Operation regime change in April has laid bare the intellectual bankruptcy of Pakistan’s ruling elite. The way events unfolded delivered a massive blow to Pakistan’s already battered image. It also showed the poverty of decision-making by Pakistan’s power brokers.
Soon after his exit, the ex-prime minister Imran Khan hit the campaign trail with his massive political rallies. With his narrative gaining strength through the length and breadth of Pakistan and the system coming under increasing pressure, polarization in the society has climbed dangerous levels.
Read more: Why Imran Khan really matters for Pakistan?
Imran Khan’s mantra that “either you are with us or against us,” depletes any middle ground
Pakistan’s liberal intelligentsia, who supports the military establishment this time around for miraculous reasons, is hell-bent on proving Imran Khan as an existential threat to the power corridors is in full propaganda mode.
Editorials, Op-Eds, and TV talk shows are spitting filthy propaganda to smear Imran Khan or anything remotely related to Imran Khan. Attempts were made initially to disqualify him through foreign funding, which somehow has hit some roadblocks for the time being. FIA cases are being registered against journalists, YouTubers, or social media activists who are not following the line. They are being threatened with dire consequences.
It is hard to believe that all of these “arrangements” are made against the largest political party in the country, whether you agree with its narrative or not. Combine this with mass unemployment, particularly dangerous youth unemployment, with two hot borders, and a female Mphil student who was the mother of two young children; blew herself up, killing the director of Confucius Institute in a terrorist suicide bombing in Karachi.
Something exceptional has also taken place in Punjab, where there are two chief ministers at the same time today, and courts have ordered the national assembly speaker to administer the oath to the incumbent chief minister. However, the comedy of events does not stop there. There are 26 MPAs who are bound to be disqualified under the defection clause of the constitution. Nevertheless, it is predicted that the system will rescue the current federal government again, which is likely to be rejected by the Imran Khan’s political party fuelling his narrative even further among the disenfranchised.
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While in a parallel universe, Pakistan’s generation Z and millennials who use Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube and are outcasted by the current rotten system are venting their frustration against the system and its current power holders, whether military or civilian day and night.
No civilized intellectual debate is taking place either on the mainstream media or these social media platforms. On the contrary, everything is rife with “whataboutism.” Space for any middle ground is shrinking with every passing minute. People in power are intoxicated that they can do what they want, and Pakistan’s vast overseas diaspora and youth are saying we will see you to it.
A head-on collision is expected in the last week of May
All of this has caused dangerous enmities in all walks of life and malignant polarization. No credible institutions or public figures can mediate in this self-destructive war. Everyone is banking on a zero-sum game.
While this is going on, a financial storm is brewing inside and outside Pakistan. Globally the world is headed towards a painful recession in the developed economies. Inflation has skyrocketed in the developing world, including the United States. Stock markets are bleeding cash, and there is consensus among most economists that the “ party is over.”
Inside Pakistan, we are again in the bust cycle and have carried our begging bowel to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But so far, we have been unsuccessful. There is chatter of resumption of IMF bailout with conditions unknown to ordinary Pakistanis.But, again, we face a large balance of payments and current account deficits, keeping our historical traditions.
However, what is known is that this global recession will cause a credit crunch, leading to a worldwide liquidity crisis? As a result, there is a likelihood of fewer IMF bailouts with onerous lending conditions. Such bailouts will translate into higher indirect taxation, tighter fiscal targets, rampant inflation,and economic contraction in Pakistan, leading to unemployment and causing massive public unrest. This is not the worst-case scenario.
Read more: Imran Khan launches PTI membership drive
Worst case scenario will be continued rupee devaluation, worsening balance of payment crisis, a contracting economy, and a full-blown default. When the sixth-largest nuclear-armed country defaults with 64% of its population under 30, rest assured that political turmoil, public unrest, and contempt against the current system will reach gigantic proportions.
Amid malignant polarization, rampant militancy, economic bankruptcy, and partisan institutions conducting free and fair elections are impossible.
Even if Jinnah was alive today, he might have failed to achieve this task
This turmoil also presents a unique opportunity for our enemies to inflict a lasting wound on Pakistan, like in 1971. Even if you could conduct sham elections, the losing side will chant rigging, and Imran Khan will likely be on the road again.
How can economic growth or foreign direct investments occur in such a chaotic political environment?
Sanity requires an urgent national dialogue on the rules of the game. A broader pact of politicians is needed on electioneering so that Political will can be produced, which can take Pakistan out of this economic mess.
Urgent economic reforms are not required for growth, but necessary for survival.
These reforms will be taxing and very unpopular. Only a Political government with a heavy public mandate can deliver this painful task.
Once survival is secured, urgent educational and judicial reforms are needed for the long-term survival of Pakistan.
The time for blame game or political engineering is over; economic survival in the imminent global recession is acutely needed. Therefore, elections in this environment without a broader consensus on core issues will add to Political chaos instead of diffusing it.
The author is a graduate of the University of Oxford’s Said Business School and currently works as Faculty at Brown University in the United States. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.