Ambassador Alam Brohi records his disappointment
Today, Pakistan is passing through a tumultuous, uncertain and a nation in perpetual disarray explosive situation paralleled by three previous occasions. The country was plunged into a crisis of greater magnitude back in 1970 when the ruling military junta and ZA Bhutto refused to recognise Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman’s right to form the federal government. The crisis cost us the bigger part of the country. The dust of this political storm was still clouding the horizon of the country that we dared further shake the remaining Pakistan by the judicial murder of ZA Bhutto in April 1979. The third tragic incident that shook the federal foundations of the country was the planned martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir.
We have since been carrying the heavy albatrosses of these three national aberrations round our neck. The unjust execution of Bhutto drew an ominous line dividing our political landscape into rancorous pro-Bhutto and anti-Bhutto camps that characterises our body politics even today. The alienation of the populace of Sindh towards the federation caused by the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto continues unabated and is vehemently exploited by the Zardari League to retain power in Sindh for its blatant plunder of provincial resources. The Sindhi populace is not willing to trust any national political party with a leadership from any other federal unit.
The overthrow of the PTI regime through a questionable vote of no confidence on 9 April, 2022, has created the current explosive situation. The vote of no confidence coinciding with the en mass defections of the PTI parliamentarians and coalition partners perceived to be under the influence of powers that may be; the “blatant interference” of the US in our internal affairs, and surrounded by extraordinary circumstances reflecting an aura of a coup d’état, shifted the public gaze and sympathy to the fallen Imran Khan who was then riding a high wave of mass popularity feigning as the victim of the foreign conspiracy abetted by his political foes and their handlers. His political narrative, as is the wont in the developing societies, has fired the imagination of the urban middle class. As his massive public meetings show, he has become unstoppable in his foray to tear his opponents’ credibility to smithereens. He is focused on his demand for early elections, which seem to be the only viable recipe to take the country out of the current political impasse.
We may agree or disagree; his mass popularity reflects some political realities. His narrative regarding the corruption of his political foes has been widely accepted by the masses of Pakistan; by comparison the people consider him honest, pro-people and, therefore, a better option; the people are fed up with the arrogant and unjust treatment of Pakistan by the US notwithstanding the billions in military and economic aid which, nevertheless, had not trickled down to them; the people were not so displeased with the lackluster performance of the PTI regime; rather his robust handling of the crisis on our eastern border, his pro people schemes of health card, Ehsas financial support, shelter homes, support programs for farmers, students, low cost housing; his efficient handling of Covid pandemic and ailing economy, his frugal use of public resources in his foreign visits, his simple living and accessibility to the people through modern technology had gained traction with the masses.
His political foes now in power have failed to fill the political vacuum created by his ouster even failing to gain the public’s acceptance as the legitimate rulers, distinctly looking the pale shadow of the charismatic Khan. Shahbaz Sharif, in his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia and UAE, did not reflect the confidence, bearing, weight and carriage of a Prime Minister. His meetings with his hosts were lackluster. The media reports suggest that the visit failed to achieve its purported purpose. The regime’s talks with the International Monetary Fund are making no headway. The IMF conditions are getting tougher though it has increased the total package from $6 billion to $8 billion. The IMF package is now contingent on the withdrawal of the subsidies being given on the fuel and fertilisers, which the PTI government had refused to dispense with.
There has been a marked decrease of 38 per cent in the foreign reserves of the country within two months; the exports have come to a screeching halt; the imports would go up owing to the likely shortage of wheat; the stock market has crashed and the Rupee is in continuous nosedive. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif fears the political fallout of any bold decision. His regime and political party, riven by internal dissensions, are remote-controlled from London; the pulls and pushes of his coalition partners particularly of the PPP and the MQM-P are compelling him to evade any big political and economic decision. His recent visit along with half of his cabinet to London to seek guidance from the senior Sharif left a bad taste in the mouth. We cannot run the country with two Prime Ministers and two Finance Ministers. No doubt, the PDM didn’t have any roadmap for the economic rehabilitation and control of the inflationary trend. Rather, they now talk of taxing the pensions instead of agricultural incomes.
On top of all this, the budget of the country is to be presented within two or three weeks with Imran Khan building pressure for early elections and Zardari talking of electoral and law reforms before elections. The PPP is not willing to let the power go in Sindh, and has no fear of the adverse repercussions of the incumbency unlike the Pakistan Muslim League leaders who have nightmares. The coalition regime is perched on a very delicate branch sustained by a thin majority. A minor pull by any side can bring it down. This fragility of the regime is adding to the political fortunes of the ousted Imran Khan. Unfortunately, the whole exercise, wittingly or unwittingly, has greatly dented the credibility of the country’s institutions in the public eyes, and no damage control measures seem to be in place. TW