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Dreams and nightmares

As we rise from a long, dusky slumber and look at ourselves after three quarters of a century, we find ourselves engulfed in multiple crises threatening our very existence today. Pakistan’s crisis today, which is genuinely a polycrisis, looks like a tangled thread ball – and we need to find out what thread to pull to untangle it.

While at the heart of the crisis is the very structure of our state, (national security state), the economic, social and cultural policies pursued at home and the foreign policy executed abroad to strengthen the policies at home, seem to be the fountainhead of the polycrisis we face today.

As a consequence of those policies, we have arrived at this governance, economic, political, security and cultural collapse. We stand at the cusp of a failed state today.

The multiple experiments during the evolution of our post-colonial state – civil bureaucracy dominated to military bureaucracy led, direct martial laws followed by a brief civilian supremacy of ZAB, the troika brand hybrid model of the 1990s, the new hybrid variant from 2008 to 2018 and the 2018-2022 hybrid of the hybrid – have created the polycrisis we face today.

True, economic default stares us in the face today. We are where we are not because of the eight months or, for that matter, the policies of the last four years or the policies of the hybrid of the hybrid regime of Imran Khan. We are here because of the economic policies of many, many decades of all the models that have ruled the roost.

We may resume in the IMF programme and might get a dole out and a few more loans from friendly countries but continuing the economic policies of the past will push us where we might end up as a friendless country with no future.

The current coalition leadership has a daunting challenge in front of them. They can get out of the kitchen if it is too hot, but they would also have to take the responsibility for getting into the kitchen in the first place. The second option is even more challenging. They can also opt for laying the foundation for the much-needed reforms and include those reforms in their election manifestos.

The current taxation system is predatory. It spares the evaders and punishes the payers and is bringing economic collapse. It is not sustainable.

The historical choking of the civilian institutions by the establishment has created the current mess we are in. Although there was an admission by the former COAS and the reiteration not to pursue the policies of the past, we shall see how that resolve is put into practice by the current leadership. Ronald Reagan once said: Trust but verify.

The country must switch from a geostrategic to a geo-economic vision, resolving some and putting on the backburner some with our neighbours to promote regional trade and better economic ties.

The political class and the establishment must agree to an economic vision for the country and ensure political stability, following the rules of the game and saying farewell to political engineering. If we don’t do it, we will sooner rather than later end up as a failed state. A nuclear armed failed state with multiple ethnic, religious, social and class fault lines will be more catastrophic than Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Rwanda, all rolled into one.

More than holding early, on-time or delayed elections, the national consensus on the economic, political and foreign policy for the future is important. Regardless of the shenanigans of Imran Khan and his anarchist policies and actions since his dismissal from power in April last year, no political stability will be achieved if there is no consensus on the big ticket items for the future. Without that consensus, the elections will only act as a catalyst for Armageddon.

Much has been said during each crisis that we can’t have a reform agenda during the crisis. That is how we have added a new crisis each time into the polycrisis we face today.

The history of the struggling nations that have overcome such crises says it loud and clear that they succeeded only because their leadership pulled up their socks and made tough and serious decisions in tough and serious times.

A country of 220 million mouths can’t be fed, looked after, educated, skilled and brought to compete with the comity of nations with no investment in its educational and healthcare systems and with a broken political system, badly bruised and battered over many decades of political engineering and rule of the jungle.

Small islands of affluence for the privileged powerful elites and vast oceans of poverty can’t coexist forever.

For three quarters of a century, the ruling classes of this country have taken its people and their ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity as a liability and dragged us into the royal mess we are in today. Realizing their diversity and potential as an asset shall set us free.

Email: murtazasolangi@gmail.com

Murtaza Solangi, "Dreams and nightmares," The News. 2023-01-05.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political stability , Foreign policy , Bureaucracy , Elections , Ronald Reagan , Imran Khan , Iraq , Libya , COAS