111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

Pakistan’s place in a changing world

It’s a shame that Pakistan is going down the gutter just when a changing, increasingly multipolar world is triggering a “battle of offers” between big powers as they rush to cement alliances with “strategic third countries”. US and its G7 partners, due to meet in Hiroshima, Japan on 19 May 2023, have reportedly prepared fresh commercial incentives for individually identified “key partner states” to counter a slow and small but very clear shift towards Russia and China, especially their plans to diversify international trade out of the dollar, that caught both the US and EU completely off guard after the Ukraine war.

But the list of intended recipients of this generosity that Bloomberg and Reuters reporters have duly sniffed out includes countries like Brazil, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, even South Africa despite the recent standoff with Washington that sent the rand into a tailspin, India, Bangladesh, etc.; not Pakistan. IMF’s refusal to resume the bailout facility even though the government has fulfilled all “prior actions”, and paid a heavy political price for it, shows that they will not throw any more good money after bad money as the competition for resources heats up.

G7 already fears that its summit will be overshadowed by a show of China’s “granular diplomacy” as President Xi hosts a China-Central Asia summit at the same time. Then, in July, President Putin is sure to put Russia’s usual basket of fertilisers, grain, also tactical weapons and nuclear energy technology on the market when he greets African leaders in St Petersburg and blames western sanctions for the commodity price volatility that is devastating their economies.

Pakistan could easily have found a spot among grateful states receiving favours at bottom dollar as both camps sprinkle favours to establish strategic partnerships in the third world. But its political elite’s blind lust for power, its military establishment’s obsession with playing kingmaker, and its judiciary’s habit of punching above its weight, even as the country goes to the dogs, have finally triggered an implosion that’s making even old friends shy away from their traditional role of lenders of last resort. It’s also why we’ve just missed the bus to a new world order where alliances will be bargained for intrinsic, quantifiable deliverables like debt write-offs and solid infrastructure investments.

It also explains why we’ll have no say at all when the whole world’s attention turns to the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – meeting in Johannesburg in August. We’re not in the running as the bloc debates including 19 new hopeful entrants and the feasibility of introducing a common currency; a policy option that has been gaining momentum since Russia and China began sidestepping the dollar to avoid US and EU sanctions.

That’s not all. We’re also left without much of a voice in historic developments within the Muslim world; a sorry reflection on our self-created Fort of Islam status. The Saudi-Iran thaw that is coming full circle with Syria’s return to the Arab League has involved many countries, from Egypt to Qatar, with not so much as a whisper about Pakistan except when they wish to add Afghanistan in the minutes of some of their meetings. Tehran and Riyadh shaking hands, especially finishing the proxy war in Syria, puts an end to the long and ugly conflict that threw billions of dollars and combined the military and financial might of the US, EU, GCC and Turkey in the bid to destroy the Arab world’s last Baathist dynastic dictatorship. Yet far more importantly, it signals the end of the era of sectarian militias and could well be the most meaningful push to heal the Shi’a-Sunni divide across the Muslim world in centuries.

There are clear signs that the world is changing. And it’s also clear that our political leadership’s inability and unwillingness to see beyond their own nose, and care for nothing more than their own power and privileges despite unprecedented inflation, unemployment and the threat of default, has already robbed us of any meaningful place in the new world. As the global south moves to exploit emerging trade and business opportunities to benefit its people and the Muslim bloc tries to lean from its mistakes and bury the hatchet, there’s no place for a country whose top politicians are bending over backwards to tear down institutions and wreck the whole country just so they can rule over its ashes; and rightly so.

Shahab Jafry, "Pakistan’s place in a changing world," Business recorder. 2023-05-18.
Keywords: Social sciences , Civil war , Social change , Political conflict , President Putin , Pakistan , China , Ukraine , Syria , EU , GCC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *