It has been very tough going for the government since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf assumed power in Islamabad. From the bitter relations with India to the gradually deteriorating economy and from political turmoil to corruption scandals, the PTI government has been finding it tough to find a way out of these crises. Though the government is trying its best to keep the attention of the masses diverted toward accountability, the economic turmoil is getting even worse.
On Monday, the stock market saw its worst decline in recent history, as it lost 600 index points in a single day. The growing uncertainty about the future of the country’s economy has worried investors as well as ordinary Pakistani citizens, and this is the reason the country is not seeing any healthy business activity. This perhaps has changed the mind of the establishment, as it appears also to be disturbed by the poor performance of the incumbent government.
There are rumors in the circles of power that the military establishment has given the nod to Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and in a few months he will be made prime minister, while there have also been indications that a presidential form of government will be introduced in Pakistan. Recently a strong social-media campaign has been launched in favor of a presidential system of governance. An Islamic presidential system has been trending on Twitter.
The question arises whether the 18th Amendment of the Pakistani constitution that gives autonomy to the provinces, the expired constitutional backing for extension of the military courts, or the poor performance of the PTI regime will prompt the military establishment to make another artificial change to the political discourse.
Problems by design
Right now Pakistan is virtually facing an undeclared coup, and the PTI government is acting only as a puppet of the invisible forces. The problem is that it knows nothing about addressing economic and social problems. Prime Minister Imran Khan is a liberal when it comes to his own personal life but is very conservative, even a hardliner, in politics, and most of his vote bank is right-wing. The right wing has in the past advocated the military rule that was imposed on the country and it has supported the Taliban narrative and extremist mindset both in religion and in the social fabric of society.
Since Khan himself is pro-Taliban, even the US is reluctant to trust him. Then there remains a question mark on the credibility of the elections through which Khan came to power. It seems that not even he and other members of his party believed that they would be rewarded with such a large number of seats in parliament through political engineering by the invisible forces. That is the reason PTI seems unprepared to lead the country out of economic turmoil and global isolation.
Since Khan knows that PTI on its own cannot win more than 25 to 30 seats across the country, he is obeying what the invisible forces are dictating to him. Perhaps that is why even the development budget has been cut and the focus has not been the development of infrastructure and services or providing relief to the masses.
Meanwhile, the rift with India is playing a crucial role in destabilizing the economy of Pakistan. The authorities in Pakistan believe that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will again launch a military attack to gain leverage in the upcoming elections in his country. The problem is that whether Modi attacks or not, even having to remain vigilant all the time is hurting the economy of Pakistan. After all, flying jet fighters and deploying troops every day along the border with India eats up resources.
Then there is a problem with the PTI team itself, as most of its cabinet members are from the era of former dictator General Pervez Musharraf, and it seems that we are watching a replica of that era. The problem is that the experience this team acquired under Musharraf does not give them any clue about the changes the society has gone through, nor do they know how to fix the economy in the modern socio-economic and technological age.
The winds of change
Nawaz Sharif was granted bail on medical grounds for six weeks. Whistleblowers say that his conduct will be monitored during these six weeks and if he stays tightlipped he could be granted further bail and eventually allowed to go to London on medical grounds. His younger brother and the opposition leader, Shahbaz Sharif, has been given a clean chit in the previous cases filed by National Accountability Bureau and his name has been removed from the exit control list.
Shahbaz’ son Hamza Shahbaz has also been given unprecedented relief, as when the NAB went to his house to arrest him, he refused to surrender, citing that he had a high-court order that the NAB was bound to inform him about his arrest 10 days prior. The surprise came when the Lahore High Court on Saturday – which is an off-day for the court – not only immediately took up Hamza Shahbaz’ petition but also stopped the NAB from arresting him.
This means the winds have changed, as the Sharif family had been hunted through the courts but now those same courts are giving them immediate relief. Perhaps that is why Khan is not very happy, but it’s too late for him; he should have known earlier that in the games of power the pawns are always used and then thrown aside. The invisible forces never support a pawn that is incapable of fixing the economy and lacks the skills to govern the country.
The situation right now on the power chessboard seems that Khan wants the opposition to launch a campaign against him so he can be dethroned and at least save face so as to go to his vote bank for the next elections, while the invisible forces on the other hand want the opposition to kick Khan out of power by agitating in the streets or by a no-confidence move. Meanwhile the opposition wants Khan to stay in power a little longer so that his inability to govern can be further exposed and that eventually his government will sink under the burden of its own false claims and incompetence.
Imran Khan’s only hope is the revival of the economy, but under the circumstances, that seems a daunting task that is beyond his ability and skills.