Pakistan’s political imbroglio

Pakistan is going through tumultuous times. It seems to be bleeding from a thousand self-inflicted wounds. Implosion threatens. Its national politics reached its nadir long ago and the resultant polarization threatens to rend its society asunder. The electronic and social media have been the major vehicles on which the animosity between political parties has flourished and spread - with implicit encouragement from their political leaders. Nothing but rank divisive, abrasive, irritable domestic politics seems to be relevant, rampant and working today!
The political parties appear to be focused only on their survival and longevity in power. The battle for political ascendancy is now moving towards its inexorable albeit yet uncertain climax. Who will prevail? The battle lines are now becoming more discernible, though. The irreconcilable, maximalist positions taken by our political belligerents are causing an unbearable stifling of the economy, national development programs and the aspirations and livelihoods of the bewildered people. Chaos, uncertainty, turmoil, pettiness, frustration, belligerence etc reign supreme in society. Unperturbed, the national polity continues to remorselessly play its political games and lust after seeking/retaining power. A great no-holds-barred game of power politics is underway. Constitution, law, justice, principles, ethics, morality, decency, grace etc have all unfortunately given way to political expediency. The insatiable power-at-all-costs ploys and stratagems continue to take their inevitable toll on the country, its pillars, Constitution, institutions and its blighted people!
Will all the pieces of this enigmatic Pakistan puzzle ever fall back into place and make it a viable, wholesome, united entity again?
Pakistan faces multitudinous existential threats.
One, its internal front is totally polarized, destabilized; a direct consequence of the ongoing political upheaval. The nefarious activities of some unruly mobs against national institutions and monuments were shocking and must be treated with the contempt they deserve. These acts are condemnable and those directly involved and responsible must be brought to justice, promptly and ruthlessly. Selective justice and self-serving pronouncements of moral indignation by the government, however, will be counter-productive. A Rubicon might seem to have been crossed—however, the status quo ante must be restored, post haste. Curiously, a new normal has now emerged on the national political scene. Political parties now tend to openly confront national institutions for a variety of self-serving reasons. While arguably the most popular party is perceived to have confronted the Establishment the other belligerent has locked horns with the Judiciary. The ruling coalition has already carried out a sit-in right at the gate of the SCP and threatened untold consequences unto its occupants on a variety of “assumed would-be grievances”. Where else in the world can such travesties of political, legal, judicial and nationalistic norms take place, without the fear of retribution? Thus, the two national institutions which could have cut through this Gordian knot, have been so demonized by the relentless rhetoric-actions of these parties that they might actually prefer to stay out of this abominable mess altogether!
Two, is Pakistan’s tanking economy. The imports have been reduced to a trickle, the exports are dwindling, industry has ground to a virtual halt, energy costs are unaffordable, the costs of production are prohibitive, inflation and interest rates are skyrocketing, and the buying power of the common man has literally vanished and a massive brain-drain is underway! This has been further compounded by the Government’s inability to sign the Staff Level Agreement with the IMF, which fears that Pakistan might use its dollars to pay off Chinese debts/loans. The IMF is unlikely to oblige, the other IFIs will follow suit and Pakistan’s economy will continue to vacillate precariously on the verge of insolvency. The Government should have done better.
Three, the volatile security environment. Pakistan’s bête noire, the TTP is reportedly joining hands with BRAS in Balochistan. There has been a very perceptible increase in the number and ferocity of terrorist attacks, especially against the Armed Forces. These two India-backed terrorist groups need to be neutralized, pronto. The Army is carrying out intelligence-based kinetic operations against them with remarkable success. The government however seems too preoccupied with its political survival, as the SCP considers the elusive Punjab-KP assembly elections!
What is then the likely end state of this political conundrum? Currently, there is no clarity on the way forward. The ruling Coalition seems adamant about prolonging its tenuous hold on power by all means, fair or foul, while the opposition remains intent upon polls as per the Constitution. (The SCP has yet to rule on it). Their parleys have failed. The prospective mediators have both been made controversial and practically irrelevant to any solution to this quandary. There is no towering political personality available either who could mediate. So, who will then bring about a solution to this issue and how? Can the Establishment and the Judiciary yet get together, as a national duty, and work to bring stability and sanity back to the political spectrum? If that is undoable, then the onus will rest on these political parties to either resolve their differences themselves or failing which, be held accountable for the severe consequences that will befall Pakistan!
The ball is in their court and they are in the people’s court!
Pakistan needs a mature, steady, sagacious leadership which can unite, stabilize and pacify its polity. What we have at the moment clearly does not fit the bill. The political elite and leadership, across the spectrum, have failed Pakistan. Their political shenanigans cannot be accepted by the people, ad infinitum. The common man has had it; the adverse, harsh and unsustainable economic, political and human dimensions of this imbroglio have crushed him. He might just lose patience over his miserable (non)existence and rise violently to ameliorate his lot. There will be no turning back then. It is thus imperative that such a possibility be preempted. The two political belligerents must recognize the severity of the situation and talk while there is still time - before they both lose the options of seeking or retaining power! Free and fair elections, as per the Constitution, is the only plausible way out of this excruciating political cul de sac!

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

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