Pseudo nationalist sentiments have resurfaced following the persistent assertion by PTI Chairman Imran Khan that he was removed from power by a foreign conspiracy.
Before coming into power, Mr Khan had pledged to the nation that he would never seek a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) though it is clear by now that he had then no plans to manage the challenging macro-economic imbalances.
The PTI government accepted stiff IMF terms without any serious negotiations to avail of the $6 billion facilities. The nationalist sentiments fanned earlier were purged by the IMF agreement.
Now the PTI’s conspiracy theory has been rejected by the majority in the National Assembly, leading opinion builders, independent economists, the business community and the core establishment.
The nation’s time and energy should not be wasted on pointless confrontation when the country badly needs to build a national consensus to evolve a home-grown model for equitable socio-economic development
Yet Mr Khan’s instance has helped him draw big crowds, particularly of youths in his protest meetings possibly supported by a minor segment in the establishment.
However, the real issue facing the PTI is: will the confrontational approach help the party to win the elections when it did not help Mr Khan to consolidate his power base and proved to be a hurdle in rebuilding the economy? The party needs to rethink why and how the PML-N returned to power including the role of the conciliatory approach of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Similarly, in the international arena, the lingering confrontation/tension-ridden global crises that led to the fragmentation of the international market is becoming counterproductive. The western sanctions against Moscow have turned into a double-edged weapon hurting countries on both sides of the fence.
The effect of Western sanctions on the US economy, the end of pandemic-related relief measures and interest rate hikes have raised fears of a recession in the United States. Some top American economists fear that the rising US interest rate carries the risk of a recession as clearly indicated, among other developments, by the loss of buoyancy in middle-class housing markets owing to costly unaffordable housing loans.
The unity of Europe against Russia has come under strain with the first sign of policy divergence: Germany’s stance on the import of Russian oil and gas.
The just-released IMF’s World Economic Outlook notes that a high debt burden could hold back growth in developed economies by 0.9 per cent and in emerging markets by 1.3pc over the next three years. The World Bank is planning to create a $170bn crisis fund to help the poor countries. The debt-driven globalisation is making the problem of sustained economic growth more baffling.
In resumed negotiations with Pakistan, the IMF officials propose that they would take into account the impact of the Ukraine war on Pakistan’s economy. That virtually means the effect of the abnormal rise in global energy and food prices on imports.
In Pakistan, Imran Khan’s arbitrary decisions and relentless confrontation with anyone who crossed his path crippled the support that brought him into power. He was unable to keep his party and the coalition partners united under his leadership.
The PTI leadership needs to review some of its decisions: Will a foreign conspiracy or inflation, unemployment and poverty be in people’s minds when casting their votes?
Can the issue of why Mr Khan was removed from power be sustained till the holding of the national polls? Then how would the street protests translate into constituency politics?
So far the middle class whose support the PTI is depending on has been confined to the periphery in power politics. For example, the Jamaat-Islami and MQM-P have been the least influential coalition partners of the PTI government.
No doubt, empowered by the latest technologies the middle class is playing an increasing role in the economy as well politics owing to the faltering elitist political economy.
The PTI also needs to review its confrontationist policies that impact adversely political stability in an ailing economy. He is running the risk of being isolated from the dominant segment of the business community.
To avoid serious economic disruptions, Pakistan needs to reduce heavy dependence both on foreign loans and expertise. However, existing economic and financial cooperation must be strengthened where bilateral common interests converge.
To resolve overwhelming domestic and external challenges, a highly-indebted Pakistan needs an enhanced and diversified level of international cooperation and trade to put the ailing economy on an even keel.
Similarly, on the domestic front, the nation’s time and energy should not be wasted on pointless confrontation when the country badly needs to build a national consensus to evolve an equitable home-grown model for socio-economic development.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 25th, 2022