PAKISTAN is probably facing an existential crisis that can be ranked second to the events of 1971. Contrary to the general perception, elections are no solution to the grave economic challenges as the nation moves closer to default.

No political party, or for that matter the combined political leadership in the shape of national government, can prevent the looming disaster on multiple fronts. The situation requires bold and crucial political and economic reforms; it entails far reaching decisions that no political leadership would dare to attempt, such as abolishing the feudal system and land reforms, revising the 1973 Constitution to take care of anomalies, shortcomings and gaps to institute better checks and balances.

Then we need to create more provinces, provide broader constitutional cover. We need to revisit the National Finance Commission (NFC) award as it has weakened the centre. Agricultural income should be taxed and there must be ruthless austerity in non-development expenditure alongside 10 per cent reduction in the pay/allowances and pensions of all current and former government employees. Going forward, the pension scheme should be made contributory.

Our defence expenditure needs to be reduced, particularly in the combatant segment and there should be a total and long-term ban on the import of luxury and non-essential goods; it is allowed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in case of worsening reserves/balance of payments position. Besides, we should go for demonetisation of Rs5,000 note to make corruption/money-laundering difficult.

Who will do all this? No political party or alliance or setup can shore up the courage to implement the measures that are bound to be unpopular in the short term. A non-political government can do this if put in place for at least three years. And who will put such a system in place? That is where the bigger problem lies. The fact of the matter is that we need another Quaid-i-Azam to put the nation on the right track. This of course is nothing but a pipedream.

There seems to be no solution to the country’s political and economic mess. This is what an existential crisis in essence means.

Arif Majeed
Karachi

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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