For the last few days, the rumor mills in Pakistan had been running at full throttle, primarily due to the precarious political and economic situation and the indecision and apparent confusion of the Shahbaz Sharif government.
In the last few days, the media has reported the news that key officials of the military establishment had been meeting with former Finance Ministers Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, Shaukat Tarin and former State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir. The key military officials have also been meeting with trusted former diplomats to bring a caretaker set-up to Pakistan. There are also news coming from highly respected journalists that the caretaking government might come for more than 90 days (3 months) duration citing the economic vulnerability of the country, as the primary reason for giving a greater mandate to the future interim set-up.
Shahbaz Sharif Government
In this backdrop, the Shahbaz Sharif government needs to act decisively and take bold and brave economic and political decisions by taking in the confidence the whole coalition government. All the parties in the coalition government, whether small or large need to be given equal importance.
The government needs to act decisively and rapidly, first to secure the economic bailout package from the IMF and then to carry it forward successfully. There will be very difficult economic and political decisions to take for this government, but the indecision and the time lost in getting to these difficult decisions is causing greater damage to the economy.
For the economy to improve the former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar needs not his share his economic wisdom and acumen with the media. His statements are clearly depicting a divided house and quickly erode the credibility of the current Finance Minister Miftah Ismail. In a situation, of rapidly falling rupee and stock market, clarity of thought and action is very important.
The media handling of the government needs to drastically improve. Ministers must only talk about their relevant portfolios to avoid confusion for the public. In an environment of chaos and bitter polarization, the coalition government must always demonstrate a picture of harmony and unity. Differences between the coalition partners (if there are any) must be dealt in closed quarters and mustn’t be shared through the media.
If the government is really serious in mitigating the war of perceptions of the opposition, then it must create and empower a social media team of its own, that needs to counter the aggressive narrative of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The social media team should counter the dirty and malicious propaganda of PTI while remaining within the ambit of law and decency.
Imran Khan’s campaign against the establishment and the current government is not as big a problem as is the economic meltdown and the grim consequences if the government doesn’t act fast enough to avert, a Sri Lanka-like situation in Pakistan (God Forbid).
Global Impact of the War in Ukraine
“The war in Ukraine – in all its dimensions – is setting in motion a crisis that is also devastating global energy markets, disrupting financial systems and exacerbating extreme vulnerabilities for the developing world,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
“We need quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy in open markets, by lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to those who need them, and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility,” he added.
The World Bank’s Vice President Indermit Gill has warned “that this conflict has caused the biggest commodity shock, the world has faced since the 1970s”. According to him, “the shock of this war will raise energy prices at least 50% this year”.
In this global context of rising petrol costs, disruptions in global supply chains and rising food prices, the inflationary pressures seem to be continuing for the foreseeable future, or at least as far as the war in Ukraine continues.
Read more: Shahbaz Sharif’s first orders as PM
The role of the Establishment
Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar had announced on April 13, 2022, that the establishment will remain apolitical. It will be in Pakistan’s greatest interest that the establishment remains apolitical forever if the establishment wants the country to flourish and grow.
Moreover, the establishment need to co-operate fully and wholeheartedly with the new political dispensation while remaining within the realms of the constitution.
Cases against Imran Khan
Cases against Imran Khan and his party should be opened, not on the basis of revenge or political victimization but purely on merit. For most serious and sane Pakistanis, it’s a foregone conclusion that IK and his party are against the national interest of Pakistan. Perhaps, no politician ever in Pakistan’s chequered history has accused any sitting government that while they are in power, our nuclear assets are in unsafe hands and it was better than the atom bomb was used on Pakistan rather than PTI losing its government.
Cases against Imran Khan and his party must be opened but must be strong enough to withstand the test of time and courts. In the last few months, he has crossed many red lines, including abrogating the constitution when he dissolved the national assembly, creating divides in the army and general public, and casting doubts about Pakistan’s nuclear assets being unsafe. Instigating his followers to abuse and manhandle the government delegation in Masjid-e-Nabawi and later defended the actions of his followers.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif needs to remember, that history only remembers those leaders with nice and decent words who act decisively and with a conviction for the greater good of the country over a long period of time. If he succeeds in applying balm (as he has mentioned in the National Assembly after becoming Prime Minister) to this beleaguered and unfortunate nation (which has seen bad times more than the good ones) then he will go down as a great hero of our history.
The writer is a researcher, marketer and human rights activist based in the United Kingdom. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.