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Political jalsas and fading public interest

Unlike the past, when political rallies by opposition led to uncertainty in markets, shutter-down and difficulty in public movement – all of this appears to be fading away. In the midst of the recent wave of political rallies held by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in various parts of the country, it was largely business as usual. The capital market is the barometer of market sentiments and is the fastest to react in the face of uncertainty and political turmoil. This time it remained unfazed. The PSX index, at the peak of political temperature, gained 1,115 points and thereafter followed its own pattern of fluctuations. The sales of cars, cement, steel and other construction sectors continued to surge.

Despite the squeeze on family income and COVID-19 the consumer market too witnessed a spike in consumer demand for all types of products. The business segment, which remained largely unmoved by the rising political temperature, was the textile industry. It’s never been so good for them since years. They ignored all potential spoilers.

The pandemic-related disruptions and trade barriers such as higher tariffs on key suppliers (China and India) opened up a window of opportunity for Pakistani exporters. The changing market dynamics in the West, where economic stress increased the share of low-end products in the market, also worked to the advantage of Pakistan.

Perhaps the key factor which influenced the indifference of business sector and the public at large is their realisation that all these rallies in the name of economy, inflation, democracy and public welfare are a hoax and these are more of score settling between political rivals. Even, the have-nots are now unmoved with the political slogans of ‘roti, kapra and makan’.

The promises made by politicians during election campaigns are not honoured. The exposition of this default, on part of politicians, was exhibited in an unprecedented level of demonstration by all segments of the citizens of Karachi – as a consequence to the misery faced by them due to rain havoc.

With this lack of public faith in politicians, no public movement is expected to emerge out of these rallies, as is evident from the recent wave of gatherings by joint opposition where the cause in public interest was insignificant to mobilise any movement.

Nevertheless, the jalsas will continue to draw crowds for different reasons and the media will continue to give coverage and space to them. But, here too with over the tons of coverage and endless talk shows lacking substance are more a source of amusement and past-time for the viewers than any sensible takeaway.

It is a good beginning but the real change will emerge when the businessmen and public come forth and exercise their obligations of voting the right candidates into our assembly.

Farhat Ali, "Political jalsas and fading public interest," Business Recorder. 2020-11-07.
Keywords: Social sciences , Political jalsas , Capital market , Pakistani exporters , Election campaigns , Democracy , Pakistan , China , India

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