In the last few weeks a number of commentators have argued that the various stakeholders involved in the political battle royale that has been going on in Pakistan over the last 6 months should come to a quick compromise or solution to the outstanding issues, and focus attention on the economic problems confronting the nation since the situation is deteriorating fast and needs quick and resolute action. There is indeed little doubt that the economic situation is grave and becoming more and more difficult by the day. Even if everyone in the government acted resolutely it is not going to be easy to manage the economic crises that we are facing, and there aren't any quick fixes possible. And it is also true that the coalition government has not been able to act resolutely, decisively and with a clear strategy in mind. But, for me, the problem arises when commentators attribute the lack of action, strategy and resoluteness to the political and other problems that are going on, or imply that due to the political issues the government has not been able to face the economic ones. Even more problematic is the notion that the economic and political problems can be separated from each other and that economic problems have a lexicographic primacy over the political ones. The political problems are there indeed. We need to resolve the issues related to the sacked judges, the illegality of what was done on November 3, the illegality of the martial law, as well as issues related to powers of the army chief and the president. We need to resolve issues related to the future of Mr Musharraf, and we need to resolve issues related to cases against political opponents, the complications emanating from the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and so on. None of these problems are trivial and some of them are indeed difficult to solve as well. The army is not going to be happy seeing the balance of power shift against them and in favour of a political system, the politicians and the rent-seekers are not going to be too thrilled with a powerful and independent judiciary. But, if democracy is going to work in Pakistan, at some point these issues will need to be resolved and the proper balance within the various institutions will have to be restored. There is nothing wrong with the 'genius' of the people in Pakistan: they can work with democracy as well as any other people " provided, of course, that the historical weight of institutional distortions in forms of non-representative governments, illegal martial laws, weak judiciary and so on can be addressed. This task needs to be undertaken if the political problems mentioned above are to be addressed. The task is no doubt large and needs sustained efforts over many years, in many areas, and with a variety of tactics. But that cannot be a reason for ignoring the issues. In fact, to the contrary, it just tells us that the political/judicial/institutional problems have to remain a high priority item for any and every democratic government that comes to power in Pakistan. But these imperatives cannot surely be a reason for the present government in power to ignore economic issues. What is stopping the government from focusing on the economic issues? Do they not have enough people who can focus on the political and the economic issues at the same time? Is the argument that the main 'brains' behind the government are so pre-occupied with the political issues that they do not have time to focus on the economic. That would be a really silly argument to even present, far less for anyone to find it credible or give it any weight. The PPP is one of the oldest and most established parties of the country. It has, within the coalition, some of the people who have been in governments, off and on, for long periods. If all of these people together cannot multi-task it says a lot about the quality of people involved instead of the gravity of the problems at hand. Pakistani economy and polity is, like any other developing society, a complex society with complex and protracted problems. These problems need long-term, sustainable efforts to address. And some of the bigger problems will need development of society-wide consensus before they can be adequately addressed. If the present government is finding dealing with the political and the economic at the same time hard, it had better invest in some human resource development and quickly. Furthermore, it is strange to compartmentalise the economic and the political/legal/institutional in the manner being suggested. The economic situation and potential of a country is dependent on the political/legal/institutional structure and organisational concrete of a country and, in turn, also shapes them. It is very myopic of some commentators to suggest that we should worry about the economic situation right now as we have a crisis and the political issues can wait. The economic situation is bad in a large part due to the poor fundamental structures of the society and these, clearly, depend on the political and legal institutions of the country. If property rights are not secure, if contracts do not mean anything, if judicial recourse is not available in a country, then, apart from the fact that we are not living in a nice society, it also means that we are not living in a nice 'market' either. If markets cannot work properly in our country, how can the economic issues be tackled on a sustainable basis? Furthermore, the economic issues are so entangled with the rest of the issues we face that it is fairly ingenuous to argue that we can deal with them in a peace-meal fashion. We can go back and try the Washington Consensus of getting prices right yet again, but as it failed over the last few years, it will fail again. Balancing the budget, managing the foreign currency account and so on are important but only as a part of an overall strategy of development, not as isolated elements. So, we need to resolve the political issues in tandem with the economic. And the parties in power should have enough depth to be able to do this. If they do not, they better develop it quickly or they are just in the wrong business altogether. The main issue, it seems, is that the government in power does not have a strategy for dealing with either the economic or the political issues. If the government has been thwarted from implementing things it should be able to at least point out what its medium to long-term economic and political strategy is. But it has no document to be able to do that. The election manifestos did not have much of a strategy, the budget was a hastily put together document (and is not the right place for the strategy anyway), there have been very few policy statements from the bigger parties in the coalition, and the speeches of the prime minister have been weak and disappointing so far, while the speeches/press statements/press conferences of the leaders of the coalition partners have been empty of content. So no wonder many apologists in various parties are looking for excuses for their lack of action. To argue that the political issues are taking so much space, time and effort that they are not allowing the economic issues to be tackled as top priority seems to be a complete red herring. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing stopping the coalition from focusing on the economic issues in tandem with the political, as it should be. The crux of the matter seems to be, as with the political issues, that the selfish and narrow interests of the coalition partners are not allowing the coalition to do right by the people on both the political and the economic front. These interests are not allowing the coalition to come up with a needed strategy to cope with the issues. The coalition is a popularly elected government with every right to govern and tackle issues as it deems fit. But if it does not start to deal with the issues in a systematic and effective manner soon, on all fronts, the future of democracy in Pakistan will remain as shaky and uncertain as it has been for the last many decades. The writer is an associate professor at LUMS and an economic analyst E-mail: