What the government feared has come to pass, with the Chinese President cancelling his visit to the country after his security team found the capital in turmoil too unsafe. This is the third such visit from foreign dignitaries cancelled, but is bound to be the one that hurts us the most, because China’s support (read funding) is critical for many of the power projects planned for the next few years. PML-N spent the past year and half trying to boost the economy through increasing investor confidence. While their efforts have been short of what was promised, the $ 6.6 billion IMF bailout package, and their regular reviews of targets set in the agreement have been brought to a halt ever since the capital has been besieged by the protestors. The correlation of the protests to the downturn in the economy is easily evidenced by the sudden drop in KSE points at the beginning of the marches.

Apart from the obvious problems a blockade of this size causes to the infrastructure of Pakistan, investors need to feel secure in order to part with their money. The public is no different, and indeed, feeling secure, or an illusion of feeling secure, is often more important than safety itself. Put simply, an economy needs people to spend and invest their money, which needs stability. The target in this review was the progress made in the privatisation of PIA and other state-run organisations operating at a loss. The government however, is completely fixated on the disturbance outside the doors of the Parliament, and not without good reason. The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel his visit to Turkey, will hamper dialogue with an important trading partner.

The IMF is not likely to cancel the bailout package for a short run protest that acts as a distraction, but anything worse, such as a consistent failure to meet targets or a fall in the current system will obviously lead to an end to this bailout programme. The arguments against the IMF and its policies have enough basis in fact, but the fact remains that Pakistan and its economy was practically in shambles before the bailout package. And while opposition against the government will not hesitate to list of things done wrong in the economic sector, and clamping down on power theft and tax evasion to make up for revenues instead of borrowing, the necessity of this tranche cannot be denied. An end to the protests needs to come sooner rather than later, and the government is the one responsible to achieve this, unless they want all the work to be undone.