THE World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 takes a grim view of what lies ahead in our collective future, and for a good reason. With a cost-of-living crisis, natural disasters, failure to mitigate climate change, geoeconomic confrontations and a general breakdown of social structures ranking as the top five global risks over the next two years, there is much to worry about. The Swiss INGO has also identified a laundry list of Pakistan’s woes — a debt crisis, sustained and/or rapid inflation, state collapse and a heightened risk of default. It warns that the “affordability and availability of basic necessities can stoke social and political instability”, which could spiral into much larger stability issues for a country like Pakistan. Particularly chilling is the related warning of “A combination of extreme weather events and constrained supply” leading to “a catastrophic scenario of hunger and distress for millions in import-dependent countries or turn the energy crisis towards a humanitarian crisis in the poorest emerging markets”. Disquietingly, this is exactly what seems to be happening in Pakistan, which has started to feel the aftershocks of last year’s devastating monsoon rains. With the country out of foreign exchange with which to fund imports, and food stocks depleted or at risk of being depleted due to the widespread destruction of crops and farmland in the 2022 deluge, food prices have recently begun driving the latest round of crippling inflation. If they remain unchecked, they will unleash social upheaval on a scale unseen in recent history.
None of the major risks to Pakistan identified in the WEF report can be addressed without some sort of national consensus on how we must move forward. Unfortunately, our political parties remain unwilling to work with each other or even to work out an arrangement under which they can coexist while keeping open hostilities to a minimum. As a result, the public appetite for a politics of compromise has fallen, and the citizenry has grown increasingly keen on confrontation. This is a dangerous path to set the country on. Whether held early or on time, general elections alone are not the answer. Our politicians will need each other beyond them as well. They must see reason and lay down some ground rules; that is, unless they would rather shove the country into an inferno than compromise on their individual interests.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2023