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Daily Times

Published Date: Aug 8, 2014

Political instability and economic downturn

The uncertainty engulfing Pakistan because of political instability sent
the Karachi stock market 666.24 points down on Monday, a huge blow to an economy struggling to survive. Investment, both domestic and foreign,
has dwindled due to terrorism and the energy crisis. With no let up in sight on both fronts, especially terrorism that is destroying Pakistan’s
religious and cultural mores, political bickering over alleged rigging in the 2013 elections is likely to further erode whatever economic stability the country is aspiring to. According to the recently released
UN Human Development Report 2014 titled, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Enhancing Resilience”, Pakistan has retained 146th position in the category of low income countries. That explains the plight of ordinary citizens. In Pakistan, according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) poverty survey, 58.7 million people are living in multidimensional poverty with 46 percent of
the rural population and 18 percent of urban households falling below the poverty line. Political instability breeds uncertainty regarding continuity and the future economic policies of a country, with the result that investment and productivity wither. Civil unrest, strikes and demonstrations interfere with the normal operation of firms and markets, reduces hours worked and bottoms out growth. These circumstances are all the more necessary for the political leaders of the country to keep in mind when dealing with the issues confronting the
In the last 13 years, Pakistan has experienced both war and
political instability, including assassinations, bombings, sit-ins, demonstrations, violence and armed clashes. Pakistan’s political situation has never been satisfactory but over the last decade or so, or
more precisely since the war on terrorism began, political volatility has grown manifold. Interestingly, the political and economic crises coincided with the restoration of democracy to make things more complicated for the leaders not mature enough to develop a synthesis for
a new political order. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, one democratically elected government handed over power to another in the 2013 general elections. For a country ruled for 33 out of the 67 years of its existence by the military, it was a big achievement. For a country where politicians have been known to destroy each other’s power base rather ruthlessly and in connivance with the military, the completion of its tenure by the PPP-led government was no small feat, especially when terrorism is taken into account, which had almost shattered not only the economy but the social fabric of the country. The
complexity of the political and economic situation has been completely ignored by politically immature figures such as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. The Azadi (independence) march and the Inqilab (revolution) march
of both respectively, meant to derail the democratic process only to revive it later with a fresh mid-term election or with a new system are only muddying the water instead of helping to resolve problems. Political realism demands a process-based incremental development in the
political and economic spheres, notwithstanding conflict arising from competing interests, as institutions strengthen and tough decisions are taken to overcome obstacles to progress. There is no substitute for patience in a country mired in misgovernance and corrupt practices. Claiming to wash out the rot that took 67 years to accumulate in 90 days, as Imran Khan is fond of claiming, is nothing but childish. Similarly, the call for revolution to change the system could be at best
be described as Tahirul Qadri’s undelineated pipe dream. The ‘wait and see’ ‘friendly’ policy of opposition parties such as the PPP could be considered responsible for having given Imran and his like more political space to mount their challenge to the government.
PML-N’s overtures to most of the opposition parties to manage the political crisis is a belated effort, nonetheless important. ‘Reconciliation’ may have found space in the political dictionary. However, its spirit has yet to be acquired. PML-N’s hubris, leading to political isolation, has resulted in fatal mistakes such as the handling of the Model Town incident. With all this in the background, an inclusive approach to political matters should be adopted, which could accommodate the reasonable demands of the opposition to maintain stability in the country.

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