Sat, 05 Dec 2020

Bursting at the seams: Can Pakistan survive?

ANI
28 Oct 2020, 18:27 GMT+10

By Dr Amjad Ayub MirzaGlasgow [UK], October 28 (ANI): The hat trick of Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) public rallies in Pakistan has proved one point beyond doubt that the Pakistan Army has been brought into the domain of grassroot public debate as never before.

Three times prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, now living in exile in the UK, accused the Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Faiz Hameed of engineering the ascent to power of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan.

He has thus not only exposed the uncanny role of the military establishment in running the affairs of the executive by publically unmasked the creepy character of the military institution which according to Nawaz Sharif has developed into a 'state above the state'.

Each one of the speakers at the PDM rallies has endorsed the speech of Nawaz Sharif which, despite efforts by the current government to sabotage it by switching off the internet, were broadcast live at the Gujranwala and Quetta rallies on October 16 and 25 respectively. The thousands who came to listen to their leaders did not buy accusations by the spin-doctors of the PTI government that PDM was following an anti-Pakistan, pro-India agenda.

Imran Khan has lost his credibility as a ruler. And rightly so. His election promise that he will restore the dignity of the Pakistani people by not borrowing money from foreign countries or banks was thwarted on the very next day of his election victory (July 26, 2018) when his handpicked finance minister Assad Omer told the media that they have to go to the IMF for an emergency loan. Since then Imran Khan has been globetrotting asking for financial help. In the first year of his governance, Imran Khan government had accumulated a total of Rs. 7,509 billion of public debt.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the total public debt at the end of the fiscal year June 2019 stood at Rs 31.786 trillion! Assad Omer warned that the country was near bankruptcy. In November 2019 the State Bank of Pakistan shocked the country by revealing that during the 13 months of Imran Khan's government the total debt of Pakistan of 71 years was up by 35 per cent adding Rs 10,000 billion to debt in the same period.

The mismanagement of the economy led to a skyrocketing price hike of almost every item of daily necessity. However, it was the 262 per cent jump in the price of 100 local and imported medicines that shocked the nation. These medicines included those used for high blood pressure, glaucoma, and epilepsy, to treat seizures during pregnancy, cancer, and rabies. The price of vegetables and meat also saw an increase of 20 to 50 per cent on a weekly basis.

Exports were in steep decline as well in Pakistan and it was reported in January 2020 that country's exports had declined by USD 61 million to USD 1.937 billion when compared with the same period in January 2019, hence, exports, in January 2020, showed a negative growth of 3.4 per cent. But the real bombshell was dropped when it was announced that for the first time in 68 years Pakistan's Gross National Product (GDP) had slipped into negative growth of 0.38 per cent and the industrial sector showed a negative growth of 2.27 per cent in 2018-19Added to the above misfortunes were the sugar and flour scandals that revealed billions of rupees of corruption by those who were close associates of Imran Khan. The political witch hunt of the opposition parties and curb on print and broadcast media by the Imran Khan government and the prime ministers' stubbornness in resolving the political deadlock were viewed as lack of political genius and seem to have played an instrumental role in the formation of the eleven party alliance of PDM.

As Pakistan struggled to grapple with the free-fall downward trend in the economy, its failure to galvanise international support against India after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, developed into serious diplomatic isolation. Not only that Pakistan failed to call for a UN Human Rights Council session on the Kashmir issue but the very fact that the Organisation of Islamic Community (OIC) also refused to take up the issue completely knocked out the Imran Khan government in the ring of international diplomacy.

The cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy has been anti-India propaganda and when the world turned the other way and refused to buy Pakistan's diplomatic commodity based on hate-mongering against India, it not only alienated the country further but also had a devastating effect on the psychology of the general population. Hence in all of the PDM rallies, speakers have criticised Imran Khan for being responsible for the so-called 'Sakoot-e-Kashmir' (Fall of Kashmir).

China has become weary of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) since no work has been carried out on building the CPEC infrastructure since the Imran Khan government came to power. The Chairman of the CPEC Authority General (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa has been accused of being involved in billions of dollars of corruption and running at least 99 pizza franchises in the US in the name of his family members. Opposition to CPEC from the locals in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has been growing and Pakistan's attempts to merge GB in Pakistan have been met with conclusive opposition from all sections of society.

The election due on November 15 in Gilgit- Baltistan are seen as a tactical measure on behalf of Imran Khan to bring a PTI government in power in GB, however, that possibility seems farfetched. With the presence of Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in GB who is running a marathon election campaign, the possibility at best seems to be the formation of a coalition government.

Protests in PoK against bad road conditions, lack of health facilities and schools and against price hike have become a daily occurrence. Insurgency in Baluchistan is gaining momentum with the Baloch freedom fighters gaining experience in guerrilla warfare tactics and striking the Pakistan army check posts and convoys on almost a daily basis.

Similarly in Sindh, rural and urban Sindh are fast coming on the same page against the imperial extortion and land grab by Pakistan. The most recent example being the opposition Pakistan had to face against a Presidential decree regarding Pakistan Island Development Authority that would bring the island of Indian Ocean in the Sindh water territory under the federal control. On October 6 the provincial assembly of Sindh passed a resolution that unanimously rejected the presidential ordinance.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has become a force that cannot be ignored. It is demanding an enquiry into the atrocities that the Pakistan Army has committed during the so-called war on terror killing thousands of local innocent tribal.

In a nutshell, Pakistan is bursting at its seams. The question is can Pakistan survive as a viable nation-state? Well, the answer to this question depends on many factors. Internal factors that would decide the fate of Pakistan include her distancing itself from the two-nation theory that is the basis of its most negative India-hate narrative. Besides Pakistan will have to decisively reform its army and intelligence institutions and bar them from any interference in public space whether it be political, economic or social. All military business concerns must be nationalised and then privatised.

Externally, Pakistan has to mend its ways with India by returning the occupied territories of PoJK and GB. Disengage with sponsoring terrorism and providing safe havens for foreign terrorists and dismantle its terror infrastructure including training camps and financial assistance.

Unless as Maryam Nawaz, the vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) slogan 'Vote ko izzat do" (Respect the vote) is established as a governing principle of democracy in Pakistan, there will be more chaos which should be a cause of concern for regional peace.

Hence, it will be up to the regional powers, big or small, to join hands in the greater interest of global peace and economic stability to help indigenous freedom movements to help dismember the artificial state of Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The author of this opinion article is Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, who is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. (ANI)

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