tensions between the civil and military leadership; defense experts identify a clear link between the economy and the country’s military power. They assert that both elements of national power: economic and military are important with the latter firmly depending on the former.
Pundits who closely follow the PML-N see these statements as part of its confrontational politics through which it wants to take up a brawl with the judiciary and the military. Apparently, according to political commentators, the ruling party wants to divert attention from the impending indictment of the Sharif family by whipping up the conspiracy narrative.
A fledgling economy
PML-N’s economic performance was berated by former President and co-chairman Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) who called for imposing a financial emergency in the country in a bid to bail out the fast-plummeting economy. Eyebrows are being raised after the World Bank released a scathing report about the country’s external sector. “The current external situation can become unsustainable in absence of adequate policy response,” read the World Bank’s South Asia Economic Focus (SAEF) report. Pakistan, however, has rejected the report, saying that the country’s gross external financing needs stand at $18b as opposed to the claimed $31b in the report.
Irrespective of the figures, analysts believe that it is a matter of time before Pakistan will have to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A look at the data rings alarm bells; the country’s current account deficit has risen to $12.1 billion from $4.6 billion in the last one year. The trade deficit which forms the main part of the current account increased to $26.8 billion from $19.28 billion in the preceding fiscal year.
Experts believe that going back to the IMF will highlight the fact that the economy is in trouble and needs a bail-out. This will be a political setback for the PML-N which is trying to sell its economic performances and claims of development. PML-N stalwarts are using this very data including the falling stock exchange to point to the fact that an uncertainty has been created by dismissing the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. They are disregarding the fact that their own government is still in power.
While the democratic process has continued smoothly for a good part of 9 years, economic experts believe that the country is far from being a stable economy, mainly due to inept financial management and lack of credible leadership. Political pundits see statements against the earlier military regimes as a bid to pressure the current military leadership and an effort to build a narrative against alleged hidden forces.