Charter of the economy

Published June 9, 2022

WITH the economy in turmoil and no easy fixes on hand, it would be ideal if lawmakers from across the political divide were to pledge to work together to improve it. Given the reality, however, the prime minister’s desire for a ‘charter of the economy’ is likely to remain a pipe dream.

One wishes that 75 years of independence would have yielded us an agreement that the economic future of more than 200m souls cannot be left to the vagaries of Pakistan’s power politics. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s democracy appears to have much farther to go before it reaches that point of maturity.

For Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s wish for a ‘charter of the economy’ to become reality, it is also necessary that he first acknowledge his own party’s role in precipitating public distrust in economic decision-making at the government level.

Before the PML-N and its allied parties pushed the PTI out of power, Mr Sharif had noisily challenged every decision the PTI government took to increase fuel and electricity prices, claiming the citizenry would be delivered from the clutches of painful inflation if only Imran Khan were to be removed. By now appealing for a ‘charter of the economy’, Mr Sharif seems to have acknowledged that he may have been in over his head.

On a related note, Mr Sharif also needs to come to terms with the fact that the PTI is likely to remain a major political force for the foreseeable future. Any charter of the economy is unlikely to hold till the party is accommodated.

Read: Charter of economy

At the same time, it also cannot be ignored that Mr Khan’s stubborn and unyielding approach to politics is likely to be the biggest obstacle to a breakthrough even if the PTI were to be formally invited to sit with the other parties to solve the economic conundrum. Three years of his party’s struggles to get a grip on the economy ought to have taught him better. Mr Khan would do well to remember how citizens would routinely dig up old clips and tweets to disparage his government, even when the decisions it was taking may have been the right ones.

Given Pakistan’s electoral history, aspiring prime ministers must at some point accept that their party’s economic plans are likely to be cut short before its mandated five years are up. While the transiency of power may be acceptable as a feature of Pakistani democracy, the economy need not be subject to it.

There first needs to be an agreement that cynical politicking over the economy should not be a means to gain public support, as it makes future decision-making all the more difficult. Before parties arrive at that understanding, however, it seems more reasonable to expect the sun to rise from the west than to see them actually working together for the greater good.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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