Those addicted to speculations are having a field say. There is the thinking that a single master mind is behind all that is happening in the country today but then, this mind has to be acting against the country’s interests including its own interests so it is unlikely that this could even be a possibility. You could blame it all on an ‘external mind’ – possible given the hostility from the east but they can at best exploit the situation not engineer it. This leads some to talk about an inept government that is unable to control events and therefore multiple issues are surfacing—unlikely because the government wants to gain credibility. The most accepted line of thought is that there is a government and supporting it is the country’s most powerful institution and together they are tackling the issues facing the country and managing the multiple issues that are raising their heads. So far this management has managed to avert a major crisis and is in fact putting the country on the road to stability and an international image of tolerance and zero support for militancy, terror and violence simply because these do not mesh with the drive towards stability—-nor does a conflict situation of any sort.

The ‘combo’ in charge managed to avoid default or even a catastrophic economic collapse. They reached out and got emergency support and then got IMF support that included clear cut directions in which to move. This is ongoing and it involves restructuring, revenue increases from taxation and an end to the institutions-leaders’ connivance for money laundering and disastrous policies of the past for political survival and futures. The undocumented economy is being digitized and documented and financial controls strengthened. Unrestrained country and government bashing is being controlled. This is causing hardship and leading to protests from all the quarters that are being hit directly or indirectly. There is no doubt that there is a drastic slowdown in economic and trade activity with a consequent fall-out on the socio economic environment with those at the lower rungs suffering the most. It is difficult to stop wallowing in the past and suffer the pain that future stability entails.

The country-wide shut down by the traders will hurt but it has to be seen in the context of what they are being asked to implement and then decide on an acceptable policy that takes us forward and not backwards. It will be unfortunate if the strike continues or morphs into street protests linking with the other protests taking place. There is the doctors strike now in its second month and causing misery and pain for the common man. This too could turn ugly.  The major protest march on Islamabad from all over the country by a religious political party relying on madressah and religious elements’ support is ongoing with the government giving maximum leeway. The theory that some kind of tailwind was driving the maulanas has not found takers because the ones who could create such a tail wind are unlikely to get into such a situation. The protest is badly timed because it comes so soon after an FATF meeting that has pressured Pakistan to act on its observations and Pakistan has committed to do so and is in fact doing so. A show of militant looking organized forces and seminary supported political activity will not send the right message. The single point demand that the Prime Minister must resign takes the protest into a dead end street and no one really understands why the PM should resign and how it will help if he does, given the state of the political institution. In fact, demands for electoral reforms and steps for political and economic stability would have made more sense.

There is no doubt that much work by ‘combined’ teams went into taking us out of the Karkare and, hopefully the Reko Diq conundrums. It was again a team effort that saved us in the FATF meeting and hopefully this will steer us out of the ‘grey list’. The news that military heavyweights are being inducted into the structures that are to deliver results has sent a wave of assurance and confidence –the Chief of Army Staff is already part of the National Economic Development Council. There will be criticism but the bottom line is that this is the time when the structural and organizational strength of institutions has to be behind the government to orchestrate all the elements of national power. There is a world-wide economic downturn and unfettered democracy is taking a back seat to strong leadership that can deliver results—the alternative is chaos and anarchy because of socio economic drivers. The government needs a realistic socio-economic vision to develop and maintain its support base. We need to note that a prolonged economic crisis with no relief from unresponsive institutions can transcend sect, ethnic, political and other divides to bring people together in future protests. The government has power—power gained through the vote and it has the military in support but it needs to remember that it needs to have a vision for the future and that this vision must have the support of the people who are the real center of gravity in a democracy. 

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)