Spearhead Analysis – 15.01.2019
Right now different perspectives exist on the state of the state of Pakistan. Basically there are two views and these are diametrically opposed to each other with no real middle ground on which you could hang your hat and say that this is the reality. If this were so then the extremes could be ignored but this is not so and you would have to be an ostrich to ignore what is swirling around and creating uncertainty and confusion. Uncertainty is the last thing the country needs not when it is in the cross hairs of the FATF, the financial rating agencies, the various indices that determine national standings and the world in general—not when your passport has been rated 102 out of 104.
There is the view that we have a popularly elected government that struggled long and hard in the electoral process to win. The victory was made possible because of the poor performance of the other two parties when they were the government and the fact that both were tainted by allegations of corruption. The other view is that the party now in power won because it was backed and supported by the ‘establishment’ and through pre-poll manipulation of the political scene.
There is the view that the government came into power with its homework done, eager to fulfil electoral promises and has set to work with a competent team and a sense of purpose. Others think that the government was surprised by its win, that it had no blue print for action. That it has an inexperienced and barely competent team to deliver governance and that it is fumbling in every sphere.
A segment of the population that includes experts thinks that the economy is tanking with no structural reform plans in the offing and a total reliance on bail-outs for survival. The rupee is down 33% with no worthwhile gains and the lack of decision making is creating uncertainty in the economic sphere. The other part of the population thinks that we have an honest government in place that has acted to secure finances to stave off the immediate crisis and has gained time for policies to be put in place that will give the country a viable economic environment.
In the foreign policy domain one view is that the government is a façade and that the real decisions are being made by the ‘establishment’. The result being that we are on the wrong side of the US and that we have lined up with those who oppose our neighbor Iran and that India is reaping the benefits of our lapses as it moves towards regional connectivity sans Pakistan and gets established in Afghanistan. The other view is that we stood up to the US and that relations are on an even if not positive track and that we have reassured Iran and sought to capitalize on the potential of the CPEC with China’s concurrence. The government may be getting input from the ‘establishment’ –this being perfectly kosher– and is increasingly asserting itself.
There is the thinking that the military having sidelined the terrorist treat and vastly improved the internal security environment is firmly in the security saddle and wielding the whip hand in the entire security domain as it secures the western border, neutralizes externally supported dissidents in Baluchistan and holds its own against India on the LOC. There is also the thinking that the government is getting down to institutional reforms and capacity building that will give it the resources to assert itself in the security domain without ruffling feathers. Also that with a realization of the present situation it is being restrained and is allowing the military to give it time and space for progress in the security linked economic sphere.
There is the opinion that the government is inactive in Parliament and that the PM hardly ever makes an appearance and that the opposition is gaining an upper hand as it unites under a common ‘accountability pressure’. The other side thinks that the government is biding its time so that the judicial process under way reaches conclusion and the political environment permits full political activity.
With these different perspectives it is obvious that the government must act to change negative perspectives and not allow them to persist and perhaps, in time, prevail. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that heavy handedness to muzzle opinion under the hybrid war threat is going to be counter- productive. Also that accountability of individuals with no focus on the system that has bred corruption is going to do more harm than good. That a sound security environment requires movement on multiple tracks with all institutions and the economic uplift will come after hardship. And finally that the best way forward is to deliver governance and convince the negative thinking segment that the positive view is closer to reality—and this means addressing negative views not bashing them by invoking the past or getting involved in a blame game. Being supported by the ‘establishment’ is a positive not a negative because that is how it should be. Onwards to ‘naya Pakistan’ sans doubting and negativeThomases.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)