Imran Khan and his squad have braved through the opening challenge and PTI is all set to form the federal government and those in Punjab and K-P after exhibiting a convincing tally. Governments in Sindh and Balochistan are also likely to be formed slickly. The hubbub about purported rigging and manipulation is tapering off as it typically ensues in almost all the elections in our country. As the time closes for IK to take over as the prime minister of Pakistan, the nation also gets into anxious but an upbeat mood. The expectations are high and so is the pile of challenges IK and his team are faced with. Both domestic glitches and external challenges will not only require an unending resolve but the acumen of a statesman.
The opposition is intrinsic to the parliamentary system. Have no doubts that the opposition in both the parliamentary houses will go whole hog to make the going arduous for the government. One expects traditional parliamentary acumen and calculated restraint from PPP, but PML N has a strong stimulus to create a mess whenever they get an opportunity to do so. The party and its leaders are still in a state of bewilderment in the upshot of elections. Particularly it is hard for them to reconcile that their all-important throttlehold over Punjab has ended. The treasury benches will find it tough to push the legislative bills as the opposing benches may not oblige. PTI in general and IK himself in particular, will have to change posture from being rhetorically critical to being constructively communicative. If parliamentary business is not run with political dexterity and altruism, it spills over to the streets in form of agitation.
The challenges we face are complex and intertwined. The changing global and regional geopolitical actualities have serious implications for Pakistan. The stressed relations between US and China, that have undertones of a cold war of a sort, have put Pakistan in a difficult spot. Our bond with China is sturdier than ever, while relations with Russia have rapidly become more significant. US does not view CPEC favourably and has already started to chastise Pakistan. From being our ally, the US is gradually turning into an antagonist in its actions. Similarly US – Turkey relations are in an abyss and long-time strategic partnership seems to be dwindling. US under Donald Trump is trigger happy - ready to shoot with sanctions anyone not assenting. Relations with India continue to be at low key with Indo – US nexus against Pakistan more pronounced and operative. Afghanistan has its own issues of instability and our relations are barely transactional. Terrorist actions are being aided and abetted from Afghanistan. Recent surge in terrorist attacks in Gilgit – Baltistan and Balochistan leave no doubt that the intention is to disrupt CPEC, with US and India behind the scheme. Middle East is troubled with unique alliances and unanticipated polarization. Endeavours to isolate Iran have gathered momentum with possible scuttling of the nuclear deal. Such a milieu will require a dexterous foreign policy, superior diplomacy and, above all, highly capable people to execute. We have to stupendously balance our relations with all the significant global players and play smart – it’s walking a tight rope.
It’s the best arrangement to have cordial relations with the neighbours including India. Both India and Pakistan must revert to the negotiating table whatever severity of animosity. Peace is the real panacea for the tribulations of South Asia. Having said that, it is a stark fact that India is the key player in unleashing the worst spate of terrorism in our country as part of a grouping hell-bent to destabilize it for their own strategic interests. India has ingenious ways of harming us. It had shrewdly entrapped former PM Nawaz Sharif into actions that hurt the very national interests of Pakistan. Wear a velvet glove on your iron fist and beware of the cloak and dagger.
About the recovery of ailing economy, the path to resuscitation will not be easier. IMF bailout package seems inevitable to address the balance of payment situation, which is likely to be on tougher conditions. The nation needs to seriously resort to austerity measures and desist from wasteful expenditures – not due to stress from IMF but for own benefit. Exports need a boost at top priority while being selective on imports redressing the trade deficit. Currently our exports stand at around paltry 7% of GDP as compared to 28% average in developing Asia. Industrial growth is inevitable because it’s a tool for self – reliance, job opportunities and export potential. Overseas employment, shrunk due to inept policies in the last decade, has to be revived. We need to convalesce our agriculture sector by incentivizing farmers, modernizing and ensuring availability of irrigation water. The whole gambit of revenue collection is imperfect. Systematic documentation of economy is essential to broaden the tax collection. In nutshell, focus on short term measures within a long term vision. Economic self-assurance will put everything in place and make us more honourable in the comity of nations.
IK’s success as a leader and as the prime minister hinges on how well he delivers on promises about governance and ameliorating the miseries of a common man. Have people centric policies and strategies that take care of the teeming millions waiting for a messiah. Symbolic gesticulations are okay as these set the trends, but tangible relief to the people is a need of the time. Focus on population planning without irking the religious sensitivities. After the 18th amendment, most of the onus of taking care of basic needs of masses rests with the provincial governments. A good working relation with all of them, particularly with the governments of Sindh and Baluchistan, are essential to resuscitate the moribund system of governance. Revival and effectiveness of the local governments is the key.
Unison is strength and that’s what Pakistan needs the most at present. You must work towards bringing the nation, its institutions and people together. It would require benevolence, valour and statesmanship. Make whole of Pakistan one team with a winning spirit and nothing is out of reach of this nation.
Best of luck, Prime Minister .
n The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and
is a freelance writer.